[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Atari Basketball Catalog

January 19th, 2009 by Benj Edwards

Atari Catalog p 21 - 1982Click above to see the full page scan

Here’s a scan of Basketball’s appearance in a 1982 Atari product catalog for their 8-bit home computer line. Basketball, programmed by Alan Miller, is notable for possibly introducing the first obviously black video game character. And hey, it’s also the first game I remember playing.

[ From Discover the World of Atari Home Computers, 1982 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What is the significance, if any, of the first black video game character appearing in a basketball game, rather than a game based on another subject matter?

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11 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Atari Basketball Catalog”

  1. Geoff V. Says:

    I thought there was a baseball game that showed black (grey) players before basketball, but I could be wrong.

    In an unrelated story, I remember my dad getting really pissed at ads for “Missile Command” even though he loved the game. “Incoming ballistic missile… INCOMING?!?!… it’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles,” he would shout. “Those pencil-necked twerps made a game out of the destruction of the world, and they couldn’t get the name right.”
    To be fair, my dad was a missileer who spent countless hours in a missile command site, just waiting for orders to nuke Russia back to the stone-age.

    My love of the arcade was born watching my dad deftly saving the world with a roller-ball and a button.

  2. Layne Says:

    Off topic, I know, but I saw the story on Engadget with this link: http://technologizer.com/2009/01/19/ataris-1984-touch-tablet-a-retro-unboxing/

    Fun stuff! (I’m sure you were saving this for a future post, but I just thought it was too cool to wait!)

  3. Silencewordsaway Says:

    I think it is good that so early on there was representation of Black folks in video games.
    I do feel like was a lack of main characters being black. Pitfall Harry, Mario, Contra… Pac-Man : ) …, etc. None of these characters were Black. Most games that did represent Black folks were either sports or fighting games. Though this did reflect the video game demographic and those in the industry at the time.
    As far as more modern games go i have no idea. I am sure someone has written about at least modern games, though a full history review would be pretty interesting, but probably mostly reflect popular culture at the time, but i guess you don’t know until you study.
    (to qualify, i’ve never been a huge video game player, so there is a lot i don’t know).

  4. Zoyous Says:

    Sega’s 1986 4-player cooperative shooter “Quartet” featured a black character named Edgar. The Master System translation, however, had only two players and Edgar was white in-game, yet his title screen and cutscene representation was still black. Not sure what went on there.

  5. Benj Edwards Says:

    I’ve never played Quartet before, Zoyous. It looks cool, so I’ll have to give it a try.

  6. Brian Deuel Says:

    Here’s a link to the KLOV entry for Sega’s 1976 arcade game, Heavyweight Champ, which (I believe) is the actual first game with a black character:


    Another arcade game that had a black character was Atari Basketball from 1978:


    I don’t know of any computer or console games that may have had black characters preceeding these two games, but they may exist.

  7. Benj Edwards Says:

    You might be right about Heavyweight Champ, Brian, although it’s really hard to tell for certain. Regarding the arcade version of Atari Basketball (actually 1979), see the “First Black Video Game Character” post.

  8. jan Says:

    I think Brian is right. Remember the ’76 was the Rocky Balboa year and Apollo Creed was very very famous… maybe the programmers took some inspiration… The first game was HC for sure. You can also see the classic african stereothype: rounded head with curls, small nose and big eyes. Adrian!!!!!!

  9. Kukus Maximus Says:

    This is silly.
    Are we all now supposed to chant into the it-must-have-been-racism mantra? Please do get a life.

  10. Benj Edwards Says:

    Yes, Kukus. Please chant for us.

  11. Cody Says:

    Hmmm, I always remember Larry (from leisure suit larry) as being orange.

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