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Let's Talk About Something Important: Video Games

(I am a bit burned out concerning current events right now, so, I felt like writing about something completely different: video games. If you aren't really interested, you may want to skip this. If you are, you still may want to skip it. For what it's worth, I offer it as a bit of a deviation from the world of politics. -Shawn)

I am a video game junkie.

Since I was a little kid, I've been captivated by them.

Back when arcades were king, I'd spend almost all of my paper-route money (Yes, paperboys used to exist) on video games.

For those too young to remember what the world was like without remote controls, cell phones, and laptops, the pioneering games of the past (at least, my past) were housed in contraptions the size of refrigerators, with computing power equal to that of a modern-day wrist watch.

Games like Frogger, Donkey-Kong, and the undisputed heavy-weight of the era, Pac-Man, used to command the attention of young 'uns and teenagers alike, often becoming depositories for lunch money and loose change found between the couch cushions.

Games like those were sought after with great zeal, so much so that lines would form, ten deep with acne-faced kids. If it was a really great arcade, there might have actually been two Pac-Man machines.

You considered yourself lucky if the player before you was no good. If he was great, frustration would soon set in, for a player with mad skilz could tie up a game for an hour at a clip, with a mountain of quarters left to load on the console. But no matter what the situation, you never dared get out of line. You put your time in. Your curfew could pass, your bladder could pop, someone could have dropped a lit Sterno down your pants, it wouldn't matter. Come hell or high water, you were there until your turn.

Eventually, the gaming experience made its way to the home.

The Atari 2600 started it all. A small console, it took the nation by storm in the late '70s/early '80s. Hundreds of games were produced, all available on cartridges. The graphics were little more than small, block-like images, more akin to crude cave drawings than how we think of graphics today. But it was fun, and some of the games were pretty cool (Berserk being my favorite).

For a while, gaming switched from console to simple computers. The two major competitors were the Commodore 64, and the Atari 800 series.

I was an Atari guy, purchasing an Atari 800XL in June of some forgotten year. These consisted of a keyboard and a cartridge slot for programs and games. Disk drives, modems, printers and monitors were all separately purchased. I had them all. Games back then were easy to "crack," and some very nice people made them available for "free." Graphics improved greatly with these more powerful machines, and you could even write your own simple programs with the installed computing language called "Basic." This time, Pac-Man actually looked like Pac-Man. I spent hours playing games like Montezuma's Revenge, Zork, and Archon.

With the advent of computers like the Apple IIe, these simple systems eventually died out. However, console systems started to make a comeback, with the introduction of Intellevision and ColecoVision systems. They cost quite a bit for the time. And though they possessed a more realistic, refined computing power and noticeably better graphics, they never caught on like the old Atari system.

For a while, there was a lull in the home gaming market, until around the mid-late 80s, when a company called Nintendo burst onto the scene. They offered the Nintendo Entertainment System, which blew away anything ever produced until that time. Its chief competitor was the Sega Genesis (which I owned). Both were eons ahead of the old consoles, but Nintendo easily surpassed Sega in the console wars. This was especially true with the advent of the Nintendo 64, where, finally, 3-D graphics were introduced.

The modern-day console was born.

After a few months of debate, I purchased a Nintendo 64. For its time, it was an amazing piece of hardware. However, I bought it for one reason, and one reason only: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Even by today's standards, it consisted of a massive, immersive gaming universe. It was the first game for me (besides Zork) where I felt as if I were transported to another place. Plot twists, interesting characters, challenging levels, hard won "boss" fights. It had it all. I must have played it a thousand hours, investigating every little corner of its universe. It was the only game I owned for the system, and it was worth every penny.

After that, I made what was probably my worst gaming decision, and I bought the Sega Dreamcast. It was actually a great console, with stunning graphics and exceptional sound, but, it never really took off, and few games were produced for it. (Soul Calibur and Shenmue were pretty cool, though.)

After that, the modern day console wars began, with Nintendo, PlayStation, and the X-Box all jockeying for the top spots. At the time, though I was stunned by their graphical capabilities, I didn't get one.

It was the PC world to which I took, and I haven't looked back since.

From my first store bought PC, to the ones I have built myself, I have felt they far surpass consoles. For me, the main drawback to consoles are the controllers. I hate them. Nothing beats a mouse and keyboard for subtle movements and pin-point accuracy.

