September 16, 2007

My video game history

I am a child of the video game generation.

I grew up playing pong at my babysitter's house. She took us to an aracade about once a month so my sister and I could play Pot of Gold. Later I would spend hours at the Green Scene moving between the batting cage, the miniature golf course, and the indoor arcade.

I remember evaluating who was cool partially based on which video games they had at home when I was in middle school.

I even had a tiny PacMan game just for myself. I think I even had the Frogger version, too.

Today, I present you with a brief tour of my video game lifetime. Feel free to wander away or to gawk at my dorkiness.

I started being a video game owner with my very own Vectrex, a self-contained (meaning it didn't need a separate TV to plug into), vector-drawn video game system. Vectrex was one of the second generation of consoles, and my mom agreed to buy it for me because it wouldn't tie up the family's television. I could sit alone in my room like a good dork and play to my heart's content.

I loved the Vectrex and was clearly the only one of my friends with one - not because I was that cool but because everybody else had gone and bought an Atari, one of the way more popular second-generation consoles. The Vectrex, however, was cool. It screen was black and white but came with these weird plastic overlays that let the whole thing show up in color. Not changing color, mind you, just white lines shining through colored plastic color. You can check out the Vectrex's history over at the Vectrex webpage and check the cool games that I owned (Berzerk, Minestorm, Rip Off, Scramble, Spike, and Star Trek). You can even play some of the games via emulators there.

I never managed an Atari, but my cousins did. Every time we'd go to St Louis to visit, it seemed like they had a new game system to play - ColecoVision, Intellivision,
and the Atari 2600 - the king of the second generation.

It took me a while to slip into the third gen of video games, but at some point I convinced my parents to buy a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) - and my grandparents to buy me a tv to play it on, something that drove my mom totally nuts as we then had two televisions in the house - an athema to her and something I don't even have now as a full-fledged adult (who is currently blogging about his childhood video games - maybe I should remove the adult label).

It's kind of hard for me to remember which games I had as so many of my friends had NESs, too, and our games were passed around constantly, traded at school, swapped after school, loaned, rented, played incessently, even rented from the local video stores. I know I had the basics - Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt. I'm also pretty sure that I had Castlevania, Arkanoid, Excitebike, Metroid, RC Pro Am, Rygar, and Paperboy, but I also remember a whole bunch more - ones that probably spent time at my house but that I never owned: Archon, Baseball Simulator 1.000 (which I remember playing well into the night at Wayne's house), Blades of Steel, Elevator Action, Ghosts 'n' Goblins, Gumshoe, Legend of Zelda, Mike Tyson's Punch Out - a true cultural touchstone, Pro Wrestling, and Tecmo Bowl - Bill Simmons's favorite. Through it all, though, I was most especially a loyal Tetris fan, playing and playing for hours, moving levels and points higher until the game started moving too fast to be much more than a blur to my bleary eyes.

The NES went into dust storage sometime in high school, but my video game evolution moved on to the fourth generation with the Sega Genesis. Nick Salvo had bought a Genesis, and it became the house's game system as we played almost exclusively NHL Hockey - in its various editions, for hours and hours, putting off any actual studying just because we were halfway through a 90-minute game. Sure, we had a copy of Sonic, but we didn't play it much. We were hockey addicts, putting of just about anything just to play a shoot out, to see who had finally figured out a way to stop The Move - a right, left, right series of deeks that almost always left the computer goaltender in the dust. We each had our teams - me with Montreal, Nick with Pittsburgh, Jeremy with Buffalo, Adam with Detroit - even though that was almost cheating as they had so much talent. We were loyalists, we were driven.

The Genesis passed from Nick to me when he graduated - sold game and all for about $20 - probably in beer money if I remember correctly. I played it during my senior year and passed it along to my fraternity little bro for free with the understanding that he keep it in the house once he left.

I skipped generations five and six and just this spring headed full-fledgedly into the seventh with my Wii, an amazing console that has occupied far more of my summer than it should have. I've just about solved Tiger Woods '07 and am hoping to avoid buying '08 until I'm caught up on grading. Sure I've got Wii Sports and Wii Play, but they haven't been loaded up for a month, at least. And Marvel Ultimate Alliance, while phenomenally cool, hasn't seen the light of day for longer than that.

I'm a video game junkie - whether they're online or in a challet.

And through all of this, my favorite game ever is still probably Tetris.

What's yours?

10 comments:

joey said...

techmo bowl doesn't hold a candle to techmo SUPER bowl

achilles3 said...

i'm a tetris freak too...so simple yet still a challenge. I liked the Playstation game Intelligent Qube too.

TL said...

I loved my Commadore 64 then was in complete awe of my Nintendo many years later... Speaking of video game consoles, a certain loud blonde in the science department has just acquired a PS3 and a big telly, so I'm waiting for my invite to join her in her nerdiness. In the meantime I'll get back to my Wii for silliness and my PS2 for serious gameplay. My step-son has total control over the X-Box 360, so I don't bother with that one.

PS: Frogger rocked.

Sphincter said...

I was a ColecoVision gal. In my day, I was mad for Donkey Kong. They recently made a movie at a nearby arcade that I can't wait to see:
The King of Kong
http://www.billyvssteve.com/

cmorin said...

I have one word... Contra.... Contra, contra, contra.

achilles3 said...

upupdowndownleftrightleftrightbaselectstart forever

Rob said...

I guess I'm terribly old school - but my favorite game of all time was Combat for the 2600 - the version with the bouncing bullets - blip bleep bloop bloop blaap - bang!

Nothing like a 4 player tank battle amongst friends.

PHSChemGuy said...

In order, Super Tecmo Bowl sucked...have I not mentioned that the golden age of everything (comics/video games/toys) is eight...whatever you loved then is what you'll love forever...hence, Tecmo Bowl rulz!

Never tried Intelligent Cube...if I stumble on a Playstation I'll give it a try...

Tl - I didn't even think about the C-64...I never had one, but I remember playing Ghostbusters and Lemmings on the C-64...loved those...thanks for bringing them up...and I understand the desire to go to a friend's house and play video games...my hope is that there'll be a LCD projector/screen combo in my basement someday...life-size Tiger Woods for the Wii...

Sphincter - give a review if you get around to seeing King of Kong...it looks interesting...filmed near you?

CMorin - never got into Contra...gimme Rush 'n' Attack any day...or Renegade...

Rob - been a long time since I played combat...I always got frustrated because my cousins were way better than I was...I'm not always a polite loser...

Lakes - there will never be a more perfect secret code than upupdowndownleftrightleftrightselectstart...it rulz

And it's totally awesome to see so many comments, folks...thanks for showing the love for old school games...

I'm gonna hunt down a song by Johnny Socko and find a way to post it for you folks - "Old School Master"

coldnorthgamer said...

Ah, yes.... those were the days. I did enjoy Tetris though I wasn't the best of our before-school crowd. Almost all of those other video games mentioned, I was horrible at playing them. I just don't have the reflexes, even for those old games, which is why I stay away from FPS now. I'm old-school RPG and turn-based strategy.

PHSChemGuy said...

You have to play to your strengths, Gamer. Some of us like the quick stuff (video games, tennis volleying), others are more built for the more leisurely-paced challenged (RPG, Risk, soccer).

It happens.