Old Crusty Gamers
By Brian "Scoobybri" Svehla
Fast forward to the Christmas of 1980. All of the gifts are open and my brother and I are content with our haul of toys and games. The ecstasy of the gift opening orgy is over but little did we know what was hidden behind the couch. "I think that Santa might have left something back here," my father said, reaching behind the sofa. And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an Atari 2600 and Space Invaders to put it in gear. Now this was gaming! Interchangeable cartridges meant that we weren’t limited to two or three games, and what was this…a joystick? What else could this wonder machine do? It would be the first successful home console ever and would help the home video game market to explode over the next three years. With the dawn of Colecovision and Intellevision, the first great console war was waged. We could finally have the games we played in the arcade at home. (More or less, i.e. Pac Man for the 2600.) What could stop this speeding silicon freight train? The year of 1984.
Let me present to you a particular memory from that time period that puts the "Crash-O-84" into perspective. I remember my grandmother taking my brother and I to a local Revco drugstore to pick up some prescriptions, cough medicine, and yes, 99 cent Atari cartridges! It seemed great to us at the time, but it was a sad ending to a great era for video gamers. Arcades were disappearing faster than cans of beer at a Superbowl party and game developing companies were folding by the dozens. So we came upon the dark ages of video game history. All seemed hopeless until…
Nintendo! Saviors to console gamers everywhere! My brother and I combined all of our money in January of 1986 to buy the newest and most powerful system at the time, the venerable Nintendo NES. What convinced me that this was the wonderbox of the future was the bundled Super Mario Brothers cart that looked and played almost exactly as the arcade game did. We took it with us wherever we went…slumber parties, cousin’s houses, and even our alcoholic step-uncle’s shack. Everyone loved it and by next Christmas, everyone owned one. Nintendo took their games to the next level, a level that would appeal to the teenagers that had cut their teeth on Atari. With games like Metroid and Zelda, Nintendo not only pushed the envelope graphically, but they showed everyone that there was more to video games than just shooting, racing, and getting a high score. Oh how the music of Zelda takes be back to the days of skateboards, Dirty Dancing, and first girlfriends. But before I get all misty-eyed, let’s move on…
To the 16-bit war that ensued between Sega and Nintendo. I’ll tell you up-front that this was a low point in my career as a console gamer. Yes, I was wowwed by the huge sprites that these silicon monsters could sling around on a screen. And yes, 2D platformers came of age and sports games were actually becoming realistic. But I had other things like beer and my band consuming all of my time. Just as I was slipping off of the edge of the video game world completely, a little game called Doom snapped me back to attention in early 1994. At this point I defected to the PC camps for a few years as the console industry caught up with the notion of 3D. After investing thousands of dollars to keep pace with the PC gaming/hardware behemoth, I decided to give the consoles a try once again. Boy, was I surprised! Spending less than what it cost for a decent 3D accelerator(at the time), I got one hell of a gaming machine when I bought my Playstation. Two and a half years later, I have gotten 1000% of the cost back in gaming enjoyment.
We live in a great time for home video gaming, people. There are naysayers that will moan about this and that, but when I play Metal Gear Solid, Zelda, Goldeneye, or Gran Turismo, etc. I know that we have reached a new pinnacle in gameplay and immersion. No longer do we have to pretend that the blocks on the screen are human characters; No longer do the games consist only of achieving a high score. We have realism, we have plot, we have 3D, we have come a long way. And I appreciate this fact every time that I brush the dust off my Atari 2600 and get a sweaty palm playing Kaboom. As only a crusty old gamer can.
- Brian "Scoobybri" Svehla is an honest-to-god old fogey, at the ripe ol' age of 28.
|Credits: Illustration © 1999 Mike Sanzone. Old Crusty Gamers is © 1999 Brian Svehla. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't try it...we'll beat you with our canes, you rascally youngin, you.|