The Perfect Game
Tonight, I was jamming on a game of Classic Defender with Def Leppard (High 'n' Dry, 1981) blasting in the background and suddenly I was in a time warp. It was 1981 all over again and I was in a dark, crowded arcade playing Defender. Lights were flashing and music was playing while people danced and laughed with excitement. Then the moment faded and I was back in the present, imagining what arcades are like today. No longer are they crowded with people excited to see someone beat the high score. Instead, these arcades are jammed with rows and rows of similar fighting or driving games. A young boy turns to his friend, "Hey, he just beat Mortal Kombat 24!" "So what?" the friend says. "I did that yesterday.
Like many others, I've been trying to discover what makes us attracted to the classic games of the glory days.It certainly wasn't the graphics. Most of the sounds were ghastly bleeps and blips. Music? What's that?
Today, we look at these games with a nostalgic eye and say, "The simplicity is part of what made them great." Yet it's more than that. Addictiveness is certainly the primary factor, but what makes them addictive?
Tempest 2000 is one of the greatest games of all time because it is one the very few games ever created that makes me feel powerful. Invincible. On top of the world. It's this feeling that makes me want to return again and again. When the world I live in is falling to crap, I can always pop in T2K and everything around me melts away. I'm in a place where I can't be defeated. Where I am the master. Tell me, when you're jamming on T2K, don't you feel it too?
No game has ever given me such a sustained feeling of invincibility as Tempest 2000. That's when I'm really "in the zone." I feel glimmers of it while playing Classic Defender. Like when I've just blasted a screen full of landers and narrowly rescued two humanoids. (Or when I've lasted more than a minute on level 51 of D2K!) I can feel it while zooming through a crowd of Asteroids, blasting all the way, without getting killed. Frying those scum sucking Millipedes while the world of bugs attack ("Come get me punks!"). And sometimes while fighting off a barrage of ICBMs in Missile Command.
These invincibility trips like these aren't necessarily reserved for games of the past.
Surprisingly enough, Daytona USA gives me momentary feelings of power when I'm flying around the track power sliding through 5 opposing cars on the Sonic curve. Smash TV, (the descendant of Robotron) rocks too when there's a pile of grunts chasing you and your laughing in their faces. Gamers should be searching for moments like these rather than the latest way to dismember an opponent.
Gamers today just don't understand why we old geezers enjoy games like Centipede, Missile Command, Asteroids, Defender, and Tempest. It's pointless showing them what gaming was like in the good old days because they're simply not interested yet. They need to discover these gems on their own. Our only job is to see that the classics are waiting for them once they reach gaming maturity. So that when they do wander across them, they'll have the chance to discover the power trip we know is there. Only then will they understand what we're talking about.
After all, Disco isn't all bad, right?