Ah childhood. Seems like only thirty (or so) years ago when my biggest worry was the precarious hierarchal politics of the schoolyard where kids who carried briefcases to school were sadistically beaten with sticks.
Yes, those were the good old days, when the worst thing that could happen was to return to the bike rack to find your vehicle missing, stolen no doubt by some kid who wanted your forks or your tires or your handlebars.
Grudgingly you would wake up every day, walk to the bus with what felt like five hundred pounds of textbooks strapped to your back as if you were some sort of pack mule or a slave; forced to listen, expected to learn and to regurgitate things like 9 times tables and the anatomy of a grasshopper and the Beatitudes.
Your obsessions were sports (even if you used to score on yourself), girls who hated you (because they didn’t understand that tearing their hair meant you liked them) and of course, video games.
When video games arrived, the desire for all other things fell dramatically (except of course for the girls who still hated me anyway). Comic books and trading cards were scorned overnight as me and my friends began to hoard change like Oliver Twist and his pack of urchins, all in a frenzied effort to feed the machines: Donkey Kong, King of Boxer, Jungle Hunt, Spyhunter, Dragon’s Lair–and a hundred other titles that nobody who was born in the last twenty years has ever heard of.
It was a revolution to my generation and the news carried far and wide, to every neighbourhood, school and district there was this great, good news: they were going to make this thing that you could play arcade games with on your TV!
Sure enough, the first Atari commercials appeared and a craze bigger than Jesus began. If you were a kid at the time, you would have sold your little sister for a 2600, but thankfully, most kids got one for Christmas. Indeed, for an immigrant family like mine, an Atari 2600 was a very expensive toy that cost the modern equivalent of three Playstations, but we had to have it. It was like crack.
Sure it had terrible graphics and caused epileptic seizures in the kids whose mother’s smoked when they pregnant; but owning an Atari meant inclusion in the club. Something to do in the basement all summer (besides trying to see naked ladies on the scrambled porno channel), and of course, it marked the beginning of a new day.
An era unshackled by fat, spiteful arcade overseers and their ever growing waistpouches filled with our hard earned money. No more days hunting for change. A new hope! And, at long last, freedom…from the machines.