Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I'm More of an Atari

First and foremost, let me say that I had an overall awesome childhood.  My parents loved me, I had a neighborhood full of kids to play with, etc etc.  So in no way am I whining about having an incomplete experience as a kid, nor am I ranting about how unfair my parents were.  Understood?  Good.

That being said, I grew up in a house without video games.  Well, mostly.  

When I was 5, we got our first household computer.  It was an IBM and probably weighed more than I did at the time.  That computer was my introduction to anything remotely close to a video game.  I played Mixed-Up Mother Goose, Tetris and Prince of Persia like they were all going out of style.  (In all fairness, they probably were already out of style.  Oh well.) 

Around the same time, my dad began busting out his Atari 2600 from time to time.  Dad and I would have weekend long Pong tournaments (to the point where my thumbs would actually lock up from playing so much) and I learned to play almost every game we had (we only had probably 20-25 games), from Superman to Breakout, Berzerk to Phoenix, and everything in between.  Kaboom! was probably among my favorites (I liked the ones that used the paddle controllers).  I was pretty terrible at most of them (Pole Position, for example), but I loved playing anyway.  (The only one I really never got into was Raiders of the Lost Ark; for the life of me I couldn't figure out how to play that one!)
Sadly, the Atari was set up only sparingly, so my video game exposure was still pretty limited.  A few of my friends had Nintendos, and I began a love/hate relationship with Mario Brothers.  Later it was Kirby who stole my heart and, when the neighbors got an N64, it was all about Yoshi.  

Pretty soon, it seemed that video games were all around me.  In the summer, my mom would drop me off at a friend's house so her older sister could babysit for me.  Almost every morning started with Sega.  Sonic sometimes, but usually Aladdin (I still remember trying to time it so Aladdin would jump on the magic carpet right when the music got to, "...all I gotta do is juuuuuuuuuuuuuuump!").

My dad's best friend has two sons who never knew what to do with me when I was visiting with my parents.  They let me play Duck Hunt a few times, but my aim was terrible.  There was one time when I had a friend with me (A, I think) and they left us alone with Mortal Kombat.  20 minutes later and A and I were completely engrossed, beating the crap out of each other (in the game).  I'm sure we were horrible, but we had a lot of fun anyway.   

Then, when I started going to the orthodontist when I was 10, they had video games to play while you were waiting!  They were handheld games and you only had one or two games to pick from, but it was still the coolest thing ever.  When they remodeled the facility, they included two honest to goodness video game machines, just like you'd find at the arcade.  I'd look forward to playing for the 5 or 10 minutes I normally had to wait, and when the wait was longer, I was even happier.  

Sometimes when I went over to A's mom's house, we'd play some winter Olympics game that she had.  At her dad's, it was often Mario Party or something along those lines.  A also had this awesome computer game called The Neverhood that we would play together for hours.    

At one point, I decided I wanted a Game Boy more than anything in this world, so I asked my mom about it.  When she shot me down, I asked, "Well, what if I save up and pay for it myself?  Then can I have one?"  Shot down again.  Cue young Riki crying, "But that's not faaaaaaair!"  And Mom's standard response of, "You mean it's not what you waaaaaaant!"  (She was right.)

As I got older, I finally got some computer games that were more video game-y than KidPix or the one where Mario teaches you to type.  It started with games that included educational stuff (my Greek mythology game was my favorite for a long time, thus my cat being named Zeus).  Then it was card and word games that made me use logic and strategy.  But at one point, my dad bought me Tomb Raider, because he thought it was neat to have a female lead in a video game.  I probably consider that the first "real" video game I owned.

In college, one of my best friends had a GameCube (Super Smash Melee FTW!), and another good friend had a PlayStation.  Even though I rarely actually played anything on it (Tekken bowling was probably about it), the PS provided hours of entertainment as we'd turn off the lights and watch its owner play creepy games like Silent Hill, purposely freaking ourselves out.    

Fast forward to Christmas 2008.  I'd mentioned to my parents that Hubby and I (who were sharing an apartment at the time) really wanted a Wii.  I told them about the exercise games and about how Wii makes you get up and move around in order to play, hoping desperately to convince them.  Lo and behold, at the ripe old age of 24, I finally had my very own video game system.  Woohoo!!

Maybe, though, it's for the best that Mom and Dad didn't let me get a system growing up.  At it is, I keep myself pretty busy with the computer, the Wii and our PS3, but I also spend a lot of time doing other things, like reading or watching movies.  My life isn't consumed by video games, and a system in my childhood might have resulted in just that.  (I'm not saying everyone who had video games as a kid is a video game addict as an adult; I just have an addictive personality and can admit that even now I spend too much time on this damn Dell!)

Actually, I guess I should probably thank my parents for not letting me get what I wanted.  Damn them for being right!  And getting me to admit it in adulthood (after being told some day I would understand)!  Well played, parents.  Well played. 

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