I do enjoy video games. I have for some time.
I was an arcade child. I grew up during the heyday of the arcades – when kids would dash after school to hang with their friends in noisy places with pocketfuls of quarters jangling in their pockets, just begging to be spent. In those days, twenty-five cents would get you a few minutes of fun and pleasure – depending on how good you were. People would talk about scores, strategies, bragging rights, and what cool games were coming out next. I had my favorites, as I’m sure everyone did, and these games would be played for hours on end, keeping the arcade owners happy as pigs in slop, just rolling around in stacks of quarters.
Sadly, those days started to fall by the wayside with the growth of the home console systems. Slowly, over the years, the games for the home systems surpassed those for the arcade, so fewer and fewer people went to arcades. Some games had a special hardware/cockpit version that made the experience even more real, so those games drew people to come out and put money in machines, but the cost to play has steadily risen over the years, to where games cost 3-5 dollars or more per play, so the fascination with checking out said games is not as prevalent as it used to be.
In recent years, the nostalgia craze has been kicking in, with people looking to re-live those classic games of yesteryear by picking up older consoles – such as Atari, ColecoVision, Odyssey, Vectrex, and the like. Recently, we have started seeing classic compilations for newer consoles, as well as what has been termed as “Flashback” systems, which resemble the older systems, but with games pre-loaded into them. While the Flashback systems are fine in their own right, they miss out on marks, such as third-party games that could not be provided due to, most likely, licensing issues, which would have forced the company to pay for those rights, which would then most likely drive up the price of the consoles.
For the casual gamer who is not too concerned about getting all of the games they used to play, most of these ideas are fine, but there are many out there who want all of the games they used to play, and for that, there are only two options that even come close – emulation, which is okay, but some games require those older controllers for the full experience – or go out and get a real classic console yourself. The latter does give you more possible games you can play, but there are some caveats that come with this……….
These game systems are 30 years old or more, and after all this time, you have to expect some issues, like dirty or broken controllers, systems that no longer boot up like when they were new, and other little hiccups. Now granted, some people are experts at breathing life into these systems, as they know how to clean, solder, and re-wire stuff until it lives once again – not everyone has the patience for this, so proceed down this path at your own discretion. If you do find a system that still works wonderfully, and can pick up a handful of these games you cherished, then my friend, you are golden!
I was able to locate a couple of working Atari systems recently – one of which is the Sears version of the original “heavy-sixer” that was made in Sunnyvale, CA, which I gave to my wife for Christmas, and I also have a standard 4-switch version for my cave – both work pretty darn well, and I have replaced the old joysticks with Sega Genesis gamepads (I know………heresy, right?) because they feel better after all these years of holding SNES, PS3, and Xbox controllers. Cleaning paddle controllers was a bit of a daunting task, but with some patience, rubbing alcohol, and Q-tips, they work as spiffy as the day they came out! Someday I do hope to find a working ColecoVision system, as I enjoy games like Zaxxon, Donkey Kong, Pepper II, Venture, and others, so we shall see.
So, retro-gamer friends, you have many paths to gaming nirvana. The road you take is ultimately up to you. For me, the original hardware always has a special place for me, and it probably does for you as well. Game on!