First person shooters are my favorite game genre. My first, and sentimental favorite was a modestly known single/multi player game call Star Trek: Elite Force (which came out around 2001.). It actually came free in a software bundle. It was with this game that I became addicted to online multiplayer action.

Thousands of people played it. I got very good at it, and I was eventually invited to be in the best EF "clan" around. [AFO] Spy was my tag. Hours were spent playing this game, battling others, while adding to my girth. I even made some online friends to which I still write. It was a blast.

The only time I veered from the PC was when Halo 3 came out for the X-Box 360. I bought the console and the game, and, after beating the single player and realizing I just couldn't deal with those damn controllers, I sold it two weeks later for a loss.

Now, I've got my own built-from-the-ground-up computer system. I just got Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 last week. So far, it is a pretty good game, smooth as butter, though I liked the original Modern Warfare better. (The new multi-player server interface is a huge step backward.)

All that said, my top 5 favorite video games are as follows, in order of preference:

1) Halo: Combat Evolved
2) Star Trek: Elite Force Multiplayer
3) Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
4) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
5) Zork

So, that's it. Thanks for letting me spin a little story, and forget about politics for a while. I can't be the only gamer here, so, please chime in with your own experiences and game lists.

I gotta go shoot some terrorists.


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Comments (24)

I go back to the early pinb... (Below threshold)

I go back to the early pinball then arcade machines. I was addicted to pong. When computers ramped up I discovered Medal of Honor and would miss work in order to play online. In fact I was running about 10 offices in CA and would hold conference calls from my man cave so I could play during down time on the call. Now only play strategy games. For some reason I get a really bad case of motion sickness if I even get a glimpse of a first person shooter screen.

You must be a few years you... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

You must be a few years younger than me, Shawn.

The first home game, the one that started it all I think, consisted of a blank black screen with a white dot that moved around and white bars that you controlled with a knop to simulate "rackets". I think it had 3 or four games. IIRC it had tennis and racketball, and a single player version of something like that. I think it also had handball, which was exactly like racketball, except the white bars were half as long. And it came with a gun that you'd shoot "skeet" which were also white dots that moved accross the black screen. (It also worked if you "shot" a nearby lamp.) This was in the early to mid 70's and IIRC made by Atari.

I had a friend who had the Atari 2600, but I got an Intellivision (I think it was called) which was the competitor at the time. I think the Intellivison was better, but that's just my opinion.

As the arcade, in my earliest years there were just pinball machines. I remember Space Invaders and Asteroids being among the first 'fridge sized video games to replace the pinball machines. Asteroids is still one of my favorites. When I was in college--which was several years beyond Space Invader's and Asteriod's popularity-- I found a little dive between my apartment and campus that had an old Asteriods machine and I used to stop there often to burn some quarters on my way to or from class.

Also when I was in college I got one of the early Nintendos--probably a 64, but then a few years after that I switched to a PC and haven't bought a home game system since.

I prefer online games where you can play against real people. I used to play World of Warcraft a lot, but eventually got tired of it. I also used to like playing games like backgammon and card games at MSN, but I kinda got annoyed with them. Recently I've been playing a lot at Pogo.com. Its free and they've got some of the old classics like Monopoly, Scrabble, and Battleship, as well as card games, dice games, and backgammon. It's fun to play against real people from all over the world.

Call of Duty is awesome. I ... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Call of Duty is awesome. I liked the early Medal of Honor also, till COD edged it out. They are the only games I ever really got into as an adult, besides Doom.

For Commodore 64: Krakout, ... (Below threshold)

For Commodore 64: Krakout, Summer Olympics 1984, Frogger, Gyruss

For Gameboy: Super Mario Land 2, Zelda: Link's Awakening, and Metroid II.

For PC: Wolfenstein, Doom, Quake, Quake II, and Unreal. Bloxorz, Eversion. Morrowind.

Man, if I had all the money... (Below threshold)

Man, if I had all the money I threw into video games starting in '78, I'd have probably $5k or more. And I SUCKED at 'em. (Hey, hand-eye coordination's not everyone's strong point...)

My favorite was Starfire. Now? I'd have to say Portal for the XBox360. (Never would have gotten one, except my wife noticed me looking at the Halo edition XBox, and got it for Christmas a couple of years back.) In Portal, planning's more important than fast-twitch muscle reflexes, and I enjoy that.

