Born in the radical year of 1993, Ethan Johnson has involved himself deeply in the game history community. His credits include contributing interviews for books like They Create Worlds by Alexander Smith, Sega Arcade Revolution by Ken Horowitz, and contributing research material to videos from Gaming Historian. He also serves as Editor for the game preservation website Gaming Alexandria and proprietor of the blog The History of How We Play.

The passion which drives Ethan to further this history is all about connecting the pieces from all the various stories across the industry into a holistic progression. This includes helping connect researchers in other countries from Japan to The Netherlands to Brazil to South Africa together. The more voices that are involved in the telling and seeking of the history, the better it will be understood by those who may not grasp the appeal of primitive 8-bit games.

Candid Conversations in Code by Ethan Johnson

Witness the stories of pure determination which resulted in dozens of the most formative games of the early software era.

Candid Conversations in Code: Interviews With the First Generation of Video Game Programmers features eight such stories of ingenuity and talent to overcome the hurdles of creating an entirely new age for the young medium of video games. Learn how bright young programmers were able to take computer hardware literally millions of times slower than modern processors to produce games with depth and glamour as well as help spell an end to the pure hardware age of game development.

These tales – some of which featured for the very first time – explain the creation of some of the most innovative games of the 1970s. These include console games, arcade games, handheld games, and home computer software just beginning to emerge at the start of their professional careers in video gaming. The reader will also be drawn into the world of companies like Atari, Exidy, Mattel, and Dave Nutting Associates, all with surprising crossovers which paint a picture of an interconnected world in what was a tiny industry of experts at the time.

Games featured include the prototype pinball machine created by Atari, Gun Fight by Midway, and Star Fire by Exidy. Learn the stories about the dawn of the Intellivision, the conversion of Lunar Lander to the arcade, the little personal computer that could, and how the company who created Ultima Underworld managed to get a contract for Madden. Follow the tales of high profile companies to their downfall and how the first generation of video game programmers have worked up to the present day to create new innovations in technology.


I'm so excited to welcome Ethan Johnson to StoryBundle's collection of gaming books. In Candid Conversations in Code, he goes back to the early days of the industry to hear how it all began from the developers who paved the way to the polygons and cloud-based streaming titles of today. – David L. Craddock



  • "It is easy to forget the often humble origins of the video game industry, which has proven to be has impactful to modern culture as the radio and television. Candid Conversations of Code puts to page the lives and careers of several of its pioneers, providing engaging first-hand accounts from a wide array of programmers and developers from the industry's early infancy. It is essential reading for any enthusiast of the history of video games and electronics."

    – Derek L of the Hellenistic Age Podcast
  • "The 1970s remain the least-covered decade in video game history, so I was delighted to read these fascinating new interviews from Ethan Johnson. By speaking to a diverse array of engineers and programmers from some of the leaders in the coin-op and console industries in the 1970s, Ethan reveals how the first generation of video games were created. A must read for anyone interested in video game history!"

    – Alexander Smith, Author of They Create Worlds
  • "Candid Conversations in Code is a fascinating look into a specific era of computer game development, as told by the people who lived it. This book would be of great interest to anyone with an interest in the history of computer technology."

    – Dr. Thomas Cothran



Vic Tolomei (of arcade company Exidy): "So we wrote programs in probably IBM 360 assembly language (maybe PL-I, maybe Fortran). The general tables to generate charts so that we were three hole-punch them and put them in the book (the secret book). Then we bought enormous pieces of graph paper - like three feet by two feet - and drew the whole dungeon out. Each graph paper was a floor. We drew the whole dungeon out in advance, the pathways, the rooms, the size of everything, stairs up, stairs down, and so forth. We ended up with a stack of graph paper that represented the 20 floors."

Jamie Fenton (of arcade developer Nutting Associates): "[W]e had a lot of text games like Hunt the Wumpus. There were a lot of games where you'd go Dungeons & Dragons type. It'd say, "Go crawl through door number two." Then it'd tell you "There was a warm breeze coming with a foul smell." Whatever the heck it is. You could go play games doing that and that was a very common game genre. Still is, but it was very common then because all you needed was a teletype, you could play them on a teletype. A lot of games, a lot of people. A rich history of games."

David Rolfe (of Star Fire and Intellivision fame): "His neighbor was complaining to him... We weren't making noise, it's your first thought it was the noise because we were trying to get some sound effects to the thing. But apparently he had a balcony, the glass door on the balcony and we were creating the explosion effects. It might've been my idea to pulse that black, white, black, white, black, white when you get hit. This was going out the window of a big flash of light and apparently going into neighbors' windows, a big flash of light, which was disturbing in the small hours of the morning. [Laughs]"