An Ode To Old-School Gaming
Yes, I'm well aware you've read about six trillion such articles in your lifetime, but I don't care. Michael Jackson has passed away, I just watched my brother - who's almost 13 years younger than me - graduate from high school, and I'm feeling a little nostalgic and melancholy. So I don't give a rat's ass if you're not down for this; I gotta ramble a bit, and I have a venue for it. ...okay, that was mean. Sorry. 'sigh'
Game don't play? BLOW!
Oh crap; we got that silly lookin' green screen again. On some TVs it was blue, on some it was blank, and on others, it was a garbled mess. But we all knew the proper scientific procedure to make the game work correctly: blow on the cartridge. In some of the more severe cases, you also had to bend over to blow into the machine itself, but blowing on the cartridge usually did the trick. But only you knew the correct method of blowing on your game. "Nah, you can't do it," you'd say. 10 seconds later, there you two are, playing Blades of Steel.
...where do we go? Um...right.
With the exception of a few, we typically put in a game and knew exactly where to go. The question above is actually a joke; the point is that none of us ever asked a question that had such a ridiculously obvious answer. You may not know what you'd run into over there, and you may not survive the attempt, but you knew damn well you'd be moving right. Once you did this a number of times, you started to know what to expect, of course. It was all part of the fun.
Without quarters, a mall trip is a waste of time
When gamers went out, they went to these places called arcades. As malls basically exploded in the '80s, you'd be hard-pressed to find one that didn't include an arcade. And as kids in that era, especially those fascinated with video screens and poorly lit rooms, going to the mall without any quarters was like going to to the basketball court without a basketball. As far as we were concerned, the mall existed for one reason and one reason only, and remember, we were kids. The chances of us going to buy a $60 cartridge (yeah, that's what they cost back then, so stop freakin' complaining about the price today) were slim to none. Those were valuable Christmas and birthday presents.
2-hour games yield 200 hours of entertainment
Those who look back are often confused by the state of affairs regarding length in video games. We have to remember: those games would literally only take a few hours to complete, but that was the ideal; in fact, it was an impossible dream for most of us. See, it was technically two or three hours in length, but as you would die six million times before you ever even approached the end, it felt a whole lot longer. Furthermore, this inherent challenge meant you'd probably have to play the same levels over and over again for a looong time before you advanced. Some people just couldn't handle the pressure...this is why Nintendo made nigh-on invincible products.
We grin at Michael Jackson's Moonwalker
It's because we almost couldn't believe that an icon of MJ's stature would even be involved in any aspect of the gaming industry, and on top of which...it was just plain amusing. Making zombies dance until they die, following that little chimp to the location of the next hidden girl, spraying little twinkles of dust at invading creeps; it was all very humorous. See, this was back before there was any controversy; back before things started to go south. And to have Jackson associated with gaming was just plain huge.
"All your base are belong to us."
If you don't know, you're too young. Look it up, and learn of the story for yourself. ;)
6/25/2009 Ben Dutka