atari email archive

a collection of messages sent at Atari from 1983 to 1992.

This guy wanted to lifestream in 1984

A conceptual art project that I'd like to do someday is to broadcast my life by telephone ... Anyone can call at any time and listen to whatever you're doing.

An Atari employee brainstorms 'audio games' in this message.

What's an Audio Game, Anyway?

(1 / 1)

	This here's the first round of a VAXMAIL brainstorming session
on the subject of audio games.  Please send any ideas or comments to me
and I will in turn forward them back out to everyone who has written asking
to be on the mailing list.  (Let me know if you don't want your comments
broadcast in this manner.)  This process will repeat with a new round every
few days until we've stormed our little brains out, at which time an in-person
meeting might be appropriate.  If this type of brainstorming works (or even
if it doesn't), it might be a good way to work on other topics as well.

	The first rounds can be totally off the wall (much of the stuff below
is), no ideas rejected as being too strange.  Later sessions can start to
refine the ideas into something practical. 

	So what's an audio game, anyway?  

	Mike Albaugh's been wanting for a long time to do some sort of
interactive radio play.  Remember the days (before my time) when you would
go to bed and turn out the lights and turn on the radio real quiet so your
parents wouldn't hear, and listen to The Shadow and all those other creepy
old plays.  Most of us TV brats missed that experience, but they say the 
pictures are better on radio.  What if you could interact with the action?
Wouldn't it be nice to start a new fad?  I'll try listing some different
categories that might come under the loose heading of audio games, in the
hope they might cross-fertilize in someone's mind.

	1). CB radio became sort of an audio game for a while, and made a lot
of money before the fad died out.  Just as people like Gutenburg and Ralph
Xerox helped make everyone their own publisher, the CB let everyone be their
own radio station, although with a very low signal-to-idiot ratio.  I
personally think everyone should have their own TV station, but that's another

	2). Some computer bulletin board services like The Source(?) have CB
simulators that let strangers talk to each other, and some even let you publish
poems, articles, etc., and pay you a royalty for every time someone reads them.
People seem to like to talk to complete strangers, and the thought of getting
paid for spewing your stupid ideas all over the globe is even more attractive.

	3). The telephone seems to be one ideal medium for audio games. 
Everyone has one, for starters, and most people have played games with them.
Like calling random numbers and asking if the person's refrigerator is running.
Computer abusers and phone phreaks tend to go together (the phone phreak
newsletter, TAP (Technology Assistance Program) deals with both.)  The 
dial-a-joke, etc. numbers are one way communications (Wozniak had an especially
bad one), but there have been a few interesting two-way phone services (almost
all in California.)  One of them had two lines, one to leave messages and one
to listen to other peoples' messages.  I assume the people who ran it did some
editing, because there was lots of good material on the listening line.  People
say really funny and bizarre stuff sometimes, if they don't have to say it in
person.  Another service would hook you up to one or more people who had 
happened to call at the same time - talk to strangers without the guilt of 
waking up people by dialing random numbers.  If anyone knows of numbers like
this that are currently in operation, please share them.

	4). A conceptual art project that I'd like to do someday is to
broadcast my life by telephone.  Walk around wearing a microphone, and a
little transmitter that sends the signal to a base station, where there is
an answering machine.  Anyone can call at any time and listen to whatever
you're doing.  (Employers and lovers might not appreciate this.)  The art
of banality, the thought of listening to someone's boring everyday events, 
and knowing it's real, and live. (Oh, sounds like he's eating dinner now...
sounds like he's throwing up now...)  Just fascinating stuff.  I would call, 
for sure, even if it was my life being broadcast  (Yup, sounds like my life, 
all right.)  A related project is to tape record my whole life, 24 hours a day.
I need a very slow running tape recorder.  I just like the idea of someone
sitting down and listening to the whole piece.  Or I could sell the tapes,
in one day units.  The trading of tapes could be incredible (Have you heard
August 18, '83 yet?  Primo!)  

