Monday, January 01, 2018

Confessions of a 1982 video game junkie



When I think about 1982, my mind drifts to three things, action figures, Doctor Who novels (mostly written by Terrance Dicks) and VIDEO GAMES.

My then eleven year old brain had Pac-Man fever bad, I was a total junkie. I bought terrible magazines about video games where even i could point out the grammatical errors, drew pictures of them, pretty sure I even bought that weird "Atari Force" comic book that DC comics made.

My parents were not shelling out for a home system and they forbade Grandma to help in anyway but my dad knew of a job opportunity in printing that only a kid would take.

So, the winter of 1982 was the year i toiled for weeks tearing misprinted sheets out of 35,000 Ottawa tourism booklets for exactly one penny each.

 Nights, weekends, I spent the entire March break tearing watching day time TV and tearing out that same page out of that damn booklet.



The above page was my spirit animal, I stared at it during this period so much i probably bore holes into it.

Eventually, I raised $300 from my endeavor and my dad took me to Pinocchio's toys in the midtown mall to purchase a system. He would also help me buy a game as well. I remember pressing my face against that Jeweler's case and picking out Activision's Kaboom!

All was right with the world, I was so proud about owning this thing and played combat until 2am with my dad (who was also a big arcade enabler to be honest). 

However, i would encounter one little problem the following Monday, a problem by the name of George Plimpton.



Mattel had launched a competing system called Intellivision and used Plimpton to snobbily tout it's superiority to Atari. This ad campaign was especially effective at my grade school where kids would quote the man (who probably never visited an arcade in his life) to mock the 2600 and my choice.

Me, filled with incredible pride of ownership (after all, i earned the money) took it all too personal and often challenged the other kid to a fight, this was despite my 40/60 success rate in playground scraps, never tell me the odds or the stats. 

BTW I attribute my prodigious ability to snore as an adult to these pointless donnybrooks.

Happily, this lead me to my tribe of the other Atari 2600 kids and we would happily swap games, occasionally, I would get a cartridge that totally reeked of cigarettes, causing my mum to have kittens but how else was I going to play Atlantis?


While the rivalry existed between 2600 and Intellivision kids remained, we both looked our noses down at the Odyessy 2. This weird disdain totally disappeared if I was a kid's house who had it though, mostly because I wanted to play it of course....






And then there was Leisure Vision,  the system that you get when you send your dad to the store but don't come along to supervise. It's low priced and looks like the Intellivision and Atari had a baby, so you can't blame frugral parents and grandpeople for surrendering to it's siren song.

My obsession with video games would last until about 1984 until I got caught up in the world of Home Computers (more on that later) and well, girls but i always think fondly of this weird little era where I had the fever...


BrAiN

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5 comments:

pro wrestling photog said...

I really like this post. The story of how you had to work to get your Atari is great. I have no idea I we got an Atari in my house. Can't remember if it was a Christmas gift or something else. Thanks for sharing your story.

Hauntedheadful said...

Isn't it amazing how much these systems cost when brand new?That was more than a lot of workers brought home in a week back then.In my home town, we had several enterprising people that opened shops dedicated to video games and systems ONLY.There was no better feeling than earning money mowing lawns or shoveling snow and earning cash for a new game.These stores had huge counters with glass tops and inside were the latest video games, which seemed to arrive on almost a weekly basis back then.I can remember walking about 5 miles through a snowstorm to pick out a game.Activision's Stampede was my choice that day.

John Addison said...

I never did get the Atari system, or Collecovision, or Intellivision. My friends had them, but not me. But like you, my first gaming system was a computer. And whoa Nellie I was hooked on those games. My first console was the original Nintendo. But my real love remained with computer games, and still today!

Nick Bartolo said...

Ah, those were the days. I had the Sears licensed Intellivision. It was a blast to pick out games at the mall.

Anonymous said...

It's eerie to see how many of us had parents who 'motivated' us in some way using video games. In my case, second grade, my math scores were down and my dad offered me an Atari 2600 as incentive. If I could get a VG or better by the end of the year, we'd get an Atari over the summer. The grading system being E-excellent, VG-Very Good, G-Good, and a couple other ones that all meant You're Grounded.

I blew it. Got a "G+" and my dad wasn't having any of it. No VG, no 2600. That fall, third grade, same deal. First quarter math grade was going to be a B+ (third graders joined "the big kids" and got standard letter grades) or I could forget it.

The dilemma was compounded by the fact third grade meant multiplication and long division. I have, bad, bad memories about learning multiplication. Somehow, to this day I think out of my teacher's charity... she was a kindly soul and heard my plight, I got a B+ and had a very memorable Christmas. Still have the system.

Hauntedheadful is right about the cost. Even today, you can -still- buy a very good Chinese take-out dinner for the price of a game cartridge thirty years ago. I remmeber a few birthdays and Christmases where all I got was -one- new cartridge, an arcade title, and was absolutely delighted.

In my city, only the rich kids' parents could afford Intellivision. Everyone agreed it had better graphics, but they were outsiders. Intellivion didn't have the same broad range of licensed game titles. That "rivalry" page is a perfect example. Baseball is nice, but everyone wanted Asteroids. Atari -owned- the licensing arena for only a few but very critical years. If you didn't have an Atari, you were stuck with Intellivision's copy-cat titles which were no different than the ones for Odyssey and Leisure Vision.

Even when Mattell's licensing department caught up, it didn't matter. The few Intellivision kids weren't part of the shared Atari school culture. Unconscious resentment also played a part. Intellivision -did- have markedly better graphics, so did a few of the other "oddball" systems and Atari kids knew it. Even if they weren't willing to kiss up to the upscale kids just to hang out, every month every line of Marvel comics had little reminders like these...

http://www.vintagecomputing.com/wp-content/images/retroscan/popeye_screens_large.jpg
http://www.atarimania.com/pubs/hi_res/pub_8ways_frogger.jpg

The same thing happened a year or two later when families started buying video players. Laser discs were superb, no doubt about it. But VHS is what everyone could afford and everyone had. Nobody went down to their local Mom 'n Pop video store and rented a laser disc.

Better graphics versus versatility, In some ways there are a lot of parallels between these early formats and the MAC/ PC rivalry.

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