My oldest brother grew up in the late-1960s, when pinball was king. I remember him telling me how cool pinball was and how much skill it took to master each machine, and how much I’d love it when I grew up. By the time I was about 8-years-old, he was working full-time but still living at home, and he purchased a couple of used pinball machines–one was “Magic Circle” (1965) and the other was “Atlantis” (1975)–and put them in our somewhat unfinished basement.
So, as a family, we had our own private arcade, and I’m sure I earned my captain’s wings with the amount of hours I logged on those machines…but, the thing is, I found them kind of boring. Even as a little kid, I knew gravity was doing more than I was to influence the outcome. Yeah, the graphics and lights were nice (there were graphics of cute gypsy women on Magic Circle) but, had you asked me if I wanted to be a “Pinball Wizard” I probably would’ve said no and hopped on my bicycle.
But then, in late-1979/1980, EVERYTHING CHANGED. While Space Invaders came out in 1978, it was in 1980 that, in my opinion, the Golden Age of video games began. Pac Man, Asteroids, Defender and Centipede all came out then, and I was suddenly very interested when I got an invitation to go the arcade. And because my brother would hand me a $10 roll of quarters, he and I would be there a long, long time.
For a while, I ate Pac Man cereal (yes, it was a thing), read books and magazines on how to beat the games and waited for the movie Tron to come out. I was also the proud owner of an Intellivision system at home (even though all my friends had Atari!). It’s safe to say I was a video-kid in the video age, and long before Max Headroom showed up (look him up!).
But by the time arcades died out in the mid-80s and home systems got better graphics, I was in my teens and more interested in hair gel, record-shopping and girls. I just didn’t think about video games anymore. And other than a brief flirtation with the original Sim City when I got my first home computer in the early-1990s, I didn’t have time to indulge, even though, by the 2000s, graphics were getting to the point where it was hard to tell them from live-action movies. I was building a career in radio and print and, sadly, my schedule was full.
But that original love of arcades and videogaming never left me. Not only have I fantasized about purchasing my favourite game from 1980, Defender, one day, I’ve always been curious as to how today’s games are made. That’s not to mention the fascinating early history of interactive video….so join me as we explore the past, present and future of videogames on Where COOL Came From.
Yours in Coolness,
(and my apologies to all you pinball lovers out there)