The National Toy Hall of Fame held a ceremony yesterday morning (November 8, 2007) to induct the Atari 2600 into its list of 38 elite toys. The other toys inducted at the ceremony, held at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY, were the kite and Raggedy Andy (Raggedy Ann had been previously inducted).
This is the first videogame system to be inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame, though certainly not the first game system. The Hall of Fame’s press release called it a “controversial choice” to induct the game system which beat out Hot Wheels, Yahtzee and the Game of Life .
Paul Dyson, the museum’s curator, said the 2600 was inducted due to its popularity which helped spawn the modern console by “mesmeriz[ing] a generation with games such as Space Invader, Pac Man, and Frogger.”
From the Toy Hall of Fame’s web site regarding the Atari 2600:
When people play today, chances are very good they’re playing a video game. No company did more to make that true than Atari.
Atari did not make the first home video game system—that honor belonged to the Magnavox Odyssey. But Atari was the company that truly popularized this play form. Atari first entered the home market with its 1975 electronic table-tennis game Pong. But its true game changer came out two years later: the Atari 2600 Video Computer System. The 2600 had better games, more colorful graphics, and sharper sound than the original systems. Most importantly, players could change games by inserting new cartridges. Kids battled friends in Combat, saved the earth in Space Invaders, outran ghosts in Pac Man, and had fun with Frogger. Americans soon were spending billions of dollars a year on Atari 2600 products.
Because computer technology advances so rapidly, video game systems often have short lives. The Atari 2600, however, proved surprisingly long-lived. Its widespread popularity, relative affordability, and abundance of software titles kept it in production for fifteen years. Eventually it succumbed to newer, faster, more powerful competitors, but not before it made video games a staple of everyday play.
Way to go Atari 2600. No wonder I’ve kept you in such good condition for so many years.
This is a particularly interesting inclusion considering the Toy Hall of Fame likes to keep the inductees rather basic including the teddy bear, rocking horse, roller skates and red wagon among its 38 honored toys.
Anyone can nominate a toy on the site as long at it meets the criteria of having a decent amount of key criteria including icon-status, longevity, fosters learning, creativity, or discovery through play and it profoundly changed play or toy design. The Atari 2600 certainly did all of those.