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Classic Games (Games)

Soviet Video Games from the 70s 66

vigmeister writes "A group of Russian kids have uncovered and rebuilt some arcade games from the Soviet era. These games apparently offered free play when someone played well, but no list of hi-scores. Roughly 32 of them have been found and although they are based on other arcade games, I hope these games were unique enough to offer playability for the present day arcade game lovers. 'Based largely (and crudely) on early Japanese designs, the games were distributed -- in the words of one military manual -- for the purposes of "entertainment and active leisure, as well as the development of visual-estimation abilities." Production of the games ceased with the collapse of communism, and as Nintendo consoles and PCs flooded the former Soviet states, the old arcade games were either destroyed or disappeared into warehouses and basements. It was mostly out of nostalgia that four friends at Moscow State Technical University began scouring the country to rescue these old games. '"
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Soviet Video Games from the 70s

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  • by Spritzer ( 950539 ) * on Thursday June 07, 2007 @03:27PM (#19427899) Journal
    aww heck. It's too easy.
    • high scores beat you!
    • Man packs you.

      Or is that prison?

      • In Soviet Russia, you eat ghosts.
        Unless you have the power pill, then ghosts eat you.
        Actually that sounds like something vindictively fun. DIE GHOSTS! Your only hope is if I make a mistake and eat the power pill. Nah, I'd just be chilling outside the ghost house the whole time just like I camp spawns in quake.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07, 2007 @03:31PM (#19427945)
    In Soviet Russia, Comrade Sandiego finds YOU!
  • by LordPhantom ( 763327 ) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @03:32PM (#19427975)
    In Soviet Russia, pole positions you!
  • If everyone's entertained, they're easier to control. Considering the times, I'd guess that had something to do with it.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07, 2007 @03:58PM (#19428495)
      Come on. The Soviet Union was largely a dictatorship/oligarchy, but that doesn't mean everything done within it has to be part of some sinister conspiracy.

      The inhabitants of the USSR clearly desired some luxuries that were widely enjoyed in the west, and state-supplied video games(everything being state supplied, that would be the only alternative to no video games) were one "luxury" the state was able to offer. So the state offered it.

      Don't confuse the actual USSR with the USSR as portrayed in Cold War propaganda(in the west): the actual Russians of the era were likely not mindless robots single-mindedly bent on assisting the state in the destruction of the capitalist enemy, but rather ordinary people who were occasionally interested in having fun.

      You could say that every state-supplied luxury was a part of a sinister conspiracy to keep the people happy, so they wouldn't revolt based on a lack of luxuries, but that would be so general a definition of a "conspiracy" that pretty much any action taken by any government ever would be a governmental conspiracy to stifle revolt.
      • by halivar ( 535827 )
        It is interesting, however, that "military manuals" had to find an "serious" justification for the video games.
        • You know you've been reading /. too long when you have trouble taking a comment seriously because he used "an" instead of "a".
        • by biohack ( 955639 ) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @05:40PM (#19429959) Homepage Journal

          Not surprising in a country where in the 50s physics textbooks had to justify presenting the theory of relativity by its correct alignment with Marxist philosophy! By the 70s and 80s, fewer people actually believed in those standard justifications, but one still had to formally have some connection to the "goals set by the Communist Party". People had to play by the rules (no pun intended), whether they actually believed the propaganda or not.

          As for the military connection, some of the youth-oriented recreational facilities had been run by an organization [] that specifically was charged with getting young people ready for military service. Usually, they ran sports-related activities, like parachute jumping or shooting ranges (both funfair-style and for sports like biathlon), but I wouldn't be surprised if the same outfit sponsored some of the arcades, especially in smaller towns.

          • by Ryn ( 9728 )
            Pfft, so what if things got carried away a little in the 50s. Russian scientists were on par or even better than pretty much all other scientists, so what if communistic doctrine got in a way a little. An anti-aircraft missile doesn't fly using Marxist philosophy, so KB had to get it right regardless of their party standing.

            So what's the problem with DOSAAF?
            We also used to have some very basic weapons training in school. When I was in 3rd grade, I learned to take apart and clean an AK-47 as well as shoot a
            • The parent noted

              It is interesting, however, that "military manuals" had to find an "serious" justification for the video games.

              So I offered a couple of possible reasons for both of the "interesting" aspects, in a way of background information for Slashdot readers who didn't learn how to disassemble AK47 in school. Sure, DOSAAF was useful for many kids, the militarism notwithstanding. But as most people outside of the former Soviet block had never heard about that organization, I figured it was worth menti

        • On the subject of military manuals: Looking through the pictures on Wired it appears that the manuals actually included full electrical schematics for each of the games... I'd be curious if this group plans on scanning and hosting these online. I know I'd be very interested in recreating some of these games, or at very least taking a peek at how they were built.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      Does that explain America's entertainment industry?
      • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
        It may not have been meant to, but it surely succeeded in creating a generation of morons.

