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30 Years of Gaming: A Personal Retrospective - Part 1: Childhood Print E-mail
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Written by Thomas "CigDangle" Balistreri   
Monday, 30 April 2007

[OpEd] [Retro]

My birthday was last Monday - I turned 34 years old. With the realization that mid-life is fast approaching, I began to think back over my life, and what I had accomplished thus far. In true gamer form, my thoughts eventually turned to gaming and the many games I've played throughout my life. It got me thinking...some of the titles really meant a lot to me After a few minutes, it became apparent that many of my favorite memories are gaming related.

Beginning today, and continuing through Thursday, I plan to recant these memories and the games that mean so much to me. Out of necessity, I have limited myself to one game for each year of gaming. Today, I will cover my childhood, from ages 4 through 12.

1977 - Combat - Atari 2600

My father introduced me to video games with the Atari 2600. The console was a "gift for the family" for Christmas 1977, and was packaged with Combat. Combat was my introduction to humility and losing, as my father repeatedly pummeled me playing this game. Granted, I was very young, and lacked much of the coordination needed to game (even in 1977), but what I didn't realize for some time, was that the three biplanes had a distinct advantage over the single bomber with the large "bullet".

1978 - Breakout - Atari 2600

Breakout was the first in a long list of games that I found quickly addicting - games like Tetris, Bejeweled, etc. It was also the first game I borrowed from a "older kid" who lived down the block. After all, Video Olympics was only fun in a two player capacity, and if you longed for a game made for the Atari 2600 paddles, this was it.

1979 - Lemonade Stand - Apple

Lemonade Stand was my first real venture into PC gaming, and my first taste of the business world. And even though I was learning something, a fact unbeknownst to me at the time, it sure beat the heck out of phonics worksheets.

1980 - Space Invaders - Atari 2600

This was the first game I ever p0wn3d! I could literally play a single game for what seemed like hours. Level after level of invader would drop closer and closer until shields were just a distant memory. This was another game I would play against, and even cooperatively with my Dad. Co-op was a really new idea at the time, and it really appealed to me, and still does to this day.

1981 - Haunted House - Atari 2600

Ah...my first adventure game. Yet another of the games I borrowed as a kid. I loved this game. It was a concept so foreign at the time, as most games had arcade style game play - this was a real departure from that. Carefully making your way from room to room in the pitch black house, with only a handful of matches, searching for treasure, all while avoiding spiders and ghosts - you just couldn't get any better than that (at least in my 8-year old mind).

1982 - E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial - Atari 2600

Did I like this game? No. But my Dad did own it...if only for a few days. My aunt gave this game to my father for Christmas. After only a few short days of constantly falling down the game's notorious pits, Dad decided he had had enough. He promptly returned the game to the store (something you could never do these days), and thus contributed to the infamous landfill and the Video Game Crash of 1983. But this game was so bad, who could blame him?

1983 - One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird - Apple

This was one of many games I never owned, but would walk blocks and blocks to play at a friend's house. My buddy Eric had an Apple IIc before I ever owned a computer, and he and I would play this game for hours on his monochrome 9" monitor. It was the first sports game, that really looked like the sport. It was also the first time I ever got to utilize a joystick with a computer - again, novel for me in 1983.

1984 - Microsoft Flight Simulator 2.0 - PC

For Christmas in 1983, my parents made another purchase for "the family" - one that would alter each of their children's lives forever - a Tandy 1000A. This beauty of PC architecture was a welcome addition to the family, and in the days before the Internet and during the heyday of DOS 2.11, Microsoft Flight Simulator was the closest thing to fun we had. And it was! After the purchase of a Tandy Deluxe Joystick, and the discovery of World War I fighter mode, this was an awesome gaming experience. I contribute my success as a PC dog fighter (as limited as it is) to this game.

1985 - Super Mario Brothers - NES

The game that saved us all - Super Mario Brothers. Although the introduction of a gaming "pad" nearly killed me (it would take take me years to master these things), Mario single-handedly revived the nearly dead home console video game industry. Yes, it could have been nearly any game, but SMB was the game that Nintendo chose to include with their Nintendo Entertainment System here in the U.S. With color depth and graphics never seen before, playing this game was one of the highlights of visiting my cousins' house during the Christmas of 1985.

Read Part 2 here.

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Last Updated ( Friday, 12 October 2007 )

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