Sunday, January 15, 2006


Why Did I Do This Again? (A Warning!)

I had a fine Christmas.
Over the years I have learned to enjoy Christmas not as a time of gifts (although I do so enjoy getting gifts) but as a time of family. There was a time not so long ago where if I had gotten a bad gift I would have stewed inside for days, today if I get a bad gift I just say thanks that I had gotten anything and let it go to that. (Although I have no idea where my eldest brother and his charming wife got the idea that I drank so much. I still have beer in my fridge from when I last moved four years ago.)
This Christmas, though, the family part was really good, and the gift part was also really good, which makes it an extra good Christmas.
Little did I know that pretty soon I would feel like the stupidest man on the earth.
My Brother Brian, who obviously knows me far better than I know myself, and his lovely family got me the “Atari Flashback 2” game console. What that is is a game console that looks exactly like the old Atari 2600 (only a little smaller) and holds in its internal memory 40 classic Atari games.
This blew my mind. When I was a kid I wanted an Atari sooooooooo badly, but my father refused. He didn’t like the fact that it played “Arcade” games. (Like Pac Man etc.) He eventually purchased me an Intellivision play console, which was actually a bit better than the Atari. This led into our first home computers. Everyone was getting the Commodore Vic 20, and we got a Sinclair ZX-81. (Piece of crap that it was.) Finally my dad saw the light and we were soon proud owners of a Commodore 64, on which I played Arcade style games.
But I digress.
The Atari 2600, for me, was the one that got away. Yes, I actually got a better machine, but come on this was the 2600! This was Atari! And now I have one! Whoooooooooooooo! Rock and Roll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, I got the original game machine and not long after I got the latest and greatest game machine. The Playstation Portable. This wasn’t so much a Christmas gift as a Boxing Day purchase, but I still got it. Along with the PSP I also purchased some games, two of those go under the banner of “Retro gaming.” Which means they are filled with old arcade games that I used to play. Games like Pac Man, Ms. Pac Man, Xevious, Dig Dug, Rolling Thunder, Rally X, Mortal Kombat 1 through 3, things like that.
Now I’m not going to go into a discussion of buying a brand new, top of the line game machine only to play games that are 25 or 30 years old. (I did buy newer games like “Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories.”)
I will get into this. I now have, in my possession, over 80 classic games over two game systems, and I have finally discovered something about myself. About my life and how I’ve led it.
And the discovery is this.
I suck at video games.
Not just any video games, I sucked at the old coin operated arcade games.
Let me give you an example. One of my favorite games was called “Bosconians.” It was a game where you piloted a space ship, where lasers came out of the font and back, and you had to destroy enemy ships and space stations in a meteor and mine riddled area of space.
I loved this game, and was thrilled to find it as part of one of these game compilations. So I’ve been playing it a lot and finally, after being destroyed for the umpteenth time in a row, never getting past level four, I finally turned to my wife and asked the eternal question.
“Why did I play these things so much?”
I mean, I sucked at them. Really, really, really sucked. Yet I played them over and over again until my five dollars a week allowance was gone.
The list is incredible. “Bosconians” – sucked. “Rolling Thunder” – sucked. “Any Pac Game” – sucked. “Defender” – sucked. “Joust” – sucked. Sucked, sucked, sucked.
My God, was I so stupid a child as to not realize that these games I was playing were humiliating me? That I couldn’t move those pixels on the screen in such a way as to not get blown up almost immediately?
For Gods sake, I even knew the pattern you had to take in Pac Man so you could clear the board and not die. (The ghost’s movement was, apparently, the same on each screen on each game.) Yet, I still sucked at it!
I was a stupid, stupid child.
But here’s the catch. I was not alone. Millions of children from that era played those exact same games with the exact same results. Millions upon millions of children in the 80’s and 90’s, all sucking at games they couldn’t stop putting quarter after quarter into.
Was there really a whole generation of children so profoundly stupid as to not realize that they didn’t have a chance to defeat the games?
Sadly, the answer is yes. We were all just really, profoundly stupid.
Now here’s the scary part. Those kids who were so stupid in the 80’s. We’re almost in charge. That’s right, the “boomers” are getting older and pretty soon it will be time for my generation to take over. That means that sooner rather than later the world will be faced with an American President who played video games and lost badly to them.
All over the world it will happen. America, Britain, Canada, Australia. The English speaking world will be run be people who were too stupid to move a yellow pizza slice around a maze, and even stupider to know when to stop putting quarters into these machines.
No wonder Islam is becoming such a powerful force on the world stage. Have you even heard about that video arcade in Kabul?
Ladies and Gentlemen, this will be the litmus test of the future leaders. The media will have no choice then to ask a potential political leader “And what was your high score in Defender?”
Huxley called it a brave new world, but it’s a world I helped make and one I am afraid of.
Fortunately I have this cool retro Atari Flashback to keep my mind off of things.
Stupid “Pitfall!”

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?