Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My Favorite Classic Video Games

This is cross-posted from my Silicon Beat blog at the Mercury News:

I am no longer an avid video game player. The whole Nintendo, Xbox, Playstation competition has completely passed me by. It was only just this past weekend, while visiting some relatives in Scotts Valley, that I tried the Wii for the first time (bowling, of course, see the end of this post for why that's fitting). I have a feeling that some kind of gaming console will be in my near future because my 6-year-old spent the day playing the Wii with his cousin and he is now obsessed with getting a Wii. ("Daddy, is it too early to write to Santa Claus and ask him to bring me a Wii?")

Here's the little guy in action over the weekend, via Qik:

But I stopped playing video games sometime in the mid-1980s. Which is why this column on the Top 9 Classic Arcade Games on SFGate.com got me so excited. The story is pegged to the the California Extreme Classic Arcade Games Show returns in Santa Clara this weekend. And if I weren't headed out of town already, I'd drop everything and head over there myself.

In the SFGate.com story, three reporters compiled their nine favorite "classic" arcade games. My own defininsion of "classic" stops a lot sooner than theirs (mine is mid-1980s; theirs goes early 90s). But still, these were the games I loved. Once video games started becoming far more complex, and striving for more realism, I stopped playing. I just wasn't as interested. I felt in some way, these simpler games left far more to the imagination, and were more accessible. As games became more complex, I was going to have to invest a lot of quarters just to learn the basics before I could start having fun.

So the SFGate story hit me with plenty of nostalgia. And I agreed with a few of their choices: Tron (1982); Star Wars (1983); Battlezone (1980). But they left a few of my essential games off the list. I purposely avoided reading the comments on the SFGate story, because I wanted to go with the ones that stuck out in my mind from reading the original piece:

  1. Dig Dug (1982): Simple joystick game where you pushed the character through underground tunnels to find monsters that you then stuck an air hose in and inflated until they blew up.

  2. Tempest (1981): The SFGate folks gave this an "honorable" mention. I loved this game. To this day, I still try to find ways to slip the phrase "Superzapper Recharge" into conversation. Seriously.

  3. Donkey Kong Jr. (1982): Of course, Donkey Kong was the iconic game, but I always preferred its younger sibling.

  4. Q*bert (1982): Just hop up and down cubes until you change all the colors. Simple, mindless fun.

  5. Qix (1981): I was always terrible at this game, but that didn't stop me from having a brief, intense obsession with it.

  6. Ms. Pac-Man (1981): There is a laundromat that I pass on the way to the BART station near my house that has one. I still play it sometimes. Sad, I know.

  7. Galaga (1981) This was also an "honorable mention" on SFGate. But it's probably close to my all-time favorite.

Side note: I realize that my choices pretty much all were introduced in 1981-82. So what was going on in my life at that point? Let's see, I was 12 years old as of January 1981, and in the middle of sixth grade. My main activity outside of school was bowling (Hey, I grew up in the mid-west!) and every Saturday I went to a bowling league. And at the bowling alley, of course, there was a video game arcade. Thus, very appropriate that my first Wii game was bowling.

Now, if only I could get them to buy a few of these oldies for the Mercury News cafeteria.


Kiara said...

Go get your child a Wii. I hope to have it also so my nephews and I can play. Those Download Games/Video games you posted are long ago. Those seem to be good though.

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