Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Get Off My Lawn!

Kids these days. They don't know how good they've got it, what with their Internets, their tablets and...their pants. They've grown up with all the cool technology and toys that they probably take for granted. Growing up, to play any semblance of a "good" video game, I had to hang out in arcades and plop endless quarters into the vast sinkhole of pixels.

Oh, sure, I had an Atari 2600 and I played the living heck out of it! I found the easter egg dot in "Adventure", and I discovered a glitch in "Combat" that allowed me to shoot through the wall. I think I played two or three Atari units into the ground, not stopping until they were molten, smoking piles of goo. And, back then, we took them somewhere to get them fixed because it was cheaper than buying a new game console.

The Atari was fun, sure, but it obviously had major shortcomings. What I wanted was a game system that could replicate those games found in the arcade. The Atari fell way short in this department. I remember the excitement when I plugged in Pac-Man and loaded it up. This was quickly followed by crushing despair and disappointment when I played the game and it was nothing like Pac-Man. It was as if someone started coding the game, realized that it would never actually be fun, and then just gave up.

The same was true for Donkey Kong. You have no idea how giddy I was, sitting in the car with the game box on my lap, anticipating playing it. But what I experienced was actually somewhere close to, instead of going to Disneyland, ending up at the slide in the park...that was metal...and really hot. Yes, slides were made of metal back then and we burned our butts and WE LIKED IT!

See, Donkey Kong on the Atari was a deformed blob that sort of jumped over squares and made weird noises. It was terrible. It was an atrocity and probably should have been buried in the desert along with all of the ET cartridges (one of which I still own...somewhere).

The point is, there was absolutely no way to recreate at home what was available in an arcade. Not even close. So I hung out in arcades a lot. Money was rather limited so I picked my games wisely. Sometimes I had grown adults betting each other that they sucked so bad a kid could beat them. I was that kid. And, yes, I beat them. Every time.

The Colecovision was years away but, yes, it was the first console to accurately recreate games from the arcade. Computers began stepping up but were still not quite that good at it. But when I first saw Donkey Kong Jr. on the Colecovision I nearly cried. It was perfect. Then the 8-bit NES came along later and it was all smooth sailing from there.

These days, you can play a game on a console and it's at least as good as the game in the arcade (if there is even an arcade nearby). Of course, in my opinion, the PC platform is superior in most ways but that's an argument for another time.

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