Board to Death: 3 Retro Pre-Internet Electronic Games

Long before the internet, families and friends participated in an interesting arcane ritual: playing board games. There was no LAN, there were no wi-fi connected devices; there was simply a board, some little pieces, and in the case of these retro electronic games, a few blinking lights and tinny noises. Believe it or not, these board games used to be kind of high-tech.

As if playing at a table in a dimly-lit basement wasn’t nerdy enough, this version of Dungeons and Dragons features a touch-sensitive electronic board. The Dungeons and Dragons Computer Labyrinth game involved, unsurprisingly, a dungeon in which a dragon lived. The game’s electronic brain randomly placed “walls” on the game board which players had to find by stumbling around. One misstep, though, and players would find themselves face-to-face with the nasty dragon.

Dream Phone is a great example of a game that worked well 20 years ago but probably wouldn’t be as appealing today. The game consisted of trying to figure out which boy had a crush on you by “calling” various other boys on a plastic phone. Questionable semi-misogynistic theme aside (girls didn’t decide who to like – the boy made that decision), the game play was boring, the boys were weird-looking, and the phone contraption was annoying. Today we just give 9-year-old girls their own working cell phones and let them play their own real-life version of Dream Phone.

Electronic Detective is kind of like Clue, but with records. Released in 1979, the “computerized” game is a classic mystery where players race against each other to figure out who perpetrated a crime. Players question suspects who provide their answers via a little red LCD screen. The game might look kind of bulky and clumsy by today’s standards, but it was all the rage among young adults in the late 70s/early 80s.

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See more in Antique Gadgets or under Vintage & Retro. October, 2010.