Friday, January 29, 2010

Game on

“OK, dad it's simple. All you have to do is hit the A button, while holding down the R2 button and moving the left joystick up and the right joystick to the left while pressing the B button. See, piece of cake.”
Yeah, real simple. He explained the move to me a couple of times, but my techno-challenged, middle-aged brain just could not grasp the concept of moving the good guy up and over the wall while shooting a bad guy hiding behind a tree.
I tried several times, but each time the good guy ended up getting stuck while the bad guy unloaded enough ammo at me to kill a herd of wild water buffalo.
Gandhi would have had an easier time bench pressing Volkswagen Beetle than I did trying to clear that level.
I had video games when I was Junior's age, but they weren't quite as complicated as the hyper-gig adventures of today.
When I was his age, Pacman was all the rage.
You remember him - chubby little yellow guy with a big head, no arms or legs and a serious eating disorder.
Everyone was playing Pacman.
Pac would run around the maze gobbling up all the little dots before munching on one of those big flashing dots that turned those ghost things into edible treats that Pac would chow down on for points. To make the game more challenging, the higher the level, the faster the bad guys would move. Ooooooh.
But the man in yellow was just the beginning. Soon the local arcade was crammed full of machines like Defender, Robotron, Asteroids and other games that made a series of stupid noises that passed for sound effects.
Ms. Pacman made the scene and, as games got a little more complex, Donkey Kong arrived. This game required the player to not only move up, down, back and forth, but you had to jump over and climb things things as well. Very challenging stuff.
But it wasn't until Super Mario Bros hit the block that gaming went mainstream. That little Italian with the big nose and moustache could be found pretty much every where as Mario Mania swept the land.
Those games were so physically large, it took two people just to move them. Now, you can get about a dozen of them in a wristwatch.
But, way back then, it was cutting edge stuff and with each new game we were amazing at how stunning the graphics were, or how intense the game play was. Oh, to be young again.
Today, youths have to multi-task and think to a much more complicated degree. They have some very complex electronics to handle, many of which have more technological capabilities and raw power than the Apollo space crafts.
But teens of today handle the electronic goodies with such ease and familiarity it makes a somewhat balding guy like myself look like a Pacman throwback, which I suppose I am.
Pacman was some pretty basic stuff: you had a single controller and you used to move the little guy up-down-left-right. Doesn't get much more basic than that.
Now, even a “simple” modern game requires three hands and a degree in advanced computing just to sign in.
I can watch Junior burn through a game while listening to music on his iPod and talking to someone on the laptop - all at the same time.
I can barely clear a level on its simplest setting if I give it all of my concentration.
But, that is pretty much how my dad reacted to Pacman, so I wonder what kind of gizmos my grandchildren will be playing with.
Whatever they are, I am pretty sure I am already too old for it.

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