I’ve played many games in my lifetime from a number of places, but sometimes I go back and ask myself when I had some of the most fun.
Well……I’ve had fun many different times. Some of my earliest experiences were in the arcades and bars in the town I grew up in. Sometimes it was a mini-bowling game, or pinball, or real bowling. In the late 70’s, I was exposed to some early games, such as Space Wars, Pong, and Space Invaders…….these were the early games that people first found out about and played – mainly because they were such novelties. In fact, watchmojo.com did a great video about the Top 10 arcade games for each decade, so if you get the chance, go check it out sometime. It’s so worth it.
When the home consoles were coming out, many were your typical Pong consoles – tennis, hockey, and the like. Oh sure, some had light guns and other features, but they were pretty basic. Then you had your early systems – the Astrocade, the Odyssey, the Fairchild-F. They all had their features and their games for them, but the one that I, and many others from our generation will always remember will be the ever-steadfast Atari – namely the VCS, or 2600.
When you first look at this console, it’s a pretty fashionable piece with its woodgrain and black facade (unless you got the “Darth Vader version, which was all black), and the switches on top with the cartridge port square in the middle. Once you put the cartridge into the slot and flipped on the power, then the fun really started. Atari came out of the gate swinging, although not all games were hits – in fact, the Atari version of Pac-Man is still considered to be the worst arcade port around (although the Tiger handheld version is still far worse in my opinion). The thing was…….and this is considered to be both a blessing and a curse, was that other companies could make games that would play on this innovative system – such as Activision and Imagic, among others. I remember these two, because they made some of my absolutely favorite games for the 2600, like Pitfall!, Demon Attack, and Kaboom! to name a few. There were literally hundreds of games available for this system, and the setup was very, very simple – just plug in the cartridge, flip a switch, and GO!
I think that was the beauty of these earlier systems – no online setup to wade through, no software updates, no DLC content you had to buy afterwards – it was all there together in one convenient package that was ready to be played and enjoyed. Now granted, these games are not the graphics powerhouses that today’s systems readily boast, but they don’t have to compete – they stand the test of time on their own, and people still pick up a paddle of joystick to have fun with these games of days gone by. I don’t know about you, but to me, the only way to play “Kaboom!” is on an Atari with a paddle controller. You may claim that the anthology is a great way to play, or with an emulator, or even with a touchscreen……..but save your breath. I have tried them all, and they have all failed miserably in their attempts. I will give them props for trying, but sadly, no luck……..you need an Atari console with a paddle – end of story.
The curse of the ability for other companies to make games for the Atari 2600 was one of the main contributing factors to the “Video Game Crash of 1983”, and with good reason – there was no quality control for the games being made! You think Cheetahmen II was a crappy game? Some of these made the “E.T.” game look as good as Fallout by comparison – they were horrible! It took a couple of years for any game console to rear its head out of the ashes and try again, that being Nintendo, and the rest you know of that story. But this isn’t about Nintendo – this is about Atari – the big boy that started the craze in earnest to gain our trust and our money.
Now some of you may scoff and think it’s not worth trying to find one of these consoles to try the games. After all…..the graphics aren’t as pretty, the sound isn’t as dynamic, and there is no voice acting to speak of, so why even try? Because they were innovative. They had to create masterpieces with what meager resources were at their disposal, and some of them did very, very well at it! It’s like the early days of the arcade – they didn’t have huge studios or mega-powerful computers to create the code, graphics, and sound for their games, so they worked hard with what they had, and the efforts did pay off for them that got it done right and made their games popular.
However you might enjoy them, the games from the Atari 2600 did have many good memories – and still do.