        Slashdotters excepted, of course. You must be brilliant if you're reading this.
    • by misleb ( 129952 )
      Just like in the US? The only difference is that, in the US, we're much more "entertained" than soviets ever were. So are we that much more easily controlled? Is it not exploited by the powers that be?Qu7

      Question is, would you have it any other way? I mean, being entertained.

    • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @07:26PM (#19431321) Journal
      You have to understand, though, that in the USSR the state controlled and owned everything. So it's only natural that all services were also owned and paid-for by the state.

      If enough people wanted to dance, the state built some discos. If enough people wanted to drink, the state built bars and vodka distilleries. (Though they did try to curb alcohol consumption too.) If people wanted to go to the beach on vacation, the state built some hotels near a beach. If people wanted to see movies, the state built cinemas and TV stations, and paid some directors and actors to make movies. Etc.

      The fact that you get those from some private companies, while they got them from state-owned companies, isn't necessarily some sinister conspiracy. It's just the way a state-owned economy is supposed to work: it essentially does the same things, but via companies owned by the state.

      Some of them aren't even just part of some "keeping the population happy" plan. (Although even then, I see nothing fundamentally wrong with a government wanting to raise the standard of living of its citizens. You wouldn't mind it too much if your government cared about that, would you?)

      They're also part of the idea that the "soviet socialist" economy, at least in Lenin's view, wasn't supposed to be _that_ different from a capitalist free-market society. They never got to the utopian part where everyone gets according to their needs, so it was still based on money, like in the west. The economy was still supposed to be match supply and demand, and it was still supposed to keep the money circulating, etc. The only difference was supposed to be that it's the state who does that matching (e.g., by building another car factory if demand for cars outstrips supply by too much), and in a carefully planned way.

      Now that planning never actually worked too well, but that was at least the idea(l).

      At any rate, they were still supposed to give people some stuff to spend their money on, and preferrably the same things a private company would have offered. (Or at least those things which weren't against the communist ideals.) So basically if they paid someone X rubles per month, they still had to offer the possibilities to spend that money on, and hopefully those would also be the things that people actually want. At least theoretically, anyway.

      What I'm getting at is that it really made just as much sense for them to let people blow their coins on arcade games, as it made in the USA. From a simple economic point of view, if there's enough demand for X, it makes sense to take people's money by creating a supply. And it made just as much sense in the USSR as in the USA. Just because that money gets back into the state's pocket, doesn't mean that it doesn't want them back eventually.

      Now, as I was saying, they weren't too good at that planning part, and the economy went increasingly off the intended track. But you don't have to assume conspiracies where it's just that, well, they just hadn't figured out a way for it to work without the money circulating like in any other market. For better or worse, they still had to play a pseudo-capitalism game.
      • by erlenic ( 95003 )
        You wouldn't mind it too much if your government cared...

        Actually, I've typically found that to be the problem. I'd rather the government just stay the hell out of my life instead of trying to fix it.
      • The fact that you get those from some private companies, while they got them from state-owned companies, isn't necessarily some sinister conspiracy. It's just the way a state-owned economy is supposed to work: it essentially does the same things, but via companies owned by the state.

        That may be the intent, but I can assure you that only a true capitalist economy could come up with "Chocolate Chip" variety Pancakes and Sausage on a stick [].

        And what's worse is that if the Soviets had ever seen anything like that under communism, they'd have wanted it too. It takes the sheer evil of capitalism to create such crap *and* make people want it. :-/

  • wow... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Endymion ( 12816 ) <slashdot,org&thoughtnoise,net> on Thursday June 07, 2007 @03:36PM (#19428067) Homepage Journal
    I played some of those when I was staying in Moscow in... when was it... '92?

    They had "sniper-2" (with the moving circular targets) and the yellow one with the atari 2600 style Pole Position clone at the hotel...

    Though, they charged us 2 ruble for a game, not the 15 kopeck one of the pictures shows. I guess that's what happens when capitalism runs in or something.

    They were pretty fun for a computer-geek traveling in Russia at the time...
    • by Gropo ( 445879 )

      They had "sniper-2" (with the moving circular targets) and the yellow one with the atari 2600 style Pole Position clone at the hotel...

      NICE yeah, I was on a student tour in '87, in Moscow we stayed at the PIONIR (Ruskie boy/girlscouts) hotel and in the lobby they had the sniping game.. and another I can't recall.

      Being 13 at the time they really left a hollow feeling in my soul... Like so-much-so I couldn't bring myself to try one. Of course this was pre-Glasnost so there wasn't any "oh-ho-ho those crazy

    • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
      I remember "Deer Hunt" arcade.

      Ahh, nostalgia...
    • I guess that's what happens when capitalism runs in or something.

      Actually, just a first-hand price point for you: 15 kopecks at my time (about 1980) was what it took to play a round of a game OR get about half a pound brick of *good* icecream (cheaper ones started at 7). As you can imagine, it was sometimes quite a tough choice for us kids, but when we were lucky we would eat our icecream AND play couple rounds too.

