Well itís been a while since my last rantingís about my peculiar habits in electronic games and gizmos in general. The insanity and lust for these games and consoles (including computers), past or present has not relinquished one bit but increased at such a rate, itís all been a blur.
My wife, who luckily understands my hobby, has even accompanied me to a few retro events. Where heavily sedated (me that is) I stumble around admiring the vast array of systems and games on show, which you can freely play to your hearts content. I also listen and learn about the beginnings and sadly the ends of these amazing machines and games, through more knowledgeable individuals than myself. Thus reclaiming happy memories (I think) of my own experiences and obsession we call retro gaming.
As I wandered around this gaming wilderness, like an early explorer intent on identifying and logging the sounds and existence of every gaming species, I noticed one such system that still commands an avid following to this day (judging by the crowd), which unfortunately I had only ever played on a couple of occasions, (I couldnít afford my own live one). Suddenly I found myself drifting in and out of reality and mumbling, ďI must have it! With gamesĒ (Oh dear! I was doing so well).
Everything started to spin, dates began to come and go. The dizziness only ceased when a lost memory was rekindled, where a game of football, tennis, kick-the-can, cards, board games, and marbles were the norm to spend my summer holidays playing, but this was all about to change.
While visiting a school friend, (you know the ones, they always seemed to get everything they ever wanted, Jealous, oh yes); Sitting awkwardly on a large yellow and green bean bag, I notice slightly hidden under their TV (Colour, OF COURSE! We only had a black and white one), this strange veneered looking box. After a short struggle I found myself flat on my stomach facing this mysterious looking contraption. Its cables and controllers had somehow entwined themselves around me, thus I had no option but to admit defeat. I immediately located the instruction manual (as you do) and read with interest the capabilities of this machine, the Atari 2600, (six pages long, short, compared by todayís 2000 page destructions, and thatís not including the health & safety guide). I sat there in total shock and awe, trying to digest all this amazing technology, (it was amazing, compared to a bag of marbles).
It had a white slogan with the word ATARI printed beneath it, with six switches all set to perform their own individual tasks and a couple of robust looking joysticks (controllers) with a single red button on each. A cartridge was protruding from the centre of the fascia this set in motion my morbid curiosity. This is where it got rather silly as I immediately began to prod and poke it, as though it was a dangerous animal (Little did I know how this little animal would grow, claws an all into a multi billion pound industry.)
Placed perfectly next to it was a small box with a picture of a flying saucer firing lasers entitled SPACE INVADERS, causing me to gurgle (choke) in a high pitched whimper. But it was empty; utterly disappointed I buried my face into the bean bag in order to muffle my own cries of woe and turmoil. Then I remembered (could it be that easy), the cartridge in the fascia, I excitedly peered at it, there it was Space Invaders, (The relief).
Cheekily and as quietly as possible I turned on their Television and the Atari 2600, where it manipulated itself into my brain. Holding the bulky joystick in one hand with the other hands thumb nervously hovering over the red button, I was ready for blast off, into my intergalactic space adventures (marbles, cards, what were they).
The skills, patience and stamina (which I donít have) that were required to hold your position and wait, while listening to strange commands in my head one foreboding, Donít You Dare, Press That BIG Red Button, Go Home, Now! And one encouraging, Go On, Press That little Red Button, Itís Your Destiny, You Wonít Regret It! (Which path would you have taken?) Well I chose rightly and never looked back, so there! This is where all hell broke loose.
I watched in horror as each perfectly aimed shot missed its intended target and Iíd have to wait a split second (seemed like an eternity) for my fire power to be reinstated to halt this mass invasion of aliens. Iíd curse the controller as it cried out in pain and groaned under the strain of the battle. (Or was that me)?
The anxiety as the tone picked up pace with every movement the aliens made to my ultimate oblivion; When I had lost all of my defences and cannons for the umpteenth time, my friend appeared and began to demonstrate in a contemptuous way on how it should be played. This is where I lost control, not only my controller, but my faculties. And began shouting out in some sort of alien language, (which I didnít understand). My friends parents observed in horror as I demonstrated quite ruddily with the controller.
When they had recovered from the initial shock of what a harmless gaming controller could become, I was immediately disarmed and thrown out of the front door (or was it through it?). Pressing my pale face up against their window describing in some detail on how the controller was to blame, not me, and they will not win the battle by forcibly ejecting me out like that!
In a selfish huff I rushed home to tell of my journey into space and how I single handily had battled with evil hungry aliens. And could I have an Atari 2600 with game please, so that I could continue in my mission to defend and protect not only the planet, but my family.
After the laughter had stopped I was given an ultimatum, if we get you this thingy-me-bob where would you plug it in? As itís a choice of being housed and fed or to defend the earth. I immediately shouted out in excitement ďTO DEFEND THE EARTH!Ē
The last I recall on the subject is the shrieks of horror when my then best friendís parents called to report the costs of replacing a burst bean bag, and a damaged front door, and my bad behaviour. And demonstrating on what a controller is not to be used for. Oh happy days?
With this I was instantly hurled forward in time again, to find my wife slapping my face, in an attempt to regain my composure. It failed, much agitate, I raced off on a gaming hunting spree to purchase an Atari 2600 with games, to continue in my long lost adventures into space and well, beyond.
With my newly acquired retro godliness in hand I began to listen in on bits and bobs of intelligent conversation, (which Iím not so clever at, as this small article may indicate), to its origins, from the arcades, to the first killer apt on the Atari VCS. Sadly there were very limited arcades in my area, I only knew of one that existed, right near my local bus station.
I also learnt that there were various versions released in the arcades and that the Atari VCS had fewer invaders 36 I think to the arcades 55 and only three bunkers instead of four. The most obvious difference was the graphics and look of the Atari version. I think this is why the home port had up to 112 levels all with their own gaming challenges, including moving bunkers, aliens that would appear and disappear. But you will just have to experience it to learn all of the differences for yourselves. Good Luck.