Artist of the Day #63: Ralph Baer

I know most of the individuals I have written about here are of the very traditional visual Art world, but once in a while I like to throw out the occasional entry that people are going to question. I believe there are lines to be drawn, but I think everyone needs to have their own when it comes to what they define as “Art.” To me, the work of Ralph Baer, has had more of an effect on me as an artist and as an individual than any one painter I could name. But I wouldn’t expect everyone to say this.

Ralph Baer is commonly known as the grandfather of video games. He created the first video game device that you could use at home, the Magnavox Odyssey. This is where, for the first time, people could play the legendary Pong in the comfort of their own home. This wasn’t the first video game period, but it was certainly the beginning of video games becoming a cultural phenomenon, and it started way back in 1966.

Now, almost 50 years later, Baer is approaching 90 and is still playing around with circuit boards and how they can be used to make something fun. Aside from the Odyssey, Baer is responsible for inventing the “light gun” technology that has been used in games like Duck Hunt and Time Crisis. He has invented a library of different electronic toys outside of the video game world as well. His most famous is easily, the four-colored memory game known as Simon.

Now even though I don’t find time for video games like I used to, they were a huge part of my growing up. Video games was one of the first things I became deeply fascinated by to the point of research. I remember getting into heated arguments with other kids at the age of 11 over why I thought the Super Nintendo was better than the Sega Genesis. I made friends based on their level of interest in video games and which ones they liked or disliked. And as much as some people want to condemn video games for their use of violence, I think some credit needs to be given for the morals they can teach as well. Yeah sure I had good parents, but I also think I turned out semi-decent is because I had good role models like Link, Mario, and Cloud Strife to look after as well. I mean if Link can save Zelda from Gannon for the 17th time, I think I can hold the door for the old lady at the super market.

So I think it is awesome that someone like Baer refuses to stop when everyone expects him to. He has found something that he loves and seems to live for. Not only do I think he is an artist, I think he helped to create an Art form. Now video games are making more money than movies and people around the world are speaking the same language. Now “ÝÝßßÜÞÜÞB A SELECT START,” is understood in more countries than “hello.” Follow the link below for a really cool short biography video of this digital legend.