Sunday, February 24, 2019

Reminiscing: The Video Game Revolution

I hear it being said all the time about how great kids have it these days especially with the video games they get to play. There are sometimes I think they’re right. It’s usually when I open a new game and load it for the first time. The graphics are intense. However, when I think back to the video games I played back in the mid to late 1980s, I’m reminded how awesome our games were in their simplicity.

The first gaming system that we had at our house was the Atari 2600. I think almost everyone I knew had a 2600 at some point. Those who didn’t, had the Commodore 64. But the Bacon household had the Atari system. For awhile, I think the only games we had were Pitfall!, Space Invaders, and Asteroids.  We may have had Pac-Man, but I am not positive. I know that I used to borrow games from friends at school occasionally.

We did take the plunge amid the hype to buy the E.T. The Extraterrestrial game. I spent hours trying to figure that game out. It was all to no avail. No matter how much time I spent on it, I couldn’t get all the pieces to phone home. I just kept falling into holes. But hey, at least I didn’t have Congo Bongo. We did have the greatest game Atari ever released -- Yar’s Revenge. THat was easily my favorite game.

Another favorite I had with the Atari shows how much of a nerd I really was in those days. Space Shuttle: A Journey Into Space was a simulator game where you commanded the space shuttle as it flew into space, did some experiments, and returned safely to Earth. The game required flipping switches (being careful not to hit the power button while doing so) to set the various elevators and doors as needed, and to complete the missions. To most people, it was probably a mind-numbingly boring game. As a self-avowed space nut, I loved this game. I may have been the only person to play it at my house.

In the meantime, my best friend, who lived across the street from me, had a Commodore 64C. Even though we had the Atari, I was obsessed with that computer. He had a coupe of role playing games on those 5 ¼” floppy disks that we liked playing. The one game we really liked was kind of like Dungeons & Dragons. The story came up on the screen and then gave you a choice at the end. Sometimes to be funny, we’d tell the computer to scream. The first time, the computer would reply by typing “AAAAHHH!!” We’d ask it to do it again, and it would. By the third time, it would tell us we were wasting time and to get on with the mission.

The next gaming system we got was my brother’s Nintendo. The NES system came with Super Mario Bros. My cousin, Matt, had the same system, and somehow had a book that had a map to the Super Mario world. We would literally play for hours. I would read the map for him, telling him where to go, and he would play the game. He always said he hated reading and he would have given up on the game if I hadn’t read the maps for him. We got pretty far with that game using teamwork.

There was a football game on that system. I think it was Tecmo Bowl, where the flea flicker was always a guaranteed touchdown and Bo Jackson was unstoppable. I also think that was the game where you could run out of one side of the screen on defense and appear on the other side of the screen right behind the quarterback. If you were fast enough, you could sack the quarterback by warping to the other side of the screen. I remember, too, that some of the quarterbacks didn’t have their names in the game. So instead of Randall Cunningham, it was EaglesQB.

About the time my brother turned to a SEGA system, I was drifting away from the video games world, instead turning my attention to cars and girls. I didn’t get another gaming system until I was married and had purchased a house. I had a Playstation, then a Playstation 2 and X-Box. X-Box 360 came afterwards, now I have the X-Box ONE. I don’t play as often as I used to, but when the holidays roll around, I get to play with my nephews.

The graphics these days are so much better than the games we played back in the 1980s. There are some games that look more like video than gameplay. Sometimes, I like the throwbacks to the old arcade games that we had on our console televisions. At least on those games, I know I can beat my kids. Every time.

Craig Bacon thinks Minecraft, while fun to play, is not a video game. He calls it Electronic Legos. Nothing beats Yar’s Revenge.