“I felt like a kid standing in the world’s greatest video
arcade without any quarters, unable to do anything but
walk around and watch the other kids play.”
― Ernest Cline, Ready Player One
When I was in elementary school, we had family friends with an Atari system. I didn’t think Asteroids was the coolest thing ever, but it was something. On Friday afternoons, we used to head to the church across the street from school. I realize now that it was trick to lure children to Jesus, but at the time, I just saw it as a way to hang out with my friends and play arcade games. You had to stand around for a group prayer, and then you could go play games – Pacman, Donkey Kong, pinball – and win prizes. If anyone felt the spirit calling them, they could go stand by the flag pole and pray more. I never participated in the additional praying, so I have no idea what else they did, but I know it didn’t lead to more high scores on Dig Dug.
In seventh grade, we moved, and my dad joined a tennis club that had Galaga in the clubhouse. I was in heaven. Galaga was my game. I would play for hours. I knew the cheat on level one, but I hated using it because, well, it was cheating. I could kick everyone’s ass at Galaga, though. Years later, I almost missed a flight because I was in an arcade at DFW playing Galaga. The other game that I got pretty good at in junior high was The Black Cauldron, which we played on our giant Tandy 1000 computer. I am pretty sure my kids have no idea that computers can actually be that big.
I had my Nintendo NES phase also. Super Mario Bros is still the best NES game, although Punch-Out!!! is a close second. When I was in high school, my brother got a Sega Genesis with Sonic the Hedgehog and Double Dragon. I remember a few marathon Double Dragon sessions, but that was it for me. Somehow, it didn’t have the same appeal as the NES, and I never stuck with any game long enough to really get good.
Well, that was it. By the time I went off to college, I was done. I didn’t play video games in college, and I didn’t have any roommates who were gamers. I bought an old NES system 5 or 6 years ago, but I never used it, and my parents may have sold it at a garage sale. Even the lure of Super Mario Bros wasn’t enough.
Once a week, I play Galaga at The Hop Ice Cream Café in Asheville. I never play more than one game. That is enough to convince my kids that I am the most amazing Galaga player in the history of the universe. Still, one of my favorite fiction books is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and I was enthralled by Wreck-It Ralph. That was one of the few movies in the last ten years that I watched more than once.
Somehow, I think I missed my calling.
I’ll keep my fingers in shape. Just in case.