Friday, September 10, 2010

A Girl and A Game: My history with Video Games

Imagine being two or three years old... and REALLY wanting McDonalds.  You bug and bug and nag and whine until finally your parents relent (probably because your mom has a thing for quarter pounders with cheese and extra pickles).  Upon walking into the magical place that is the golden arches (remember: you're two or three - it IS magical at that age), your parents order you your happy meal with the Strawberry Shortcake or Smurf toy, and while in the lobby, they notice a drawing box.  What could it be for?  Oh yes, the Atari VCS 2600.  Not thinking much of it, they fill out the form... and get a phone call saying that they had won!!  Said Atari VCS 2600 will hereby be referred to as "Jenifer's Atari" because if I hadn't put up the fit about going to McDonalds that night, who knows if we would have won it?

This system began the love affair with video games at our house.  I remember Combat, Pong, the ill-fated Pac-Man game, and yes, even the horrible ET game.  Space Invaders, Basketball (which, I believe, was really just Pong in disguise :) )

Next up: The NES... Nintendo Entertainment System.  We had Mario, and those guys, Mike Tyson's Punch Out, and my favorite of all time - Tetris.  We also had Tetris for our Game Boys... the original grey monstrosities with the monochromatic screens... none of the Game Boy Color, Advance... and certainly not a DS.  My brother then got a Sega Genesis... welcome to the world of 32 bit games!  There was still an arcade at Meridian Mall, and, I left for college.

College (GO Michigan State Spartans!), opened up a different world of gaming to me.  We had a computer in our house - and AOL... sheesh, but the computer games I was familiar with were ones like The Oregon Trail, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, you know, semi-educational ones.  In school, I was exposed to a whole different world of video games... at that point, PS1 was the hot thing, and a large computer hard drive was a couple of gigs.  My four year old iPod Nano has more memory than my computer did.  Pagers were the rage and kids didn't have their own cell phones.

I remember sitting and watching my boyfriend (who, like all of his friends, was a "computer guy") for hours playing everything from Myst and Riven to Starcraft (the original one, I think).  I picked up a lot, and I learned a lot about building computers too.  To this day, I can still swap hard drives and cards on a desk top with the best of 'em... although not so much on laptops.  They had random cords running from room to room, if I remember correctly, so that they could be linked and play.  I got very familiar with the store setup of Radio Shack and how to solder parts together.  Hearing now about the girls robotics teams... man, that sure would've been cool.  I also remember there was a cool arcade type deal on Grand River Ave., for those that are familiar with East Lansing, and we would go there and then go get pizza.  :) 

Then, after I moved to Texas,  I remember sitting outside of a Best Buy with some friends all night for the release of the PS2... that was the only time I have ever done that... not even for Dave Matthews tickets!  After PS1, PS2 was the coolest thing ever.  The graphics were great, it was far more realistic... and Gran Turismo was a heck of a lot easier to play on this than on the computer!  Unfortunately, being a girl, I would usually get last ups... once all the guys were tired of playing.

Pinball Lineup at Ground Kontrol
Now, living in Oregon, there are a couple cool arcade places, one being Wunderland.  This is really cool, because it charges an admission, but all the games inside are a nickle.  Yup.  A nickle.  Everything from skee-ball to motorcycle racing to shooter games (I still have yet to find Police Trainer).  There is also an arcade in downtown Portland called Ground Kontrol... they feature old games - and PINBALL!!!!, and after 5pm it is 21 and older.  Cool, huh?  We currently have in our possession: A N64, PS2, a (broken) Wii - did you know there is a mechanism on the Wii that engages if you put disks in and out too many times?  You then have to send it to Nintendo America to have them fix it... for $85!!!!  I can almost get a new one for that! 

I still have my favorite games... Tetris is still up there.  I do really like some of the new Harry Potter games (my HP obsession is a topic for another posting), and Gran Turismo is still fun.  I like a lot of the Wii stuff - especially some of the games on the Wii Fit - Hula Hoops.  Try it.  Seriously.

What brought this topic on?  I listen to a lot of podcasts while I knit.  Especially the ones from, and one of them is their Tech Stuff podcast.  Recently, they did a couple on the "Death of the Arcade" and also on "The Great Video Game Crash" and I was surprised with how much of what they were talking about I remembered.  I wouldn't consider myself a "gamer" by any stretch, but what I do find interesting is that I still have that memory of the Atari 2600 as being MINE... and did I mention my brother stole it, and apparently broks and sold it?  ARRRGGGG!  :)