	5). And of course there's Phone Sex.  Pages and pages of ads in the
back of Hustler, etc.  $25 - $36, charge it to your Visa.  The one I called
was a blatant rip-off, and you can't contest credit card charges below $50.
They must not be interested in repeat business.  (If anyone knows of any good
ones, again, please share!)  

	6). So back to the idea of interactive plays.  If they were done by
telephone, you could tell people how the phone push-buttons correspond to
commands. The number keys could be N, S, E, W, etc. for an adventure type game.
The star could be a help key, numbers could correspond to multiple choices,
etc.  Most people still have no experience with adventure games of any type,
and would gladly play them if they were fun, required no extra hardware, and
didn't require you to know how to read.  Much more desirable would be doing
voice recognition to determine the next move.  Who wants to listen to a touch
tone phone beep in your ear while you're listening to a play?  People would
be fascinated by a system that could interact with them verbally.  People 
often told their deepest secrets to the Eliza (psychotherapist simulator)
program, even through a keyboard.  The effect would be that much greater with
voice recognition.  Voice recognition would be difficult, computationally
expensive, and would need to be fairly fast and speaker-independent, for a
limited vocabulary.  It is probably do-able.

	7). There could also be 2 (or more) person phone games.  You could
talk to the other person while you play, or you could get to know them only
through the moves that they make, as translated by the computer to you.
Your voices could be electronically disguised, vocoded, signal processed, etc.,
perhaps to the extent that the other player's speech is not even recognizable,
but comes over only as a sound effect. 

	8). Phone games could eventually expand into something like the Source,
where you have a menu of a number of different types of activities you can
participate in - 
		CB / party lines
		Voice store-and-forward messages which are indexed by titles 
			that other people can call and listen to, etc.
		A menu of sound effects (might be fun for young kids, and it
			would be easy to do.  Type 378 and hear walruses
			sneezing, etc.)

	9). Perhaps Atari-Tel could sell a special phone for game play 
(preferably a speaker-phone).  The processor for the game would be in the
phone, and the base station would just download programs and play sounds when
the user's game phone requests them. Anyone know anyone at Atari-Tel who would
be interested in participating in this dialog? 

	10). How to make money at this?  Albaugh's idea is not to try, just
put an ad for the latest Atari game at the beginning of the call.  Credit
cards need a live operator, kids don't have 'em, and the games had better 
be real good.  There's a new phone service, offered by General Telephone
and perhaps Pacific Bell, which allows people who run a phone service, like
dial-the-weather, to get money from the call, which will show up on the
person's bill.  You set the rate for the call - $.50 or whatever.  This of
course is in addition to how much the phone company gets if it's long distance.
I believe this service is only available in L.A. currently, but if it is
expanded to other cities, we could set up whatever hardware we develop in
each major city.  This is a fairly painless way for people to pay for games -
you don't see the bill till much later.  Also, it's free for kids (parents 
pay the phone bill.)

	11). How do the economics of this work?  I'm not sure. Do you have one
simple hardware system, maybe the price of a coin-op game, which can only
handle one call at once?  Do you use a more powerful system, which can play
many games at once?  Here's some things the hardware might need to do -

		Decode touch-tone phone beeps 
		Voice recognition
		Voice synthesis
		Random access of lots of sounds, speech, music
		Analog or digital signal processing of player's voice
		Lots of disk space for voice store and forward
		Letting multiple players talk to each other
		Decode serial data from a user's game phone
	12). Another idea is to not do this by phone at all, but with some
sort of audio game machine.  There could be a Walk-man type machine, with
a couple of cassette tapes and a microprocessor to control the game.  Seek
times are a problem.  Or there is the possibility of getting a compact disk
manufacturer to add appropriate controls to let you play audio games with your
CD player.  Especially if such games were played with headphones, there are
3-d spatial illusions that can be done that will knock your proverbial socks
off.  CD software is expensive and the seek times are a little slow, but it
shouldn't add much to the cost of the player.  The market is currently small,

	Anyhow (finally), these are some of the ideas that have been floating
around.  Send yours, don't delay.  And even if you are temporarily struck 
idea-less, let me know if you want to be on the list to get further rounds
of this dialog forwarded to you.

Message 1 of 1

May 01, 1984