      Try getting icecream in the US for a quarter, and you would realize that those arcade games w
      • by Endymion ( 12816 )
        I guess that was my point...

        when I was there it was during the rapid-inflation that happened in the "new capitalism" of the 90s. I believe when I arrived it was 105 Ruble/Dollar, and when I left about 4 weeks later it was 145.

        In fact, it was quite the striking thing to see such rapid inflation in person. Anybody would do anything for hard currency (USD, mainly), as it was so obvious the ruble was falling through the floor.

        A lot happened in the that 10+ year period...
        • by PaulBu ( 473180 )
          Anybody would do anything for hard currency (USD, mainly)

          People would do prettu much anything for hard currency in 70s and 80s too (I suspect for longer, but this is the time span I personally talk about). Another (less enterntaining than icecream to arcade game price ratio) datapoint for you: black market trading of "sufficiently large" amounts of hard currency in Soviet times (on ~$10K scale, I think) was considered "economic sabotage" and was punishable by death.

          "Official" $/rouble rate in 80s was $4/rou
          • Your rates are severely overestimated. Official was .62rub/dollar (not sure about precision... something like that, not .25) and black market rate was more like 2-3rub/dollar. Nevertheless, a factor of about 4 makes some serious difference. A Russian equivalent of a crack whore was a plumber/electrician/any-person-who-provided-any-se rvice-to-you, tending to prefer vodka as a hard currency (due to 1980s semi-prohibition).
            • by PaulBu ( 473180 )
              did you grow up there? I did... :)

              Of course "tips" to plumbers and such were given in vodka, but it was long before Gorby's 85 attempt to curb drinking. During that it was more of a really valuable tip, considering that you'd get a ration of a bottle per family member per month... As to plain cs. hard currency whores, I did mean it literally! :)

              Paul B.
              • Sure I did, though it looks I've already got infected with this spelling/rate/etc Nazi Slashdot Imperialist virus. Those rates I remember pretty well. Also, I remeber that stupid idea of a "hard currencly rouble" - "invalutny rubl'", which you could use to buy some imported goods you could not buy for regular rubles.

                Probably I was younger than you at those times, so I'm not sure about the longstanding tradition of tipping with vodka... I was only 7 in 1985. However, what I remember pretty well is traveling

  • I love arcade machine... as well as old soviet tech. so this stuff is very interesting to me.

    The note about there being no high score list on any of them I think was rather intriguing. it kind of falls in line with the whole communism ideal. Also interesting that these were (at least in some cases) distributed by the military. I wonder if they were also developed by the military.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Applekid ( 993327 )
      I wonder if that means the Star League recruited some Russians as well...
    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
      "The note about there being no high score list on any of them I think was rather intriguing. it kind of falls in line with the whole communism ideal."
      It probably was more that memory was expensive. To have a high score list you needed ram plus more ROM space for the game code. Both where probably at a premium.
      Or it could be that they didn't use a CPU at all so a high score list would have been less than useful.
      Or it they didn't see any point since the games would lose the list when they where powered down a
      • Normally I'd agree but TFA noted that NONE of the machines featured a high score. I would think that at least _ONE_ of them would unless it was a mandated "feature" to not include one. Particularly considering that most of these machines are electro-mechanical as opposed to the modern "video" arcade machines. Heck even US and Japanese video arcades in the early days didn't save the scores when the power went out.

        It just seems particularly odd because unlike modern games where you either compete directly
  • by riskeetee ( 1039912 ) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @04:09PM (#19428671)
    Because under Communism, everyone is equal.
  • MAME (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SoCalEd ( 842421 ) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @04:13PM (#19428719)
    Wonder if there are any MAME Dev's around here....
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      most of them were mechanical. Hard to emulate a moving steel plate.

      They were fun BTW. Lots of lights and good art on the ships and explosions, sure beat pong's graphics.
  • by British ( 51765 ) <> on Thursday June 07, 2007 @04:25PM (#19428931) Homepage Journal
    Probably not, as I'm betting a lot of it is dedicated circuits and stuff. I love the fact one of the pictures has those vacuum tube score readouts, while another has a mechanical one! Still, would love one or 2 in my basement.

    No high score tables, huh? Well, I guess with communism you could just have a list of all the players with the same scores.

    It's like all the jokes about Soviet technology being behind ours came to life in video game form. Still, I'd love to try some of the cruder video games.

    I know MAME supports some game that was found in East Germany with no copyright that is a set of games. They look like early-80s CGA text mode games for DOS.
  • Has anyone seen ANY of these in MAME? My emigre' co-worker just blew his lid when he saw them. He hasn't seen these in twenty years.
  • by TwistedSpring ( 594284 ) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @05:07PM (#19429555) Homepage
    The Moscow Times had this [] last month. Better pictures at Wired, though.

    For those hardcores with a taste for Cyrillic, the Museum's website is []

    Those in the UK could see some of these games at Swindon's Museum of Computing, as this BBC article [] from 2004 states. Not sure if they're still there.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Article about Alexander Zaitchik about Alexander Stakhanov and Alexander Vucman.

    No wonder baby name books sell poorly over there.

Someday somebody has got to decide whether the typewriter is the machine, or the person who operates it.