A Stick Full of Joy

Earlier this week, I took you all on a little trip back to my 1981 roller skating heaven. While we’re already here on Memory Lane, how completely and totally fun was Pac Man? I’d forgotten all about Pac Man until my kids started trawling through the games in my phone’s app centre and found a free version of the popular video game of my youth.

In truth, I never got to play much Pac Man – it wasn’t a game we had for our home game console and I didn’t think it was worth the money to play video games at an arcade. Besides, the only place I ever went that had an arcade was the roller skating rink, and you know what I was doing when I was there.

The game I got really insanely good at was called River Raider. It didn’t seem to be very well known, but I played it so much I got to the point that I could get from the start to the very end of the game without a hitch. I was a little like Rain Man with that game.

But when it came to pure video game excitement, nothing could beat Pong. Originally released in 1972, Pong – or properly known as PONG – was one of the very first video games, and man, did THAT ever blow our minds. Man had only landed on the moon three years earlier and there was no such thing as cellular phones. We were astounded at the very thought of having a telephone in a car. A mobile phone was the stuff of make believe, like something a Jedi knight or the crew of the starship Enterprise would use.

The great grandfather of the modern video game, Pong was just two cursors that could do nothing more than move up and down in a vertical line. The objective was to bounce a little digital dot between the two cursors, vaguely simulating a tennis game. You can curl up with your Call of Duty and Gran Turismo 5 all you want – nothing beat the thrill of getting those two cursors lined up and seeing that ‘ball’ bounce furiously in a straight horizontal line between them.

Kids these days have no idea how revolutionary those games really were. Nowadays it’s all Angry Birds and realistic graphics. And while we had to read a 200 page manual before we could even figure out how to turn on the console, my four year old can play just about every game on my iPhone with no instruction whatsoever. He can’t even read but he can kick my ass at every single app I have.

Whatever. I’m going skating again in a couple of weeks, and if they’ve got Pac Man, I’m gonna take a short break from the skating and play that baby into the ground.

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