The Founding Fathers of Video Games

Gregg Segal for TIME
Gregg Segal for TIME
Dennis Koble, Sprint 2 (1976)

Koble is one of the few Atari engineers who went on to make money in the game business. Now he's working on a new game called Super Sitting Ducks.

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.”

Gregg Segal is a photographer based in Los Angeles and shoots regularly for TIME. Most recently, LightBox featured Segal’s work on Civil War Re-enactors. You can see more of his work here.

Adam Fisher is freelance writer for TIME, Wired, the New York Times magazine, and Men’s Journal.

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