Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde
As a child, I had heard of this “thing” that connected to your television that allowed you to play games on the same unit that you watched programming. The downside to this invention: It burned the images of the game on to your television screen. So perhaps it was for that reason, along with the cost, that the only time I ever saw an Atari System or Coleco game was when visiting a friend’s home. It was amazing. Four man football games played with X’s for the players. And you could take turns with friends playing the game. Then there was this game that a light bounced back and forth from side to side, whenever it hit a one-inch bar on each side making a “pong” sound. Arcades became popular with the invention of games such as Asteroids, Q-bert, and one of my favorites, Pac Man.
It would take ten years or more, but I would finally have my own system. I had to be an adult to buy one and take the risk of damage to my television. But I reasoned that it had to be safe. Nintendo had already been out for three or four years and there were rumors that a company called Sega was going to produce a game system of their own. The time was right to take the leap. I bought the console, which came with its own game pack, Duck Hunt and Super Mario Brothers, but of course I had to buy a football game, Tecmo Bowl. There were eight NFL teams, and the players kind of resembled people. And you could actually play against the computer or another player.
The Nintendo actually served another purpose other than visual stimulation. As a cancer patient, there were often times that I felt isolated either because treatments had left me physically drained or a pending appointment might have had me stressed out, providing me with a much needed distraction. And it worked too. One day well into the evening, I played a strategy game called Final Fantasy for over fourteen hours straight. I took no break for the bathroom or to eat. My wife had left for work in the morning,and when she returned home in the evening, there I was, right where she had left me. But I got through the whole game, something I had never done up until that day.
Over the years, more game systems came out, even new versions of Nintendo. But I had amassed a collection of over seventy-five games that whenever I needed a distraction, whatever mood I was in, I popped either a sport game, puzzle game, or arcade game into the console. I kept everything in mint condition for nearly fifteen years.
Then my wife had a yard sale and for whatever reason, thought that it would be a great idea to put my Nintendo and games up for sale. $25.00. No warning, just gone.
So I drop another quarter in to continue…
I often work Saturdays as overtime. It allowed us opportunities to travel, purchase things for the house, and with a new arrival coming into the family, the extra cash allowed us to save for our childrens’ futures. But with all the purchases we have made over the years, we had to make new ones. We had to buy things for what we had been told would be our one-year old daughter, Madison. Children grow, but houses do not, unless you build on. So, we needed to make room.
I am all too familiar with yard sales, and really, though the concept is better than just throwing things into the garbage, the thought of selling anything in near-mint condition that cost more than a tank of gasoline for the cost of a candybar, makes absolutely no sense. I had no worries. Most of our purchases were all “girly” type objects, decorations, knicknacks. If she wanted to sell her stuff for the price of a grocery store Xerox photocopy, that was her business.
I came home from work that Saturday afternoon. I could tell by the smile on her face, and the emptiness of the driveway that had previously been filled with her belongings, I said, with her belongings, her yard sale was a success for her. “I made $225 dollars!” That was almost a car payment so it was no small amount of money. But when you consider that there was well over $2,000 worth of clothing, lamps, decorations, and furniture, okay. I let her have her moment.
“I sold almost everything, and then I thought everyone was buying everything, so I put your Nintendo out, and it sold right away. I also sold the Sega and Playstation. Nobody would buy the Atari” she said. Okay, while I was not expecting this at all, she just got done telling me that she made $225. My game systems were all in near-mint condition. The only thing that kept them from being mint, was that I opened the packages in the first place. So, that was one Nintendo and seventy five games valued at over $1000, a Sega system with fifteen games worth approximately $400, and a newly purchased Playstation with five games, which because of the novelty of the Playstation, all was valued at $600. Now, I was not sitting in front of the television for hours anymore playing video games, and work around the house still got done, and we went out on some nice dates. So, I know she was not mad at me or trying to exact revenge on me. She did not sell the Atari which means it was not about killing any free time I had. Why would she do this? There was no warning. “I got $25 for each system,” she said with a sense of pride.
I stood there in disbelief. What could have possessed her to make this decision? Have I been giving her too much attention that she felt I no longer needed the games? Our future daughters of course would not play with television games. Did she have other plans for my rec room?
To me, it was simple. These systems helped to provide distraction, relieve stress, and yes, live vicariously through the electric medium. I could throw the football like Joe Montana. I had the accuracy of a marksman, though I’ve never held a firearm in my hands. I logged in dozens of successful shuttle missions. I was a constant hero to princesses in all lands.
She did not sell my Atari, and I still had games on my computer. But this was more than just what I had remaining. This is about what I lost and how I lost it. To this day, she has never told me why she sold my Nintendo and Sega. But truly, someone realized the bargain that they got – a mint-condition console and dozens of games still in their original casings – for just $25.00. I spent close to $2000.00 on just the Nintendo. I am constantly watching just to see if someone else might be selling their system for the steal that my systems were sold. There are times when I could use that trip to the Super Bowl or just want to check my hand/coordination. The only difference between then and now, is that now I have my own princesses to defend, and to look at me as their hero. Though it is still the classic and original, I never looked at the Atari again. It still sits in my closet. I even went as far as to purchase the latest craze, a Wii. But just as my other game systems, the Wii was sold. The Atari is still here. Why?
In the later years of my life, I do miss my Nintendo. I have faced several health crisis just over the last four years, two of which have been life threatening. Given the treatments that were used to treat my cancer over two decades ago, I am told the risk of more issues is likely. There are things that I can no longer due physically. But probably the hardest thing for me to do, is deal with the emotions that have developed. With so much time on my hands, and so much limited ability, and the fears of what could come, I should could spend some time playing Final Fantasy (the original version), Othello, or even Tecmo Bowl.
I clearly have not forgotten about the older game systems that I once owned. My time spent with the newer systems was short spent. But the Atari dates back to a much simpler time. Electronic entertainment was affordable. Decisions made during the games came with less consequences. Today’s games place our lives at a level of experience, only witnessed by professional athletes and high ranking politicians. But the best thing about the Atari, it would take me back to a time before I had to deal with any of this stuff.