8 video-game memories

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I will kick your ass at Q*bert.

by Brian Clarey

1. Old school

I’m old school when it comes to video games. I remember the days when there was just a row of pinball machines at the bowling alley, followed in the late 1970s by this tabletop football game with Xs and Os, a glowing red button and a trackball. I’m talking pre-Space Invaders stuff, folks, though that came shortly afterwards. At the house we just upgraded to a PlayStation 4, and it’s so much better than the stuff I grew up on it makes me want to chant to the sky.

2. The arcade

The arcade at the mall housed all the latest cabinet video games for the first half of the 1980s. It’s where I became so awesome at Centipede and Q*bert, and where I once got into a groove and played Elevator Action for like 40 minutes on a single quarter.

3. The Atari 2600

My parents refused to buy me a home video-game console. So it was a total burn on them when I won one inside a box of Captain Crunch in 1982. True story.

4. Intellivision

Intellivision was for nerds. The controller looked like a phone, and the dial/button directional thing didn’t work right. But it made Atari look ancient.

5. ColecoVision

By today’s standards, ColecoVision looks like crap. But when my friend Dave Typermass got one in ninth grade it was the height of home-gaming technology and would be for a couple more years.

6. Nintendo NES

I will say this about the Nintendo NES: When I was 16 I knew more about Super Mario Brothers than about the town I grew up in. And: I feel reasonably confident that I can still beat anyone, anytime, at Tecmo Bowl using my split-back combination of Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson.

7. Xbox 360

When the kids were very small we had a GameCube, but we made the switch to the Xbox 360 before the oldest hit middle school. I had been out of gaming for years, and the sophistication of the Xbox games absolutely blew me away. We ran through dozens over the years, particularly superhero games and, as the boys got older, the kind where you shoot stuff down and blow things up. And, ironically, digital pinball.

8. PlayStation 4

We’re a week into life with the PlayStation, and I’ll admit I haven’t given it the kind of attention it deserves. The boys have been playing Mortal Kombat X, a fighting game that is so obscenely violent that it’s kind of funny. I remember the first version of Mortal Combat, an arcade classic hailed in its time for sophisticated gameplay and graphic realism. Now it looks more like an old episode of “South Park.”