Posts Tagged ‘atari’

I was born in Texas in 1970. Richard Nixon was president. I don’t remember much of that, of course. I barely remember Jimmy Carter. What I do remember from growing up is video games.

I’ve always been interested in exploring and expressing my imagination. Creativity drives me. I took up creative writing when I was in elementary school (and I’ve blogged about that). Something about seeing the blank page and knowing I can do whatever I want with it is powerful, alluring.

My father got an early Compaq desktop computer. I learned how to use Word Perfect. I remember feeling even more entranced with the possibilities as I sat before that blank computer monitor, watching the blink of the cursor, ready to head out for adventure.

Video games stoked that sense of imagination for me. I have always loved reading, and I always shall, but it is more passive. Playing a video game made me feel like an active participant. I could change things. Due to my age, I got to ride the roller coaster of the development of the computer, video games, and the internet. It was, and continues to be, a wild one.

I loved arcades. I remember walking into them as my mom shopped in the mall, and it was like entering a different dimension. The sounds, the lights, even the smells. Something about it lured me. Like myriad other people, this was my first exposure to video games, and I was hooked.

We then got a home console for video gaming, the Intellivision. I don’t remember exactly what year we got it, and I don’t know if we got it because all the Ataris were out, but that’s what we had. It was marketed as being better than the Atari 2600. I don’t know if that’s true, but I enjoyed it, even though it didn’t have Pitfall. My aunt and uncle had the Atari, so at least I got to dabble with it when we visited them. River Raid was my favorite of what they had.

New developments were happening at a rapid fire pace, and when Atari tried to sell everyone on their E.T. game, things crashed. Some wondered if the video game industry was dead. I didn’t. I honestly had no clue about this. As I said, my family had an Intellivision. I remember the commercials for E.T., and I even tried it once at a friend’s house, finding it a boring slog. I suppose it speaks to the gnashing, fickle nature of the public that one crappy game would make people think the sky is falling even though plenty of solid options before were still making up the foundation.

I still frequented arcades. We took a trip to Hawaii in 1985. I saw beaches, snorkeled, experienced the culture, had fresh pineapple, and I found a nice arcade in an open air mall right beside our hotel. I spent a lot of time there, avoiding the sun. But home games were competing with arcade games now where they had always been lagging. And computer games were going to challenge console games before too long.

Back in school, a friend of mine had shown up one day with a copy of The Ancient Art of War. The new video game, not the actual book. I was hypnotized just from the box. My eagerness showed itself as I chewed his ear off about it, wanting to go to his house and play it with him. I don’t recall why, but he wasn’t going to be able to try it for a few days, so I actually talked him into letting me take it home. I would try it, then get it to him when he would be able to play it. That game changed everything.

This showed me what computers could do. I felt like console games and arcade games had been left in the dust. I began going to a store in the local mall that sold computer games, and I found the adventure section. I began experiencing classics from Sierra On-line like Space Quest, Police Quest, and even Leisure Suit Larry. These games were tickling what would become my real interest – the rpg.

I had been an avid player of Dungeons & Dragons when younger. I don’t know exactly what led me to stop playing it, though I have my suspicions. Video games weren’t there yet, but they were getting close. I had gotten a Texas Instruments computer, and I used it to play Tunnels of Doom, which was a game based on D&D. I enjoyed it. You created your party, choosing the archetype of each person, giving them stats, and they grew as you played. Though this happened before my experience with The Ancient Art of War, it hadn’t quite hooked me.

I graduated from high school in 1988. I would not be taking the Intellivision or my dad’s computer with me. Instead, he scored me a Macintosh SE from the supplies at his work. It did have a copy of Dark Castle on it. This was a fairly difficult platformer, not exactly my cuppa, but I played it a lot. Across from my dorm was a small software store, and I scrimped and saved and got a copy of the first SimCity. I found many hours of entertainment with that classic.

I still hit up the arcade from time to time, as one lurked very close to the dormitory. I managed to get good enough at Black Tiger to beat the entire game on one quarter. Yes, I excelled in college. Don’t ask about my GPA. During this time, though, my interest in video games waned. It never entirely left, but it gurgled under the weight of other interests and responsibilities. I graduated, met a woman, got married, became a father, and during all that time, the internet was coming into its own.

I didn’t get on that particular ride right away. Like so many others, I received many free discs from America Online, trying to get me, well, online. It was painfully slow back then, and you paid by the minute. This didn’t make the internet particularly accessible. I did get my first Windows-based PC, and I bought a copy of the first Civilization game. I spent most of my free time playing this game. It helped me get through my divorce. I’m pretty sure it didn’t cause my divorce …

The internet then became more reliable. I even learned to code in HTML, and I built some websites of my own. I got more into gaming, but it still wasn’t what I would call an obsession. That changed when I discovered the MMORPG Dark Age of Camelot. This was truly bringing me back to my early days playing Dungeons & Dragons. This was a persistent world that existed even when I was not online. My character grew as I grew in my experience of this virtual environment. I loved it.

To this day, role-playing games are my favorite. I enjoy other genres, and I even rarely play a console game, but in line with my love of telling and experiencing stories, my preferred type of video game is one where I can do the same. I am amazed at how far this technology has come, and I’ve gotten to experience it all in my lifetime. I look forward to what’s next.