Dr. Sam Srauy appears on ‘The Toys That Built America’


Professor Sam Srauy appearing on “The Toys That Built America”

Dr. Sam Srauy’s study of video games led to a television appearance on The History Channel’s “The Toys That Built America” series. The associate professor of communication at Oakland University has thus become proof that an interest in video games doesn’t only ever have to be a pastime, even if that’s how his relationship with them began.

Srauy and his family moved to the United States in 1982, a time when video games were growing in popularity. “Sega” and “Atari” became household names — the latter being Srauy’s first gaming console, which he recalls as being a “cultural phenomenon.” 

“I just fell in love with it, and I’ve played it ever since,” Srauy said. “It honestly was just a pastime. It wasn’t anything remotely valid as a career choice until I got to my dissertation planning stage.”

After graduating from Temple University in 2014 with a PhD in mass media and communication, Srauy began teaching at OU. His study of video games went on the back burner until his friendship with a colleague set him on a path he never would have anticipated.

“[The colleague and I] would tweet back and forth, sort of like a quasi-professional friendship,” he said. “Then she reaches out [and] she goes, ‘The History Channel reached out to me and I really don’t know anything about this particular period that they’re looking for, and I know this touches on your very research — would you be interested?’ And I said, ‘sure.’” 

Srauy’s knowledge of video games was put to the test as he traveled to and visited New York City for his shoot for The History Channel’s “The Toys That Built America,” a show described as bringing “new products and nostalgic toys to the forefront as driving forces behind untold cultural and economic shifts.”

As Srauy is more comfortable behind the camera, the process was intimidating at first. He felt more at ease when he realized the shoot was taking place at a remote studio that worked for The History Channel rather than within a fancy corporate office. 

“That was [when I realized] — at least I know this is going to be a cool, chill shoot,” Srauy said.

The producer helped Srauy feel more at ease by giving him a list of questions so he would be prepared before the cameras began rolling. If Srauy stumbled on his words —  or if he was nervous or misspoke — there was always a chance to reshoot. Srauy experienced this firsthand when he couldn’t pronounce a certain word due to his invisalign

“I couldn’t say Famicom [Family Computer],” he said. 

Srauy’s first appearance on “The Toys That Built America” aired on Oct. 30, 2022 in the second episode of the second season, titled “The Birth of Video Games.” He said it was cool but also weird to see himself on television, although it was very exciting for his children.

“They were asleep [when it aired], so the next day I queued it up to the moment [of my appearance] and said, ‘hey, who’s that?’ and they were like, ‘dad!’” Srauy said. 

Srauy is open to other television opportunities if they ever come along. He relates his experience on “The Toys That Built America” to his career as a professor as he has the ability to get his work out into the world outside of academics.

“The reason why I’m a professor is because I really want to spread knowledge,” he said, “and any way I get to do it is awesome.”

Catch Srauy in the upcoming “Console Wars” episode of “The Toys That Built America,” which airs on The History Channel Sundays at 9 p.m. and streams on their website the following day.