Monday, February 20, 2012

Retro Gaming with the Family--Atari 2600

There’s no hiding the fact that my favorite console of all time is the Atari 2600 (my first real console as a kid).  I had so many fond memories of playing my Atari that I have tried on many occasions, unsuccessfully I might add, to share my love of this great console with my family.  No matter how hard I tried, something on the XBOX, Wii, or DS seemed to hold my kids’ attention better than the classic gameplay of the Atari 2600.    
This last weekend, the weather was abysmal, so I decided to try one last time to get the family interested in the old wood-grain box in my closet.  I set up a retro gaming weekend for the family and decided to hide the controllers to any modern system in the house.
Despite some initial grumbling about no Mario, XBOX, etc., I ended up with several volunteers willing to play “Dad’s old piece of junk.”
This time, however, I stacked the deck.  I pulled out the best of the best of my collection (sorry Human Cannonball; I loved playing you as a kid, but you didn’t make the cut).  Space Invaders, Pitfall, River Raid, Berzerk, Asteroids, Yars Revenge, The Empire Strikes Back, Kaboom, Atlantis, Frogger, Night Driver, Centipede, Defender, Vanguard and many, many more were served up to a family trapped in the house by Mother Nature. 
The kids were captivated with the gameplay, and the choice of games.   Two games, however, were played more than all the rest and became the favorites of the group—Warlords and Combat.  
Single player games, and high scores are one thing, but destroying your friend or family member and earning temporary bragging rights of dominance is another.  That’s why multiplayer games were invented, and why Warlords and Combat excel. 
I thoroughly enjoyed watching my family fire up Combat and try virtually every variation of the game.  We fought tank battles, invisible tank battles, three on one dogfight, invisible dogfight, one on one jets with and without clouds, etc.  The short time limit per game allowed multiple turns and set a frenetic pace to rack up the kills on your opponent.  Although my sons put up quite a fight, experience with the joystick helped one middle-aged gamer keep up a pretty good win streak.  When you are old, you will take any bit of help and competitive advantage you can get. 
As for Warlords, that will be for a different blog coming soon.
This weekend was definitely a success.  My sons have asked me to hook up my Atari (no longer called “Dad’s old piece of junk") in their room.  They can’t wait until we play it again.  Over the span of a few hours, my family helped me relive a little bit of my childhood, and my kids gained a better understanding of the history of video games.  I have to say it was a weekend well spent.  Thanks Atari.        

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