Interview: Kelsey Lewin (Video Game History Foundation and Pink Gorilla Games)
25 Jul 2020 — Filed in: Interviews
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I speak to Kelsey Lewin, a video game historian and collector, retro games store owner, and self-proclaimed Wonderswan enthusiast, about the challenges — and also the merits — of researching and archiving the artefacts connected to games development and culture, both past and present. She also shares her insights on how the growth in retro gaming helps fuel interest in games history, why some of the most interesting stories are far beyond the typical narratives of games history, what quirky things we can find when looking into the Wonderswan and its inventor, the famed Game Boy hardware designer Gunpei Yokoi, and much more.
Kelsey co-directs the Video Game History Foundation with Frank Cifaldi, where the two of them have been doing amazing work in preserving and archiving the artefacts of games development and culture — not so much the games themselves, but rather more the packaging and documentation, the source code, the marketing materials, the magazines, etc. And she also co-owns Pink Gorilla Games, a retro games store located in Seattle.
This is the fifth entry in a new series of interviews I'm running alongside the main show — every month(ish) I'll talk to a different person who's exploring games history, in one way or another, to learn about the many ways people are preserving the games industry's past as well as to further our understanding of how this wonderful medium (and the industry that's built around it) has come to be the way it is now. The previous one was about computer role-playing games with the author of The CRPG Addict blog. Other interviews include Shmuplations.com proprietor and Japanese-to-English translator extraordinaire Alex Highsmith. Follow the "games history explorers" tag or the Interviews category to see them all.
Interview conducted May 25th, 2020.
- If you'd like to learn more about the Wonderswan and its history, I'd recommend starting with this USgamer article by Jeremy Parish
- One of those commercially-published WonderWitch-based homebrew Wonderswan games was called Judgement Silversword, and it's widely considered to be one of the best Wonderswan games
- This three-part blog series inspired by a Japanese-language biography of Gunpei Yokoi has a good rundown of his most innovative inventions, including the Ultra Hand and Lefty RX toys
- Kelsey's Twitter thread about the Wonderswan Mama Mitte, an extremely-rare pregnancy tracker that she managed to track down after years of searching
- Kelsey's video on the Game Boy sewing machine add-on, the Jaguar nu.yell
- Official website for Panic's Playdate handheld gaming system. With a crank.
- Pink Gorilla Games retro video game store
- Kelsey's Game Room Tour 2019
- I covered part of the story of how Pokemon became a massive global sensation in my Polygon feature about the Game Boy's introduction in the West
- In the course of writing that article, I read the excellent Harvard Business Review study into Pokemon's success.
- Video Game History Foundation official website
- Frank Cifaldi's blog post welcoming Kelsey as his co-director
- Writer John Harris explored the E.T. video game's contemporary reception in this article for the VGHF
- The fruits of their Game Informer archival efforts include finding out about these lost NES games
- Kelsey's video about the Super Nintendo LifeCycle Exertainment Bike
- The VGHF's source code preservation successes include an unreleased 8-bit, NES version of SimCity, a lost NES game called Days of Thunder, and the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis version of Disney's Aladdin
- The latter game, Aladdin, got officially upscaled and re-released as a result of that work
- The RealSound and Voice Characterisations episode of LTVG
- NoClip has the story behind the Command & Conquer Remastered Edition
- For a technical primer on bit rot, see here; for a more accessible explanation, I think this How-to Geek article is pretty good
- Phil Salvador's huge article on SimRefinery, SimHealth, and the life and death of Maxis Business Simulations
- My interview with Phil from earlier this year
- Phil's follow-up article on SimRefinery, after it was found and he could actually play it
- My book on Mac Gaming history (you'll be hard-pressed to find a physical copy right now, but I'm trying to sort out a second edition — either through my publisher Unbound or on my own if they decide against it). Freeverse Software are covered in chapter 21.
- The Internet Archive has a guide, available here, that you can follow if unsure how to upload stuff there.
- The Strong National Museum of Play
To support Kelsey and her work you can:
- Donate to the Video Game History Foundation
- Follow her on Twitter @kelslewin
- Subscribe to her YouTube channel
- Buy stuff from Pink Gorilla Games
- Subscribing to my Patreon
- Donating via PayPal
- Following me (@MossRC) or the show (@LifeandTimesVG) on Twitter and Instagram (@lifeandtimesvg)
- Buying my books — The Secret History of Mac Gaming is available now, albeit temporarily in digital form only (as it's now out of print), while Shareware Heroes: Independent Games at the Dawn of the Internet is still some ways off being finished. I'll have a book/ebook version of my audio documentaries out soon.
- And telling other people to check out my stuff.