The old person’s video game

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 11, 2017 7:05 PM

In 1972, Atari came out with a game called Pong. It was essentially an electronic ping-pong game. They first put their console in a bar called Andy Capp’s Tavern. Within days, the game was acting weird so Atari sent technicians to find out what the problem was, fearing that it would hurt their success potential. The technicians discovered that the reason the game wasn’t acting correctly was because the console was overfilled with quarters from people trying to play the game. Success. Soon after, in 1975, they created a home version and sold it through Sears. My dad bought one and we learned quickly how to maneuver the now antiquated controls to knock a small ball back over the ‘net so the other player could do the same. It had various speeds, and someone would eventually not be able to get their “paddle” – a square block of technology – into the right position. The electronic ball, just a round white disc, would sail past. Point. 

The game was in black and white, if it could be called that. The screen was black but the extremely crude game pieces were white/blue. It was like an old computer, which is essentially what it was. I remember playing it, but never being addicted to it. I think eventually Atari made more games and I’m sure my father upgraded the system. He was also one of the first to buy a VCR. I wasn’t a game person but someone in the house must have been. Maybe my brother, and perhaps my dad. 

Video games progressed to Pac Man in the early 1980s. We had Pac Man game consoles in the restaurant where I worked in college. They were always populated with frat boys who would place their mugs of beer on the side as they hooted and hollered while eating up whatever stuff as they maneuvered their game guy through a maze. I don’t know that I ever played Pac Man or Ms. Pac Man which was the same except pink. 

Atari begat Nintendo which begat Play Station. When Justin was little we had Play Station. He was also completely enamored with Game Boy. He had several versions, beginning when he was fairly young. He never went anywhere without it, including camp. I picked him up one day after they returned from one of their excursions, maybe to Disneyland or Magic Mountain, pullin up in my BMW to find him in tears, sitting on the curb. It wasn’t because I was late; I wasn’t. It was because he’d lost his Game Boy. I sat down next to him, put my arm around his quivering shoulder and asked him to tell me what happened; where he had lost it. He looked up at me through his enormous glasses, his eyes rimmed with tears. He was maybe 8. Evidently when he’d gotten out of the bus, someone hit his arm, and his Game Boy crashed to the ground where it proceeded to slide down into the drain. The drain that was right beneath us. I got down on the ground and looked and sure enough, there it was, in all of its bright yellowness, resting on a bed of leaves. 

“Let’s go get a handle and see if we can fish it out,” I told him. This gave him hope. We buzzed home. I grabbed a broom handle, the small shovel and a roll of duct tape. We drove back, I attached the shovel to the broom handle with the tape and then laid down on the road to try to fish it out. Justin was squatted next to me, watching with great anticipation. 

I was very determined but ultimately would have probably been unsuccessful. Thankfully, two guys in a pickup truck pulled up and asked if they could help. I told them what was going on. They had a crowbar in their truck. They pried up the manhole cover leading to the drain. Justin scampered down, retrieved his Game Boy, and all was right with the world.

Kevin and I have never been fans of video games. Justin upgraded his Play Station. He may have had something else as well, though I don’t think he had a Wii. He still plays video games on his computer and can sit for hours doing nothing more than that. He’s 26 now, but still loves it. 

Kevin plays a game on the iPad. It’s solitaire. The old fashioned card game created for one person. He opens the app, shuffles the cards, and proceeds to play game after game by simply touching the screen. He loves it, and I can’t help but laugh. Justin slays dragons and progresses up through levels as he kills or whatever. Kevin turns over cards and occasionally tackles the daily challenge.

It’s the old person’s version of a video game. And I think it’s worth celebrating.

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live out loud

Comments (2) -

2/13/2017 10:03:38 AM #

"electronic ping pong came"?

The only ""came" I like is the now extremely realistic streaming Flight Simulator. It's fun to fly anywhere in the world!

I'm pleased I "game" here today!


Fred Marcin United States

2/13/2017 8:12:47 PM #

Fixed! Thank you!

admin United States

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