Plus, the XBox allows me to indulge my inner geek - I had an old router I reprogrammed with DD-WRT and turned into a wi-fi adapter for it so I could get on XBox Live... learned a good bit about how wireless routers work, and wi-fi to boot.

If you all like flight sims... (Below threshold)

If you all like flight sims, here is one that you should try. It is ported for the Mac and PC. The planes that are flown are all planes from World War 2. Both Axis and Allied planes are represented (Luftwaffe, Imperial Japanese Navy and Italian for the Axis) The Allied side consists of British and USA aircraft). There are also carriers that one can fly off of too. There is also a map that goes back to the days of the Red Baron and his Fokker Dr1 triplane and the British Sopwith camel.

The game can played free offline and for a modest monthly subscription, you can fly against people from all over the globe. Admittedly, the learning curve is a bit steep, but once one learns the basics of ACM and has a few hours under their belt, the game can be a hoot. The game can be played with a mouse and keyboard, but to really get the feeling of dogfighting. one must have a joystick. Most USB joysticks can be used to play the game, the one that is the most used is on with a twist grip for the rudder controls. The game can be gotten here http://www.totalsims.com.

I used to be really into th... (Below threshold)

I used to be really into the computer gaming and was late into the modern consoles. This was mostly for the RTS and RPG games that were generally only availiable on computers. Lately though I have been moving away from the PC games and getting involoved in the XBox 360. This is for several reasons but mostly because the computer I have is several years out of date and just cannot handle the newer PC games out there. XBox 360 on the other hand has dozens of great games available with more comeing out all the time.
I'll see your Halo: Combat Evoloved and COD: Modern Warfare and raise you Gears of War (Both of them) Halo Wars, Assassines Creed and the Splinter Cell series. Not to mention Rock Band (sounds dorky but addicting once you start playing and probably the best party video game out there).

I'm another who played thro... (Below threshold)

I'm another who played through the arcade/bar transition from pinball to 'refrigerator' video games. From Flash and other pinball games to Asteroids, Defender, Donkey Kong, and the greatest of them all, Joust.

I started out on a TI99 4A ... (Below threshold)

I started out on a TI99 4A programing card games like Crazy 8's and solitaire. Went big in 92 when I built my first PC to play Wolfenstein 3D, then DOOM. I still have boxes of wad files for levels we created with editor programs for DOOM.

I went on to getting together with other friends for LAN parties where we would play all weekend. I played 1st person shooters till a coworker introduced me to MMORPG's. Everquest turned into a 7 year time sink but it was a great way to have hours of totally mindless fun with literally hundreds of other people.

Now I really don't do more than play an occasional game of solitaire because I just don't want to sit down and get involved in another time sink because there is just no time to devote to it.

As one of my online friends said, RL beckons, don't look back.

DOOM on Nightmare was the m... (Below threshold)

DOOM on Nightmare was the most challenging beg for a replay game I ever played.

M.A.M.E. or Multiple Arcade... (Below threshold)

M.A.M.E. or Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator is enjoyable as well to anyone who enjoys games from the arcade era. Most anyone you can remember is emulated with near or perfect graphics or sound.

Half-Life 2! It's right up ... (Below threshold)

Half-Life 2! It's right up there, and in my opinion just above COD4:MW. Killer game. Still play it through twice a year or so when I've got a few hours to kill.

Other than one VERY boring ... (Below threshold)

Other than one VERY boring deployment to Kuwait where I had 4 months to master DOOM and be constantly charged with "cheating" by newbies, I have always been addicted to a low tech game that requires no carbon credits to play: bridge.

Nice to see somebody else l... (Below threshold)

Nice to see somebody else loved the Zork games.
I also have on my list:
Operation Flashpoint (originals)
Deus Ex
Halflife (both 1 & 2)
Red Alert 2 with Yuri.
AND Fallout 3

And they are just getting better!

I'm with PB.. how could you... (Below threshold)
Mark S.:

I'm with PB.. how could you leave off "Pong"? :)

We had gone on a family vacation (somewhere in Texas I think), and had visited one of my dad's cousins or something... and they said they had an Atari video game system that we could have.

Well, first thing that came to mind was the 2600... when she pulls out this box with the ORIGINAL pong system in it.. 4 controllers, the box that had (If i remember correctly) 16 "games" on it..

It was basically 4 games - "Tennis", "racquetball", "air hockey", and .. I forget the 4th one now, with 4 variations on each game. (2 single player and 2 4-player games)

It was so simplistic, but for a kid at the time, I was ready to take on any and all comers.

