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by Nick Topolski

Starcade was taped before a live audience at the Bridge Studios in San Francisco, California. It was created by the husband and wife team of James and Mavis Arthur (hence the company name "JM Productions"). Starcade was a game show where contestants compete by answering trivia questions about video games and by playing video games. The show aired on television stations across the United States from 1982-1984, generally in a Saturday morning or early afternoon time slot on TBS. Mark Richards hosted the TBS series and Geoff Edwards hosted the syndicated series. The announcer of Starcade was Kevin McMahon. The show featured the most popular video games of that time. Today, the games of Starcade are considered the classics of the video game industry. It was television's first video game show ever.

Each episode included a variety of fun aspects for every gamer out there. There were "Game Questions" which consisted of trivia questions about video games. These were asked to determine which contestant would pick the game to be played. In "Game Play", two contestants played four different video arcade games for prizes and the right to play the Grand Prize round. Here, the winning player now faced one final challenge: beat an average score of 20 audience members at the game they had chosen to play. The player would then have 30 seconds to do so. If successful, the player won a major prize, that consisted of either their own arcade game a home entertainment robot, a jukebox, or even a vacation. (Before the show went into syndication, Mark Richards was removed from the show due to a poor performance viewed by TBS founder Ted Turner.) Hotline was a section that included news and trivia about the video games. With Bumpers, during commercial breaks, questions were asked and answered against the backdrop of the side of a video arcade game. Name the Game Board was a fan favorite. The contestant with the most points after two games had to identify four video games by sight and sound for prizes. Last, but not least, in every show, one game was selected as the Mystery Game. If contestants chose to play the mystery game, they instantly won a prize.

To break it down, two players competed and three rounds were played. Each round began with a video?game related toss?up question. The player who buzzed in and answered correctly received first choice of several free?standing arcade games in the studio. After choosing, the player had one minute to amass as high a score as they could. After that contestant was done, the other contestant got to play the game that their opponent picked. Whatever points they earned were added to their overall score. The second and third rounds were played identically, with 10 seconds being taken off the game playing time for each round. Also, at the end of the second round, the player in the lead played "Name The Game," where they could win a prize by correctly identifying four video games by screen shots. The player in the lead at the end of the third and final round won the game and a bonus prize, and moved on to the bonus round (The Grand Prize Round). As a side note, when Geoff Edwards started hosting the show, he would become a huge fan of the video arcade games, mostly associated with this series. His most favorite video game was Burger Time.

The original pilot for Starcade was shot in 1981, and aired that same year in a limited number of markets. Hosted by Mike Eruzione (captain of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team), it featured a different format from the one we know today: three teams with eight members each. They played whatever game was assigned to their respective team simultaneously in 30?second rounds. The top three scorers from each team then played against each other at Berzerk for the grand prize. The winner would also have the chance to play against celebrity guest Larry Wilcox at a game "neither of you have ever seen before", Donkey Kong. A second pilot was produced for NBC a year later in 1982. However, this time they chose veteran host Alex Trebek (now known for Jeopardy). The network passed, but the Arthurs managed to strike a deal with the Atlanta super-station, TBS, which picked it up at the very end of the year with Mark Richards as the first host.

Starcade was a very innovative game show at the time and set the blueprint for shows like Video Power, Nick Arcade, and Arena. The most known was Nick Arcade which aired in the early 90s and was hosted by Phil Moore. Players would actually interact with/in the game itself!


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