My son requested and received the Atari Flashback 3 for Christmas after listening to the many gaming stories I had as a child of the 80s. After ripping open the box and setting up the system, he paused and looked very confused.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“Umm, I don’t get it.” he responded.
My son was confused by the lack of detailed graphics and sounds the games produced. They did not look anything close to the artistry of the game titles displayed on the box and was a bit bothered by the lack of buttons on the controller. After a hearty laugh, I sat down and remind him of how my generation played games…
I use to cringe when my dad would say, “back when I was a kid…” That statement always made him seem older than he was. Yet here I am about to do the same for my children. Back when I was a kid, video games were still relatively new for the home market. The Atari 2600 was the system to own and kids would brag about how many titles they had. It was a time where you proudly displayed your game cartridges in a stack for friends to drool when they came over. The ridiculous cost of the games was not the only expense. New Joysticks and UHF/VHF converters were always on the list. The system was weak, the joysticks were painful and the image was blurry but when you played, it was magical. The simple graphics and sounds would fade away and soon you were Indiana Jones looking for that damn Ark or a starship destroying large rocks as they float in space. You ran frantically in corridors trying to find the fastest way out of a maze or eating away a barrier that protected a dreaded alien. What made the Atari 2600 so wonderful was the need to incorporate your imagination into the game. Though I enjoy the realism of MW3 or the graphical beauty of GT5, my imagination is not engaged as it once was. I am not advocating the need to go back to simpler times with game design, it is just a mater of fact with all popular media (print -> radio -> television -> cable -> internet). It is yet another realization the time and technology marches on.
Once I explained the need to not judge the games by graphical might or aural immersion, he quickly fell in love with Centipede, Missile Command and Maze Craze. Soon my daughter joined in and those two battle throughout the evening. It made me smile. Just like someone who once raised me.