|AIRDATES||December 27, 1982-September 1984|
WTBS (December 27,
|PRODUCED BY||J.M. Productions|
“This is Starcade: TV’s first video arcade game show, starring your favorite video games, and some brand-new ones being introduced to the public for the first time anywhere!”
Geoff was the games master for the early 80s arcade fans’ haven.
NORMAL GAME PLAY
Two contestants (sometimes in a wide age range) competed, and were matched based on their game-playing ability. For Round One, Geoff reads a question relating to arcade games with two possible answers. (Sample question: In Elevator Action, do enemy agents hide behind red doors or blue doors?) Giving a correct answer gave the contestant the right to choose which of five games on the show that day would be played first; a wrong answer gave that right to the opponent.
After the game was chosen, each player had 50 seconds to play the game, trying to rack up as many points as possible, and the final score after time expires would be added to the players’ total scores.
One of the five games on each show is the designated “Mystery Game.” If it is chosen for play in the main game, the contestant who picks it wins a bonus prize.
Round Two was the same, but with a slight twist---the player with the highest total score from the two games gets to play The Name Game. Four screens from different arcade games are displayed, and Geoff gives the contestant two choices for the identity of each game. Giving three correct answers wins a bonus prize, giving all four wins an additional prize.
Round Three is played identically to Round One, except that the contestants only have 40 seconds to play each game. Whoever has the highest total after all three games wins a bonus prize and goes onto the bonus round.
In the bonus round, the winner selects one of the two games remaining and has 30 seconds to meet or beat the average score of 20 players who played it for the same amount of time before the show. If the contestant achieves that, s/he wins a full-size arcade cabinet game.
A couple of notes: Sometimes sibling teams or parent-child teams played. In this case, the teams could choose who would play each game, but each team member had to play at least once.
A regular non-game feature of the show was “Starcade Hotline,” a news featurette about new video game technology, game manufacturing, or sometimes a behind-the-scenes look at the show. One Hotline segment even featured clips of Geoff playing (and beating) the game “Sinistar” after a taping session.
“This is Starcade, TV’s first video arcade game show, and today’s show is special!”
I happen to think any episode of a game show is special, but here’s how the occasional Starcade Invitational Specials were played.
Four winners from previous episodes competed. For the first game, two of the contestants, randomly pitted against each other, played one screen on the Name Game board and rang in to answer (if neither player could answer after five seconds, Geoff read two choices). A correct answer wins the right to choose one of the five games (and in some tournaments, various point values would be awarded).
Each contestant had 30 seconds to play the selected game, and their scores were added to their totals. The contestant with the highest total after two rounds advanced to the final. The two remaining contestants played another game identical to this.
In the finals, the contestants play a “Name Game” question for the right to select one of the games not yet played on the show that day (because of the tournament format, contestants in the second preliminary game could choose from all five games, even the ones played in game one). Each contestant had a full minute to play the chosen game, with the top scorer winning the grand prize, usually a trip to Hawaii or a trainable home robot.
Before it merged with TechTV, reruns of Starcade aired on the video game-centric G4 Network, and despite being 20 years older than anything else on the network, it fit the line-up like a glove. It wasn’t enough that the game centered on playing the video games; the beauty of Starcade was that it knew its audience. All the questions were about video games. Commercial bumpers included more video game trivia questions. The Hotline looked at the making of video games.
Even the PRIZES were based on video game fandom. In addition to the full-sized arcade cabinet, the show offered home computers, Colecovision home systems, a chair designed for playing video games, adaptable joysticks, and of course, the matching Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man wall clocks and watches. The show even got the drool-inducing started by opening every episode with a shot of Geoff and the contestants hanging out in the Starcade Arcade (which housed every game in rotation on the show) before dashing to the stage.
Geoff’s very presence on the show is a testament to what happens when a broadcaster both (A) cares about his work and (B) makes an effort to have fun with what he’s given. Original host Mark Richards was fired primarily because Ted Turner (head of WTBS) was dissatisfied with having a host on a video game-centric show who didn’t seem to know much about video games.
GEOFF REMEMBERS: YOU'RE HIRED...NOW WHAT? I got hired to do that show and I knew nothing about video games. At this time, they were all on big sets, it wasn't like computer games. So I got all the magazines that wrote stuff about the games, and I read them all. So each time before I'd go on the show, I'd look and see what games we were going to have, then I'd read and find the clues and different hints for playing. so that I'd know that.
I'd get there early and play, too. They had a big room...I can't remember how big, but just a huge room with 60 games in there, all operating. In fact, I'd take my kids with me on taping days and they'd go in there and play while I shot the show.
Geoff, by force of will, turned himself into a video game fanatic, reading electronics magazines, studying “secret tips” for gameplay, and heck, just plain playing some games himself. The results? Geoff kept his job because he knew the subject matter, and it became fun to him. It’s clear from many episodes that he’s close to the show’s staff, who also became game-players along the way, so it probably felt like less of a job, and for years afterward, Geoff remained a devoted video game fanatic. Not bad for a guy who had never touched a joystick beforehand.
GEOFF REMEMBERS: KEEPING UP THE HABIT I like to play Unreal Tournament online...It's a first-person shooter and you can play teams, or you can play single, whatever you want to play. The idea is to kill them and their idea is to kill you. The problem I face is that I'm fairly good at the game. Most of the people I'm playing against are 17, 16, 15 years old, so I can't let them know how old I am, because they'd feel bad. So we go into shooting and all this, and finally when I'm done, I type, "Gotta go. Mom's calling me for dinner." I follow X-Box, too, but I'm not that into it. I like Unreal Tournament, I like Doom 3...It makes my brain work and it gets out a lot of aggression.
SPECIAL ATTRACTION: THE STARCADE GAME GALLERY
So what games did the contestants have to choose from after they gave their correct answers? Well, five a day, but out of a pool of dozens of games in rotation. Here now, through the miracle of YouTube, is a playlist of most of the games featured. Watch as much as you can, if you dare...
Up One Level to: The Shows of Geoff Edwards
Up Two Levels to: Geoff Edwards' World
Up Three Levels to: Game Show Utopia