I don’t know much about video games. This became clear when I listened to the latest episode of Nerd Hurdles, which was all about video games. Actually, it’s made clear all the time when I try to play Lego Batman with my kid, who groans and moans when I don’t understand what “hit right, triangle, triangle, square, Dad!” means.
By rights, I should love video games. I’m from the first video game generation. When I was a kid, pinball arcades started bringing in the first wave of coin-operated video games: Night Driver, Pong, Gunfighter … simply, basic games that caught my attention. Later, a friend received an Atari 2600; that was a blast. I had a VIC-20, a cousin had ColecoVision, and I spent a lot of time and a lot of money in arcades during those shiny, glorious early 80s, playing Tron, Vanguard, Gorf, Pac-Man, Pole Position …
But by the mid-80s, I had moved on to other interests, and I missed the so-called collapse of the home console industry, the rise of Nintendo and the spread of home gaming. It wasn’t until I bought my oldest son a Sega Genesis in 1993 that I realized how huge things had gotten. I remember playing NHL 94 on it and marvelling at the “realistic” graphics. Later, someone gave me Wolfenstein 3D for my Mac LC275, and I played it a lot while waiting for Mosaic to load early WWW pages.
Since then, though, I’ve never really played video games. I worked through HalfLife on the PC over the course of a year, and I did buy the Sims, although I lost interest fairly quickly. Now and then I’ll play something with the kids, and I’ll confess I’ve found the original Wolfenstein 3D online, and I’ve been playing that again.
I suspect my age has something to do with it. People under 35 grew up with video games everywhere. They were never new to them. People even younger think that Sega Genesis is “old.” But I was right at that age to take advantage of the early rise, then lose interest when things got shitty in the mid 80s. Remember Dragon’s Lair? All the hype about that? I think that was the end of video games for me.
No, I think the fact that I entered my peak rockin’ years — 16 to 24 — right as the gaming industry was in a slump was the factor. This is why I own more guitars than I do game controllers, and why I suck at Tetris. By the time the industry flared back up again, I was too old to learn new tricks. And while I was long-haired and wild, ignoring computers and gaming, a lot of guys stuck with it. They’re the ones making games now, or working in software development, or inventing BlackBerries. I’ll bet they’re still jealous of me.