I had arcade experience. I had Atari 2600 experience. I played a neighbor’s Intellivision maybe once. I played Coleco a few times. This was in the span from about 1981 to 1985 or so, or in Navy-family-moving-around terms our homes in Camarillo, CA, Virginia Beach, VA and Vienna, VA. Formative years, and a decent chunk of, but not all that long a stretch of, my childhood. Looking back, at least, it doesn’t seem like all that long a part of my youth. And by 1987, or when we moved to Oakton, VA, my gaming interest had mostly moved into text adventures (Infocom forever!) on computers, and I wasn’t using game consoles anymore. Computers gave me one last gasp of that kind of playing -- I remember a 1988 Olympics games for our PC we had in Oakton -- but after that I really only dabbled in console games. Some Nintendo around 1990, and more Nintendo in college: my freshman year dorm’s “seasons” (I think three total+) of Tecmo NFL football, and my junior year when I was playing some Mortal Kombat with dormmates. But I never got back into gaming in any major way.
So an Atari 2600 speaks to me in a way that XBox, Sega, Playstation, and other more recent and sleeker game consoles speak to a lot of you. For my fellows for who the 2600 still speaks to them, I join you in that love.
Because today I was surrounded by the glorious sight of many, many 2600s. And the games to go in them.
This weekend Portland had the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, and I splurged on the $10 for a Sunday pass, which I spent almost entirely in the free gaming room. Consoles and stand-up arcade games were set up and ready for us to see if we still had gaming skills. I had some.
(I actually could not score any points on Pitfall! I’d forgotten how. I suck.)
I giggled more than once at playing these games again.
I found myself falling into one old, bad habit: pushing harder on the joystick’s controllers, as if pushing harder on it would make my running man/ space fighter/ moon buggy/ boxer// Ms. Pac-Man/ Dig Dug helmeted guy move faster. I had to remind myself Dude! Soft touch works fine! And it did. Which is good, because I needed to save my wrists.
I ran into some of the Geek Trivia crowd, including Cort and Fatboy, who hosted a special gaming version of Geek Trivia. I listened but didn’t play, because I knew I wouldn’t know nearly enough to compete. It would’ve been a single-digit score out of 40-plus possible points. Not worth it. I’ll stick with regular Geek Trivia.
It was still fun, and I’m glad I went. Food and errands followed, as did generally being more productive than I’d been Saturday, and that was needed.
And I can do more retro gaming if I’m so moved. Ground Kontrol is an arcade-slash-bar in Old Town Portland. I can pay for the privilege of still indulging my gaming roots.
+ Actually two-and-a-half. Accidentally. Accidentally because of either A) me or B) a lightning bolt. Or maybe C) me touching the game console at the same time as lightning striking in Eugene, but the important thing is that the season’s game play on Tecmo football was erased. We screamed for a bit, then started over.