Jul 26, 2011

Know Your Roots - Retro Atari Gaming

There was a growing level of excitement as I unpacked this exotic gaming system from the plain cardboard box in which it has been stored since I bought it on eBay over a decade ago. Every few years I break it out as novelty entertainment during a party or gathering. Usually within a day or two it goes back into hibernation in the closet. This was the first time, however, that I was resurrecting the Atari 2600 purely for the kids enjoyment. Jameson was particularly intrigued by the idea that this system was the great, great, great grandfather of our Wii and PS3.

His enthusiasm was building as he poured over our catalog of games, each with a more magnificently illustrated label than the last. The game titles foretold of epic adventures to be had with names like Space Invaders, Missile Command and Air Sea Battle. He seemed appalled that I had withheld such an amazing collection of electronic entertainment from him up until now.

And then we put in Pac-Man. The disappointment was instant and absolute.

Let's try another one. Lame. And another. Lamer. And another. Barely playable. And another, and another, and another.

These are boring! The control doesn't work right! It's not like in the picture!

It looked like my attempt to bridge the generational video game gap was going to be a failure.

But then we tried Pac-Man again. The old man showed him a thing or two. Things started to be less about the graphics and sound and more about the challenge. The same thing for Space Invaders. Before long, that familiar look of concentration and determination had emerged on Jameson's face as he racked up points on Asteroids.

It's true -- much like storytelling in movies -- gameplay transcends technology.

So now we have a house full of Atari gamers. The most popular games so far are Ms. Pac-Man, Asteroids, Grand Prix, Berserk and Space Invaders.

The best quotes so far:

"Is there a hard drive in here?"

"How do you pause?"

"Why are the controllers so hard to push?"

"Can player two just hop in and hop out like in LEGO Star Wars?"

"Are these the only video games you could play when you were a kid?"

"Can I save my game?"

On a side note, let me just say it was refreshing to set up a piece of technology that required only three steps: 1) connect a single cable from the Atari to the TV, 2) connect the Atari power supply, 3) tune the TV to channel 3.  That was it -- Special Agent Oso could have done it. No digital audio cables. No networking. No sensor bars. No account creation. No set up and option screens. Apple only wishes their products "just worked" like this.

1 comment:

Trike said...

Dang, those Space Invaders are gigantic.