Geek Speak

Nostalgic for the Gaming Machines of Youth, from Atari 2600 to Nintendo to PS2

The arcades were my first video-game love, but we were not monogamous. Like most kids, I didn’t have an unlimited supply of quarters to drop into the arcade machines, and as with many kids of my generation — and every generation that’s followed — my parents made the cost-efficient decision to invest those quarters into a gaming system at home. Since that first games console was hooked up to my TV, there have been far more years that the TV has had a console (or three) connected to it than years it hasn’t.

You never forget your first, though, and my first gaming system was the Atari 2600 (yes, I’m old). If I’m not mistaken, I was six years old when my dad came home with it, and it was one of the formative experiences of my life. From learning how to hook it up to the TV — my first adventure in technology! — to hours and hours spent mastering games, that old Atari was my constant companion for about six years, well into its obsolescence. I played the classics, from Space Invaders to Pitfall!, and I played bargain-basement bullshit like I Want My Mommy and Mountain King (despite their obscurity, both of those games were actually pretty solid).

At my friends' houses, I played ColecoVision and IntelliVision, envious of their superior (but still shitty) graphics. Later we added an Atari computer to the mix, and between programming to make horrific grinding digital noises, I played some sweet games on it as well (Miner 2049er, in particular). PC games followed, when I could sneak onto my dad’s PC and manage not to fuck it up getting the damned things to run.

Later, my desire to own a Nintendo (the first one), coupled with my parents' lack of interest in buying me one, drove me to seek out odd jobs. I collected cans for recycling, I washed cars, I even worked as an assistant for one of my mom’s friends, cleaning houses despite the fact that I pretty much refused to clean my own room. I really wanted that damned Nintendo. Then I got lucky when my mom realized that if I bought it for myself, there was no way I was going to let my little brothers anywhere near the thing. She ended up ponying up the rest of the cash on the condition that I share it, which is possibly the only concrete example of enlightened self-interest serving the greater good you’ll ever encounter outside of Ayn Rand’s terrible fantasy novels.

Nintendo gave me The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros. and Contra, which I became so expert at that I could beat it without dying. This is what happens when you have basically unlimited time to play and absolutely no money to buy new games. I played that Nintendo all through my junior-high and high-school years, and I’m sure my little brothers kept playing it until the youngest got a Super Nintendo (I played plenty of that when I was home for a visit). I had to skip the PlayStation generation, because I was as poor as humanly possible without being homeless during those years, but I did get to enjoy plenty of Wipeout and Twisted Metal while getting stoned at my buddy’s house.

I rejoined the console world with the PS2 and was pretty hardcore for that entire generation and most of the next, but due to the time commitments of raising small children, I’ve thus far had to sit out the latest generation. Sometime this year, I aim to change that, probably with a PS4, despite my preference for Xbox for the past decade, but we’ll see. In the meantime, I still have a bunch of unfinished Xbox 360 games waiting for me to find time to play them, and my nostalgia for games past fills me with a warm and fuzzy sensation.

Those Xbox games may have to wait, but the nostalgia can be embraced this weekend at VinCon, which is basically my childhood and adolescence in convention form: two days of all those classic consoles, plus some sweet chip tunes thrown in for fun. Maybe I’ll see you there?

VinCon is set for Saturday, May 14, and Sunday, May 15, at the First National Bank Exhibition Hall at the Ranch Events Complex in Loveland. Tickets are $15 for the weekend, or $10 per day. For more info and tickets, visit the VinCon website.