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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Still A Video Gamer At Heart

If you have been reading this blog since the beginning, then you may have noticed that I occasionally write about games. The majority of the gaming posts seem to be about online games that I mostly play at Facebook. But recently, a company called Man Crates contacted me and got me thinking of my start as a gamer. If you don't know them, they're a cool company that creates wacky gifts, including a gift card encased in concrete! I remember actually playing pinball as a kid while my old man drank beer at the local tavern on Saturdays. This was Kansas in the 1970s and before arcades exploded locally. When someone finally opened a local arcade, I went after school and squandered a few hard earned quarters on the various arcade games including pinball. The arcade was usually packed so I mostly watched others play. I remember that Asteroids, Pac-Man and Space Invaders were big back then.

My younger sister and I were surprised when we got an Atari console with a Space Invaders game cartridge as a shared Christmas present in 1980 or 1981 (a few years before that we got an EZ Bake Oven). Of course, we fought over who got to play first. I remember that it had two paddles and two joysticks. There may have been other games with the console or they came separate. I do remember getting Asteroids, Breakout and Pac-Man, which my sister was so much better than I at playing. We got a few more games for the Atari console but most of them are lost in my memory at the moment.

A few short years later, we upgraded to the Nintendo Entertainment System and it blew Atari away. We got the NES console as another shared Christmas present along with Duck Hunt and Super Mario Brothers. I admit that I loved shooting that dog more than the ducks. While I enjoyed Super Mario Brothers, my sister was a much better player. We picked up a few more games for the NES including The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Finally, these were games that I could play and I spent many hours doing so.

Our local arcade closed up in the mid to late 1980s and became a video store. The only places to find video games was at the local various convenience stores (there were actually about seven at one time) and the two pizza places (Pizza Hut and Big Cheese Pizza). I remember my favorite arcade game at this time was Kung Fu Fighter and my friends were all trying to beat each other. I wasn't great at the beginning but I spent countless quarters and time getting better. Then without warning, the local convenience stores got rid of their arcade machines. We rented a few video games from them but they usually didn't work or didn't have the instructions so we stopped.

I can't remember when exactly we got the Super Nintendo console but I'm thinking it was another shared Christmas present to my sister and I from our Mother (our parents had been divorced for several years at this point). I remember staying up countless nights playing Final Fantasy III and IV on it. Cheetos were my snacks of choice while I drank either Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew or Pepsi. I was big into Dungeons and Dragons so these fantasy types of video games were more my style.

I have to put in a good word for Game Genie here. For those who don't know, it was a cheat system that first came out in 1990 that attached to the game cartridge. I picked one up for the NES and was able to actually complete and enjoy the video games that were frustrating me like Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Brothers. It was fun to be invincible and have endless lives. I later picked one up for the Super NES so we could complete Super Mario Brothers 3. I don't remember ever actually finishing any video game before getting a Game Genie.

After the SNES, I got a Playstation console for my birthday along with a Spider-Man game. That was the only game I got for that system. My younger sister got more games for it and more or less took it over. I ended up playing games on the computer mostly the SimCity and WarCraft series. Since then she has gotten the GameBoy, Nintendo 64 and Nintendo DS systems. She still plays her DS games while I play the Facebook games. While she still likes to play the Mario games on occasion, she has switched to mostly puzzle games. I hate playing the hand held games for the controls and screens are way too small for me.

While I haven't played any computer games for the past few years, I still play online games on Facebook mostly House of Fun slots, Hit It Rich slots and Nords: Heroes of the North. I greatly enjoyed playing Superhero City but then it got dropped. I played FarmVille but grew bored with it fast and I played Candy Crush for a while before I got stuck on a level. I wish Game Genie would come back with codes for Facebook games.

Yes, I do feel old after writing this post and sharing my memories about the various video game systems and games that I have had through the years. Maybe it's because I just realized that I will be turning fifty-one one month from today.

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