Picture 1983, I am four years old. My brother and his best friend Scott is over, they are ten years older than me. Sitting in front of the television, they had the Atari 2600 hooked up. I wanted to play the game because they were playing the game. The game was Pac-Man. This was a fairly common day in my house. Pac-Man is the first video game I remember playing. The second game I remember playing is Burger Time. It was advertised in the back of EVERY comic book up till the mid-80’s. Why, I remember playing these games, I just don’t know. When I think back though, I don’t just remember playing the games. It’s really the whole situation of being with family and friends.

2361193-nes_burgertime Pac-man

My generation, those between their 40’s and 30’s, really grew up in the first generation of video games. It’s true that there were games before like pin ball machines and pong but we brought complex electronic games into our homes and made them a lifestyle.

Fast forward to 1985, my family moved across country and the world was changing. That year my Dad brought home our first personal computer, a brilliant Commodore Vic-20. The new computer fascinated all of us.

Commodore_VIC-20_Box completevic20

My Dad had worked on programming massive machines with punch cards years before I was born. Now he was bringing the same power home in a box he could carry with one arm. The programs worked through two different systems; floppy disks and cassette tapes. There wasn’t really a monitor. You hooked a keyboard up to a television and the controllers and other equipment worked through the keyboard. This old-fashioned PC has sentimental value for me. There was a game I used to love on the computer and my Dad managed to get it for our personal computer. This was the very first program my father ever pirated called Webster. He brought it home on a cassette tape from work. The whole point of the game was that you were a spider and had to eat the bugs in your garden. You have to avoid the scorpions though. Let’s call this the first casual game experience.

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Today we turn on our computers and run Windows, Apple OS, Linus or whatever. Back then games were accessed via dos prompt. Although, we had the first windows program but it was mostly a word document program. Turning on the computer brought up either a black or a green screen depending on the system you had. It ran through a bunch of script and you had to tell the computer what to boot up.

I can list the best games we had growing up and the computer systems as we upgraded through. At one point we had three computers in the home and a lap top my Dad would borrow from work. The most upgraded was the Tandy 1000. The Tandy 1000 used a dos interface to access programming until we installed the very first incarnation of windows. My Dad and I would go to Babbages, Egg Heads and other hilariously named computer stores and gawk at the boxes full of programmed floppy disks. On the Tandy 1000 I had Thexder, Karataka, Eye of Horus, Goofy’s Materhorn, Reading Rabbit, Alf’s Game, and many flight simulators. My Mother had her own games like Zork, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Marple Manner. These games were all text based choose your own adventures that were iconic.

My favorite game, out of all the ones we had, was Thexder. Thexder was a robot that could turn into a jet and fly. The best part of the game was the theme song, Moonlight Sonata. I guess I was a strange child because I could play this game for house just listening to the music. I was TERRIBLE at the game and never finished it but I played for hours. My second favorite was Eye of Horus. This was an interesting early plat-former based off Egyptian mythology.You passed through levels trying to collect the parts of your Father, Osiris. Returning the parts together helps you to defeat Set. Your character could run around as a man or turn into a hawk. I was equally terrible at this game but I was also obsessed with Egypt. Nothing could keep me from playing Eye of Horus and dieing, time after time.

Thexder 339-3-eye-of-horusKarateka Box Scan (Front)

The Tandy 1000 was a fantastic computer and we actually had it well into the 1990’s. The computer was easy to upgrade as time went on, only the casing was original by the time the 1990’s hit. It had an external modem, external hard drive and an external hard disk drive (a 3.25 disk drive). That was when I threatened my parents. I said if they didn’t get a computer with a CD ROM drive I would run away from home. I really wanted to play Civilization and got tired of switching disks. Games like, Sid Meier’s Civilization, my Dad would take to work, copy from a CD to disks and bring them home. Using the disks I would play, switch disk, play, switch disk and so on. It became tedious. As games became more advanced, it was really burdensome and I wanted to play games!

I didn’t have many consoles growing up but we had tons of computers. We didn’t get a Nintendo till 1992. We were in some weird minority of the United States that just didn’t have a Nintendo. Once I finally had one, I owned only a few games and they all had Mario in the name. Super Mario, Dr. Mario, Super Mario 2 and Super Mario 3. Luckily I had a friend that seemed to own most of the Nintendo library. He brought them to my apartment in a suitcase and I played Paperboy for days. My favorite Nintendo game was Castlevania III, Dracula’s Curse. My Brother’s girlfriend rented the game and we all took turns for a week playing it. At one point I called my cousin for help because the Nintendo hotline was more expensive than long distance. When we collectively won against Dracula, we were all proud of the hard work we had put into the game. Then I went about playing it over and over again myself. When my Brother returned it the late fee was some obscene amount. My parents had to help him pay the fee.

The next computer we had was a Compaq. There was nothing special about the computer, I was used to having them around. Maybe though, it was special because it had a CD Rom drive. I no longer had a reason to run away from home. This started my decent into the world of real gaming. On our Compaq I played the very first… Tomb Raider. Lara Croft was one of my first girl crushes. This was the most hard-core game I owned for years because my parents wouldn’t buy me Doom or Castle Wolfenstein. At the time my friends had them and I didn’t need to play them at home. Playing those games over at their place was good enough for me. Then Civilization 2 came out and I was sucked away from raiding archaeological artifacts from their resting places and being chased by T-Rexes. Civilization 2 was a time sucker. I wasted whole weekends playing that game. I still played Nintendo games, but they were an after thought. There were other games that I loved and were probably inappropriate purchases for a young teen like Voyeur and Phantasmagoria. These were CD-rom games that involved using live motion capture actors and puzzles. They both involved sex and violence.

Everything was down hill from there. I was totally hooked on games and computers. In future posts I am going to talk in depth about some retro games I love.

Do you remember the first game you played?

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Comments
  1. Serious says:

    Something that I think we lost in the transition from computers like the VIC-20 to machines with hard drives was the instant-on “Ready” prompt that the 8-bit computers of the early 80s offered. When we lost the ROM-based OS, we started down a slippery slope of waiting for our computers to be ready-to-use, instead of the computer being ready for our use as soon as we hit the switch.

    That’s a big concession to make, and in my opinion, began a very dark period of computing that we’ve only just now emerged from thanks to Tablets, Smart Phones, and SSD drives.

    • Noccie says:

      I love your passion. It’s very true though. I miss being able to start the computer up and be able to use it immediately. My computer takes 15 minutes to be completely loaded and functional. Drives me insane. Honestly, I need to upgrade the heck out of it, even though it’s not that old.

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