Golden oldies

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My grandfather would pick up my brother and I from school and drive us to the mall until my mom got home from work.

The routine was always the same. He’d have a Hershey bar for each of us – plain for my brother, with almonds for me. Then he’d park beside the Sears entrance. We’d spend about 30 minutes playing games on the computers in the tech department, while he stood and watched and laughed.

Then we’d stop at Papa Gino’s for a slice of cheese pizza, before continuing on to the bookstore. My brother would position himself in the animal/wildlife/nature section. My grandfather flipped through enormous books illustrating World War II. And I would head towards the young adult books, eager to know if the next installment of Sweet Valley High or the Sweet Dreams series had arrived.

An hour later, the afternoon culminated at the video arcade. He’d give us each one dollar to play. My brother would bounce from one machine to the next, eager to master them all. But I would always steer toward Galaga.

I loved the premise. I was the hero-fighter defending Earth from the evil aliens coming to destroy her. I loved watching as the bug-things marched down the screen towards my ship, my fingers working double time to obliviate them all. I was greedy with my extra lives, watching as I earned extra ships to maintain the fight.

Although my actions would prove the contrary, I was always more of a reader.

We begged Santa for Atari and dad brought home a Gemini system he found on sale for $50 less. We eventually got used to playing the four games that came with the system. My favorite was Mousetrap.

A few years later the Atari 2600 replaced the Gemini system. By this point my baby brother was old enough to partake in video-game pleasure. And I was far too interested in MTv and the cable movie channels to make a fuss about game-time.

Many years later, a boyfriend presented me with a Gameboy and Tetris when I left for college. It was the perfect gift and I still play that game occasionally.

My brothers own Nintendo systems and Sega systems and virtual computer systems. They play football games and adventure simulations where the graphics are so real they resemble real-time sports coverage or Hollywood blockbusters.

My heart belongs to the classics… Galaga, Defender, Mousetrap, Pac-man, Pong and Donkey Kong.

And I bring all this up because this weekend America’s Video Game Expo will be at the Washington Convention Center from 10am – 5pm. So if you’re in town, think about stopping by and playing a game or two.


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