PacGhosts

An 80’s Video Game Salute

I grew up in the 80’s. Wait, maybe “grew up” is too judgmental, but I did live in the 80’s. We didn’t have an Atari 2600 because we didn’t have a television. But we had a computer, so I got started with a Commodore 64 game system. The 64 stood for kilobytes, baby. We had ‘em. And 16 colors too! In 1999″Weird Al” Yankovic referenced the C64 saying,

“You think your Commodore 64 is really neato
What kinda chip you got in there, a Dorito?”

Hehe. It was true.

If I didn’t play it on the C64, I played it in the arcade, using real, live quarters or tokens in place of same. Mostly I didn’t actually play the games, I watched boys playing the games, which was significantly better, since it involved less personal humiliation.

So, for posterity’s sake, here’s a list of the 14 old skool video games I grew up with. You can click on the main links to play the games online, although not all of them work with a Mac. Leave a comment at the end and tell me which video games you played growing up!

1. Pong Release date: 1972
I have to start with Pong, not just because it’s the great-great-grandpappy of video games, but also because the Husband made a Pong game with LEDs on a circuit board in college. Which we actually played. But not for like, a long time or anything. /ahem/

2. Space Invaders: Release date: 1980
Designed in 1978 in Japan, this is a classic, the first arcade video game I can remember. The legend is that the game was so popular in Japan that it caused a coin shortage. *Facebook friends: you totally have to click through to see the Human Space Invaders video if you haven’t seen it already. (I wish FB would import my vids, but it doesn’t.)

Oh, here’s a little Space Invader cartoon for ya, too. Good times.

3. Asteroids: Release date 1979
Word is that Universal won a bidding war (there was a war??) to movie rights to Asteroids. I can’t think why this wouldn’t be a great summer blockbuster. Oh, wait. Yes I can. Maybe I’ll wait for Candyland. Or maybe I’ll poke out both my eyes with a fork.

Asteroids also inspired a bad joke in National Lampoon’s Vacation. (I don’t think you’ll be glad you clicked through. I’m sorry I even embedded the link. Really sorry!)

4. Centipede: Release date: 1980
That was a damn creepy spider!

5. Defender: Release Date: 1980
A game much like Space Invaders, only your ship flies over a horizontal landscape. It was my first experience with a navigator preview screen. I thought that was brilliant. (Still do.)

6. Dig Dug: Release date: 1982
We had it but I didn’t play it much. I didn’t like those ugly red and yellow and gold stripes, I think. But the “inflate the monster until it pops” was ingenious. I can think of aaaall sorts of clever ways to use that little effect.

7. Donkey Kong: Release date: 1981
Still one of the toughest arcade games around, I think; I never got past the first screen. But I loved watching the documentary King of Kong.

Um, why is the gorilla named “Donkey”? Wait, don’t answer that.

…Aaargh. I had to know so I wiki’d it. It’s safe for work.

8. Frogger: Release date: 1981
This is the stupidest frog in history. It can cross the road but not the pond. What an idiot!

9. Galaga: Release date: 1981
It was like Space Invaders, but it had a theme song! (Which sucked!) Oh, and it had scoring updates, like a pinball machine. No innovation there, but golly we were grateful.

10. Gauntlet: Released 1985
Maybe the first era of the MMORPGs of today. All of us D&D geeks wanted to be Warriors, Wizards, Elves, and Valkyries.

11. Joust: Release Date: 1982
All those dropping eggs, so few omelets. Who could NOT love a flying ostrich? Loved it. The flying harpies (buzzards) were cool, too.

12. Lunar Lander: Released 1979
Waste of time, but we didn’t have enough ways to waste time. Land your ship on the pad. There. You’re done! Well, not as easy as it sounds, but still.

13. Missile Command: Released: 1980
Protect your city or be disintegrated. I was mostly disintegrated.

The Ms. Pac Man video below is Aqualung’s Atari 2600 review of the game. (Did you remember that it was originally dashes, and not dots, that the Pac family ate for dinner?):

14. Ms. Pac Man: Release date: 1981
Fruit and pretzels! Blinky ghosts! What could be better? The Husband could play this for hours on a single quarter. There was a tabletop version in the lobby of his dorm in college. I spent many nights there, watching him play. I couldn’t have gotten him away from that game for any amount of Cheetos and Mountain Dew.

Oh, and the Pac Man franchise spawned it’s own song, and you haven’t lived unless you’ve clicked through to enjoy it. Actually you have, but you still need to hear it. Don’t you?

Okay, kids! Leave comments and share your passion, confess your crimes, and spread your wisdom! Or ignore this post and get back to work.

Image by kurtxio on Flickr

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6 Responses to An 80’s Video Game Salute

  1. ilinap July 30, 2009 at 8:59 am #

    I played all of the above. Centipede, Frogger, and Galaga were my favorites. I still love to play when we find those old machines in bars.

  2. Mari Adkins July 30, 2009 at 9:18 am #

    Played all of them. You can play frogger online for free:

    http://www.freefrogger.org/welcome.html

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe July 30, 2009 at 9:22 am #

      So I’m dying to know if you still sneak over there and play.

      Btw, you can play all of these for free online; just click on the names of the games in the article; the links take you straight there.

      But leSigh, it’s just not the same as the arcade, watching boys, eating giant Sweet Tarts, listening to the pinball machine pinging in the background…

  3. Sine Botchen July 31, 2009 at 4:09 pm #

    Galaga and Joust were my two favs for arcade games. I personally find shoot em up games entirely too stressful. I’m more adept at flight simulators & myst and what not.

    As kids my neighbor had pong and then sometime later we got an Atari. My parents still have the Atari and hooked it up for the grandkids, who were somewhat amused, but not the least bit impressed.

  4. Lisa Creech Bledsoe August 1, 2009 at 1:29 pm #

    Sine, I’m with you — don’t need the extra stress. I loooooved Myst and Riven, btw. Spent many hours late at night, swapping those damn CDs and cursing, hah.

  5. Matt December 14, 2009 at 11:57 pm #

    I’ve played them all too. Nice post! Great way to honor the great arcade games of our time! – mattkendrick.com

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