It’s time for another Pop Culture League challenge. This week, the question is: what is your earliest arcade or video game related memory? This is a tough one. Early memories are the most unclear. I’m often able to date a memory based on a comic book I was reading, or a TV show episode I was watching. But for my earliest memories, these little signposts for dating are missing. Still, I’m pretty sure what my earliest video game experience was.
I had a buddy who lived pretty close to me, close enough that I could walk to his house even when I was 6 or 7 years old. (Times sure have changed, I probably wouldn’t have let my sons walk that far when they were that age!) My buddy had some cool toys, your requisite Star Wars stuff, mainly, and a lot of it, since his father worked at Sears. Gotta love that employee discount! One of the neatest entertainment options at my friend’s house was his Sears Telegames Video Arcade. This was almost exactly identical to the more well-known Atari system, but my pal’s dad was a company man through and through and so the Sears branded version was what he got.
The two of us spent hours and hours playing two games in particular. The first was my favorite: Combat. Most all Atari cartridges claimed to contain lots of games inside, but they were really just variations on a theme in most cases. Not so with Combat! You had tanks, AND Red Baron-style biplanes, AND jets, too! It was the best thing ever.
The second game was Air-Sea Battle, and there was lots of variety in that cartridge as well. You shot airplanes, boats, even clowns and ducks in a shooting gallery style variant. My buddy always liked to play outside, but I would have skipped the great outdoors and all of its adventures for a bit more time playing invisible tank wars.
Eventually I convinced my parents that we needed an Atari ourselves. Having Combat available in my own home was incredible, but you needed two players it, which was less than ideal. My little brother was… little, and my parents would play from time to time, but not for hours-long marathons, which is what I was looking for. Eventually, we got other carts that allowed me to rely only on my own availability: Centipede, Phoenix, and Pac-Man, among many more. I was dazzled by Centipede; it looked and played almost exactly like the arcade version. (At least, I thought so at the time.) I wasn’t familiar with Phoenix in the arcades, but I read and reread the manual detailing the story and looking at the awesome art for hours, in addition to zapping bird invaders. Pac-Man isn’t a good port, but it didn’t matter to me, nor to my dad, who took a liking to the game as well. I remember him coming home after work, taking off his dress shirt and shoes, flopping down on the couch, and taking turns playing Pac-Man with me in his undershirt and socks. It almost sounds like a scene from The Goldberg’s except my father kept his pants on!
Here are a few other entries in this week’s Pop Culture League challenge that I found cool and/or interesting.
The Last Hometown shares his memories of one of the greatest ealry arcade hits, a “monolith of beauty”, Space Invaders.
The Nerd Nook went the photo route, recalling a Pac-Man cocktail cabinet at a Pizza Hut. Makes me wish I had a slice of ham in one hand, and a cherry red joystick in the other.
20 Years Before 2000 went with the Simpsons arcade game. I played plenty of arcade games before that one, but very few that were as fun with a group of friends as the Simpsons!
The rest of the entries can be found over at Cool and Collected. I’m looking forward to next week’s challenge!