Not completely unpopular

SpeakGeek: Video Gamer at Heart

It’s Speak Out With Your Geek Out week, encouraging bloggers to get out and talk about those hobbies that people might find a bit geeky, and I have oh so many little things that qualify.

The most obvious to anyone following this site is that I love to play video games. I talk about them, give quick reviews and impressions, and laud those few games I find tremendous.

My history with video games goes back to the seventies when my parents purchased both a TRS-80 system as well as an Atari 2600. The TRS-80 had a magnetic tape drive so we could load and write to a tape. Many of the little programs my brother and I wrote were more along the lines of:


20 GOTO 10

We got a bit more advanced and added IF/THEN and FOR/NEXT commands, but we enjoyed playing games like Oregon Trail, a Pong clone and others lost to memory. It was our first dip into computing.

With the Atari 2600, we had  a few cartridges we enjoyed playing. Combat came with the system, notable for being the first joystick game anyone played at home in the late 70’s. Our family didn’t have a lot of money so the cartridge purchases were few, but the occasional cartridge swap with friends helped round out the game library. Among the games played were Circus Atari, Yars Revenge, Pitfall, Pole Position, Pac Man, Asteroids, Defender, Jungle Hunt, Moon Patrol, Pele’s Soccer, and about a dozen I’m forgetting.

Two notable games: my brother and I played Space Invaders to an obsessive degree. We once played the game with the intention of rolling the score over back to zero. Hours of playing, switching at points between levels to give each other rest, we finally accomplished our goal…well after our bedtimes, but dammit, we succeeded!

Secondly, I think we were one of the few families that bought E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, infamous now as one of the worst video games ever created and the game that bankrupted the once mighty Atari. It was an awful game, really bizarre, but for some reason I played it with some regularity. Once you knew how to avoid the Feds, the game became maddeningly simple.

When not at home, the arcade was my favorite hangout. A five dollar bill would get me twenty quarters (or twenty four tokens if we were someplace special) and my chance to play games like Spy Hunter, Elevator Action and Gauntlet. My brother became a very good Galaga player. Five dollars was also easy babysitting for my mom and dad when we’d go shopping as a family.

As arcades lost ground to better and better gaming on PCs, I followed along with my 386 SX, then a number of custom built PC rigs. I may have justified the construction of those PCs with helping me do homework and the like, but I always tried to make sure I could play good games. I was never in the financial position to get a top end rig, but I wouldn’t be far off of the recommended build.

Online gaming became more and more popular, LAN parties were occasionally attended and my love of video games continued. I got involved in competitive WAN gaming with Tribes, a first person shooter which used jet packs to really create a more nuanced strategic FPS when you have to consider death from the sky.

I was a bit late to the MMO party, completely passing on Everquest, but hoping on for Dark Age of Camelot, where I learned that not playing six hours a day, seven days a week would quickly get me behind the rest of the group, unable to play with others in much higher zones. Then came a stint with WoW, which I eventually gave up on because of leveling issues and no longer able to play with friends again. I picked up EVE Online and after four years, I still play.

But I don’t limit myself. I’ve found that I pick up some games that are more casual in nature (The Sims series), funny (Deathspank), classics (Half Life and it’s sequels), puzzle games (Portal, Portal 2), and a wealth of indy games like Magicka, World of Goo, and Kerbal Space Program.

Okay, so I’ve done the background, but why should you enjoy a video game today? There are video games for every taste. From the hard core to the casual, video games are there to entertain. Looking for a good zombie game? Left 4 Dead 2 is excellent (and plus there are a ton of zombie games on the market, L4D2 just happens to be the best). A puzzle game to stretch those mind muscles? Space Chem will make you think about fake chemistry and inventive pathing. Want a fun, amusing click adventure? Machinarium is a brilliant little game with an expressive hero who doesn’t say a word. Perhaps you are in the mood for an 8-bit looking adventure? Minecraft will give you a bit of this as well as tweak those creative muscles when building. And as I’ve said here before, you’d be hard to go wrong with Portal or Portal 2 (just wonderful games). Most board games have gone online as well, including ports of games like Settlers of Catan and Carcassone.

What games do you like?


  1. I loooooove epic & pretty RPGs – Fable, Fallout, Dragon Age. I like feeling immersed in a different world and forgetting everything around me for a few hours! Makes coming back to reality very pleasant. 🙂

  2. Yeah, I’m a fan of those as well. Going a bit more old school, really loved Elder Scrolls: Morrowind, Planescape: Torment (I think it’s available at Good Old Games-gog.com) and the two Mass Effect games so far. Still need time to play the three you mentioned. Both Dragon Age and Fallout are on my to-play-soon list. Oh! Bioshock, that was a good one too, although I’ve heard mixed things about the sequel.

  3. I do believe your Atari & games & what-was-that-Commodore-64 thing are still in the basement. Are they now considered antiques? I think there is some other stuff from your early gaming days down there also. Anyone for a trip down Tim’s memory lane? ;>)

  4. lol, I could list so many games but I won’t. I grew up with an Atari, too. My brother and I later got a Sega Genesis, then a Dreamcast and finally Xbox (funny story though – I’m the one with the 360, not my brother). Whenever we went to friends’ houses, we’d play games there, so we got to play Nintendo (and later Playstation), too. There are just so many games that I’ve played that I’ve liked for all kinds of different reasons. 🙂

  5. Mom, hang onto that stuff! It’s practically classic. Wouldn’t it be great if it all worked? I know the joysticks were a bit of a problem as my brother and I probably wore them out. I can remember more than one occasion where we cracked open the joystick to see if we could get it to work again.

    Shauna, sounds very familiar to my experience. I had friends who had Colecovision and Intellivision. The Colecovisionn in particular was really cool as the games they had were very good for the time.

    It is weird though that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more and more a PC gamer and not much of a console gamer. I’ve got a PS3, but it’s mostly for Netflix and Rock Band, although there’s a few games on there that are fun to play besides those. Little Big Planet and Deathspank are my favorites on there, but the time I spend on the PS3 is absolutely dwarfed by how much I spend on the PC.

  6. I also have a long and storied past full of good times with video games. Most recently I’ve found myself hooked on the excellent Witcher 2 for PC (I’ve been meaning to see if you’ve checked that one out, actually) and Dead Island, which for all its flaws offers a pretty deep and engrossing zombie+RPG experience.

    A few all-time faves include:
    Lemmings – the first game I truly fell in love with.
    Tie Fighter
    Worms series
    Grim Fandango
    Maniac Mansion
    Deus Ex (original)
    No One Lives Forever 1 & 2
    Soul Caliber series
    Killer Instinct
    Mario Kart in many iterations
    NFL Blitz
    NBA Jam
    NHL 2k and EA NHL series (depending on the year)

    Nearly 30 years of avid gaming, there are surely many more… But these are some of the most skilled Time-thieves I have encountered.

  7. Rock Band! I forgot Rock Band!

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