A youth wasted on video games unexpectedly paid off for me in an assignment to profile the old dogs behind the newest gaming company: Innovative Leisure. Operating under the theory that the 99-cent download is the new quarter drop, a team of programmers from the original video game company, Atari, have reunited to make a new generation of games for the iPad. TIME gathered these self-described “grizzled old farts” together in the Supercade, a private museum in Pasadena, Calif., to photograph them alongside some of their greatest hits from the Golden Age of video games, including Asteroids, Battlezone, and Missile Command. Gone are their rockstar days of Friday beer bashes and weekend-long “gamestorming” retreats on the California coast, complete with naked hot-tub parties, fat doobies, food fights and broken furniture. Yet they retain every ounce of their countercultural creativity, as well as a youthful enthusiasm for inventing new games, new mechanisms of gameplay—possibly even new genres. Seamus Blackley, the owner of Supercade and the impresario behind the new company, calls them “the Jedi Council of video-game design.”
Adam Fisher is freelance writer for TIME, Wired, the New York Times magazine, and Men’s Journal.