RETROspective | The Game That Made Me a Gamer | Pong
The game that got me into gaming was the game that initially got everybody into gaming: Pong. Yes, I'm that old.
My RETROspective On Pong
I was a junior in high school in 1973 when I first saw that yellow, stand-up arcade box at Crystal Bowl in the Crystal City Shopping Center, just two miles from my house. It was a Saturday night and I was just killing a little time. I had a spare quarter, so I thought I'd check it out.
I don't remember how well I performed, but I do remember thinking that it would be easier to master than a normal pinball machine. It was nice seeing a brand new, bright yellow box next to all the old, scuffed-up pinball machines.
What I did not know was that this was just the beginning.
With that experience behind me, I had no trouble walking up and experimenting with new video games as I encountered them. Within a couple of years, game rooms popped up with dozens of video games. I wasn't the kind of person to drop a quarter into all of them. I cherry-picked games that were the most colorful or had games that intrigued me.
Being a big fan of what we used to call "board games," now referred to as "tabletop," I could not envision the day when they would start moving my beloved "Monopoly" and "Risk" to video. Nobody was going to stand at a video console for five hours to play Risk.
But I was not surprised to see the arcade video games move into the home. My first experience with a home video game, once again, was with Pong. It was the summer before my junior year in college and I was housesitting for one of my professors. He had one of those standalone home video versions of the game that you hooked up by wiring it to your TV's antenna.
I must have played that thing for dozens of hours. I learned how to put the proper English on the electronic ball by hitting it in different ways. I figured out how to set it up so that the ball in a two-man game would simply travel back and forth in a straight line so I could keep the game going while I took a bathroom break.
Ah, those were the days.
I eventually bought a home system for myself several years later. By that time, Pong had been supplanted by other, more complex games. I was particularly fond of a game called Star Raiders for the old Atari 400 system, and played that for probably hundreds of hours.
Today? I'm back to board games -- Monopoly and Risk. Except I don't play them on a table anymore. The games are now on the iPad and I'm usually playing against three or five virtual opponents. And, unlike my sister, my computer opponents don't get mad and make all the game pieces fly in the air when they slam their fist on the board in frustration.
And it all started with Pong.
-- André Hinds ("Evermore") is the audio producer of the ElectricSistaHood podcast and writes weekly about comic books