Reliving childhood with retro games

I’ve never really thought of myself as a “girl gamer”, but definitely as a “gamer”. My Dad worked as a chef in bars, hotels, and restaurants, so usually when we’d be there to pick him up, there was a Space Invaders or Play Choice 10 to be found. I also remember my first pulse-pounding experience playing Centipede at the local Pizza Hut. I walked away flushed and jittery, but completely wowed.

I became a console gamer a few years later, back in the Atari 2600 days. We didn’t own one of our own at first, but a friend would let us borrow theirs from time to time. We did have a Magnavox Odyssey II, though, and I spent hours playing Pick Axe Pete and Monkeyshines.

Then the Atari 7800 was announced.  We didn’t have a lot of disposable income growing up, and I remember my Dad worked overtime shifts to get that 7800 for us. It may have been a commercial flop, but my brother, sister, and I LOVED IT.

NES-posterAfter that came the NES, and we were even more infatuated with that. This was back when it came in a HUGE box.  We would walk down to the local video rental store, next to a mini-golf place, and rent games for the weekend. Games like Marble Madness and Gauntlet, and then spend all Saturday night playing. I had a subscription to Nintendo Power, and my tradition was to sit on my bed reading the new issue, eating bacon bits.  Hormel bacon bits, not the fake stuff.  I was super shy in high school and didn’t have a lot of friends, but one of the girls I was friends with had a NES too, and I remember going over to her house once to play Tetris. So there WERE other girl gamers around, and that’s part of why it just didn’t seem like “a thing” to me. I just didn’t realize.

The summer that I knew my family was moving from Montana to Boston, we had one of our last birthday parties at Aladdin’s Castle in the mall.  They would do after-hours parties, where you would have the whole arcade to yourself, and it was indescribably awesome. I’d been talking to the attendee early-on about how we were moving, and at some point later, he said, “You’ll do fine in Boston, if you just learn how to flirt.” I’m sure it was just a bitter reaction to my oblivious spurning of his apparent flirting, and I wouldn’t let such a remark slide now, but at the time I was just bemused by it.  I wasn’t there to flirt; I was there to play video games… The New Zealand Story and Timber, specifically.

So fast forward a decade or so (ok, more like 2 decades). With the power of the modern tools known as Craigslist and Ebay, we can turn back the clock.  And this past weekend, I did just that:


I swear to you, there will be a Saturday morning in the near future when I go down there with a bowl full of Lucky Charms and just have at it. Part of the nostalgic draw of classic games, for me, is the fact that we couldn’t really afford them back in the day.  We had maybe a dozen NES titles, in a small wooden box. If you had told the young teenage me that when I grew up I’d have a corner like this in the basement, I wouldn’t have believed it.

And if I had my druthers, there would be a whole classic arcade in the garage, and you better believe Spy Hunter, Crossbow, and Zookeeper would be in it. I would probably hardly ever play it once I got it, too, because so much of that hunt is about acquisition. And life is so busy as an adult, finding time to play is hard. But just knowing it was down there would be soothing.

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One Response so far.

  1. Robert H says:

    I remember my high school years – after I got my first real paying job, I would spend literally half my paycheck in the arcade up the street from work. Tempest, Defender, Joust – those were my ‘go-to’ games. We got an Atari 2600 when I was younger, and I still have it, and a 7800 in the garage. I also got an NES, when I was older, and in between marriages. That’s in the basement. I would love to have the time and energy to redo the basement and put a classic arcade in the basement, like you’ve set up.

    Never thought I’d be saying that at my age, tho :).

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