Let's Talk About Something Important: Video Games

(I am a bit burned out concerning current events right now, so, I felt like writing about something completely different: video games. If you aren’t really interested, you may want to skip this. If you are, you still may want to skip it. For what it’s worth, I offer it as a bit of a deviation from the world of politics. -Shawn)

I am a video game junkie.

Since I was a little kid, I’ve been captivated by them.

Back when arcades were king, I’d spend almost all of my paper-route money (Yes, paperboys used to exist) on video games.

For those too young to remember what the world was like without remote controls, cell phones, and laptops, the pioneering games of the past (at least, my past) were housed in contraptions the size of refrigerators, with computing power equal to that of a modern-day wrist watch.

Games like Frogger, Donkey-Kong, and the undisputed heavy-weight of the era, Pac-Man, used to command the attention of young ‘uns and teenagers alike, often becoming depositories for lunch money and loose change found between the couch cushions.

Games like those were sought after with great zeal, so much so that lines would form, ten deep with acne-faced kids. If it was a really great arcade, there might have actually been two Pac-Man machines.

You considered yourself lucky if the player before you was no good. If he was great, frustration would soon set in, for a player with mad skilz could tie up a game for an hour at a clip, with a mountain of quarters left to load on the console. But no matter what the situation, you never dared get out of line. You put your time in. Your curfew could pass, your bladder could pop, someone could have dropped a lit Sterno down your pants, it wouldn’t matter. Come hell or high water, you were there until your turn.

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Eventually, the gaming experience made its way to the home.

The Atari 2600 started it all. A small console, it took the nation by storm in the late ’70s/early ’80s. Hundreds of games were produced, all available on cartridges. The graphics were little more than small, block-like images, more akin to crude cave drawings than how we think of graphics today. But it was fun, and some of the games were pretty cool (Berserk being my favorite).

For a while, gaming switched from console to simple computers. The two major competitors were the Commodore 64, and the Atari 800 series.

I was an Atari guy, purchasing an Atari 800XL in June of some forgotten year. These consisted of a keyboard and a cartridge slot for programs and games. Disk drives, modems, printers and monitors were all separately purchased. I had them all. Games back then were easy to “crack,” and some very nice people made them available for “free.” Graphics improved greatly with these more powerful machines, and you could even write your own simple programs with the installed computing language called “Basic.” This time, Pac-Man actually looked like Pac-Man. I spent hours playing games like Montezuma’s Revenge, Zork, and Archon.

With the advent of computers like the Apple IIe, these simple systems eventually died out. However, console systems started to make a comeback, with the introduction of Intellevision and ColecoVision systems. They cost quite a bit for the time. And though they possessed a more realistic, refined computing power and noticeably better graphics, they never caught on like the old Atari system.

For a while, there was a lull in the home gaming market, until around the mid-late 80s, when a company called Nintendo burst onto the scene. They offered the Nintendo Entertainment System, which blew away anything ever produced until that time. Its chief competitor was the Sega Genesis (which I owned). Both were eons ahead of the old consoles, but Nintendo easily surpassed Sega in the console wars. This was especially true with the advent of the Nintendo 64, where, finally, 3-D graphics were introduced.

The modern-day console was born.

After a few months of debate, I purchased a Nintendo 64. For its time, it was an amazing piece of hardware. However, I bought it for one reason, and one reason only: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Even by today’s standards, it consisted of a massive, immersive gaming universe. It was the first game for me (besides Zork) where I felt as if I were transported to another place. Plot twists, interesting characters, challenging levels, hard won “boss” fights. It had it all. I must have played it a thousand hours, investigating every little corner of its universe. It was the only game I owned for the system, and it was worth every penny.

After that, I made what was probably my worst gaming decision, and I bought the Sega Dreamcast. It was actually a great console, with stunning graphics and exceptional sound, but, it never really took off, and few games were produced for it. (Soul Calibur and Shenmue were pretty cool, though.)

After that, the modern day console wars began, with Nintendo, PlayStation, and the X-Box all jockeying for the top spots. At the time, though I was stunned by their graphical capabilities, I didn’t get one.

It was the PC world to which I took, and I haven’t looked back since.

From my first store bought PC, to the ones I have built myself, I have felt they far surpass consoles. For me, the main drawback to consoles are the controllers. I hate them. Nothing beats a mouse and keyboard for subtle movements and pin-point accuracy.

First person shooters are my favorite game genre. My first, and sentimental favorite was a modestly known single/multi player game call Star Trek: Elite Force (which came out around 2001.). It actually came free in a software bundle. It was with this game that I became addicted to online multiplayer action.

Thousands of people played it. I got very good at it, and I was eventually invited to be in the best EF “clan” around. [AFO] Spy was my tag. Hours were spent playing this game, battling others, while adding to my girth. I even made some online friends to which I still write. It was a blast.

The only time I veered from the PC was when Halo 3 came out for the X-Box 360. I bought the console and the game, and, after beating the single player and realizing I just couldn’t deal with those damn controllers, I sold it two weeks later for a loss.

Now, I’ve got my own built-from-the-ground-up computer system. I just got Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 last week. So far, it is a pretty good game, smooth as butter, though I liked the original Modern Warfare better. (The new multi-player server interface is a huge step backward.)

All that said, my top 5 favorite video games are as follows, in order of preference:

1) Halo: Combat Evolved
2) Star Trek: Elite Force Multiplayer
3) Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
4) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
5) Zork

So, that’s it. Thanks for letting me spin a little story, and forget about politics for a while. I can’t be the only gamer here, so, please chime in with your own experiences and game lists.

I gotta go shoot some terrorists.

Eric Holder Looks Amateurish and Unprepared
Random Thoughts.