(I THINK the system is still up in a closet at my mom's place... I'll have to go down and bug her for it at some point)

Gaming systems today are ou... (Below threshold)

Gaming systems today are outrageous! The Xbox 360 elite is on deck for Xmas for my son. Yeah, I said my son, right? Being an only child, I think it's great he can play online with his friends and cousins who live hundreds of miles away.

One of my faves in high school was House of Dead. I still enjoy breezing through an arcade with my kid and dropping a couple of bucks on it.

One of the coolest places I've ever been is Disney Quest. It's five floors of video games. One floor is dedicated to pinball. One to the classics, you get the idea. Good times!

Hmmmm.Zork and Cryst... (Below threshold)

Zork and Crystal Cave (I was eaten by many a Grue)
Bard's Tale and the early Ultimas
Fallout 1-3
Unreal (which really blew my mind when it cam out)
Wolfenstein 3D and Duke Nukem (the ending where he tears off the alien leaders head, sits on the shoulders while reading the paper... clasic and classless in one shot)

My modern day favorite is G... (Below threshold)

My modern day favorite is Gears of War. That one keeps me the most entertained.

My all time fave? A little Atari console game called Yars Revenge.

Just look it up. An absolutely AMAZING game for the time, with infinite playability.

I had all the systems (thanks Mom and Dad!) Atari, Colecovision, Intellivision (1 and 2, including the voice module) even some old prototype system called Studio 2. Then it was nintendo, Super N, N64, Playstation, PS2 and now on Xbox 360.

And I consider it ALL money well spent :)

My all time greats:<p... (Below threshold)

My all time greats:

Yars Revenge
Gears of War 1 + 2
Final Fantasy 7
Beatles RockBand
Space Spartans

The Atari 2600 started i... (Below threshold)

The Atari 2600 started it all

I had a 15" black and white television as a child (I would say 3 or 4, in 78, or 79) with pong included.

The biggest drawback to console gameplay is less about how poor the controlers function, and more about how easy it is to break them.

I've never met a console controler that I couldn't break about once a month.

The Atari stick was the worst, I don't know how many of them I went through as a kid.

My top five. . 1)... (Below threshold)

My top five. .

1) "Wasteland" for the commodore 64.
2) "Bardstale" (the original) for the commodore 64.
3) "Fallout 2" PC
4) "Combat" for atari (It's one of the reasons I broke so many of the controllers)
5) "Centipede" (using the roller ball controller, I sucked) atari

Honorable mention, Original legend of zelda, I think it was the first game with easter eggs. All of the "Ultima's" and "Might and Magic"'s. Most of the "quest" games, "spacequest" and the otherones, that I am ashamed of forgetting the names of.

The various ADD chessboard RPG's, like "curse of the azure bonds." "half-life"/counterstrike (only online, the single player was kinda weak)

I think that covers the truly sentimental games.

Can't believe I left out Al... (Below threshold)

Can't believe I left out All of the FF's, but FF7, is the handsdown best.

Fable is interesting, but it's like the Thief series, where it forces you into puzzle play without ever defining it. You need to save and replay too many times, it's not about gameplay, it's about being lucky once at the right time.

Always suspicious of a list... (Below threshold)

Always suspicious of a list of "top 100" or "top 10" or "top 5" or "top 1" FPS games that does not include "Starsiege: Tribes." Thing beat the pants off of Half-Life and Halo. Quite risky too, as it was a multiplayer-only FPS before that had really exploded. You couldn't even generate bots to shoot at.

Nothing has been quite like it since. Jetpacks combined with large, open-world terrain playgrounds actually lent themselves to something that was (is) missing in the multiplayer FPS genre: tactics. It made the game a challenge, as not only were you trying to out think your opponent, but they were trying to out think you as well. Compare this to a TFC or Halo player, and, well, it's not difficult to out-think something that has its brain turned off, is it?

After a particularly bad round of Tribes, I could always count on the player base of any other FPS to make me feel really good about myself... except maybe Delta Force... bloody snipers...

Doom - Collectors Edition, ... (Below threshold)

Doom - Collectors Edition, when played in the Doomsday engine(Proper mouse controls FTW)

Both original fallouts, and Fallout 3 after a shitload of mods are installed.

My current addiction is Dragon Age, perfectly playable vanilla, and the mod scene seems to be shaping up nicely.






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