STARCADE – 1983
Broadcast in the early eighties, this TV game show went where no show had tried going before and at the same time, setting the template for shows that would follow. Created by James Caruso and Mavis Arthur and produced by JM Productions, the show pit contestants against one another, playing arcade video games such as Pacman, Congo Bongo and Cliff hanger.
It was originally aired on WTBS in 1982 to 1983, before spending it’s third year in syndication until it was cancelled. In total 133 episodes where made, with 4 pilots. Each episode would showcase one of the latest arcade games of the time. Two players or teams would compete in three rounds, each round began with a game related question. The player to buzz in first with the right answer could pick from five arcade games. The age of the contestants could vary from 14 to 44. Regardless of their age, applicants to the show went through a screening (auditioning) process, evaluating their gaming skills as well as how they performed in front of the camera. Players who got through were matched with their opponents based on their scores achieved during the trails.
The show was hosted by Mark Richards for a total of 23 shows, until being replaced by Geoff Edwards. Who continued to host the program until it ended. Edwards a veteran to television, held a good reputation hosting well known games shows. While initially Edwards did not share any interest in video games, this later changed during the course of the show. It is reputed that between takes Edwards could be caught playing Elevator Action.
I discovered Starcade while paging through youtube on the xbox. I had no idea what the show was about but soon found myself relaxing in front of the TV late one evening, watching some kids rocking very
funny hair styles play Pacman and Moon Patrol. As a teenager of the 90’s, I grew up when there were plenty of shows featuring video games. The one that springs to mind most of course is “GamesMaster” with Sir Patrick Moore as the all knowing cyborg master. Watching Starcade it was interesting to see the grandaddy of these shows. As a massive fan of old school video games, it was also interesting to watch contestants playing these arcade games when they where brand new.
Admittedly the show is dated; the clothes and funny moustaches might cause us to giggle. If you can get passed those minor things, the show is still worth watching if for nothing more than nerdy nostalgia. By my second episode I was rooting for the players and racking my brain during the questions. Mame fans – take note, as there are plenty of games featured on the show worth seeking out to run via emulation. Many I had never heard of and found myself wanting for the Mame emulator on my classic xbox.
If you discovered that you like the show, the producers of Starcade have their own website www.starcade.tv where you can find 61 episodes of the original show ready for streaming to your PC, laptop or tablet for your viewing pleasure, how nice is that? They also have an online shop, selling DVDs, posters and t-shirt. The DVD holds five episodes as examples of the show. Why they do not offer the whole show isn’t known, the most likely reason could be legal restrictions.
Another unique feature of the site is the contestants page, which contains a listing of all those who participated in the show. Acting as a sort of “where are they now” you can click on an individual contestant to read about their experience on the show and what they are doing now. From the old to the young, contestants on Starcade could range from six to sixty. Which just goes to show the appeal video games have on people from all walks of life. I honestly can not think of another show that catches up with former contestants, perhaps it is the mutual bond gamers share? I find it very touching to think that a group of dots on a screen, that might resemble a rocket or a plumber can bring people together.
The official site is worth visiting by anyone interested in learning more about Starcade, if you have 10 minutes get yourself on there for a browse!
Before I finish, I could not go without leaving you with the original theme tune from the show, so here is the “Starcade theme” in all it’s glory. With thanks to the starcade.tv website for making this clip available.
Keep on geeking!