Monday, 18 September 2006

Nostalgic anthology

Yesterday I left the borders of our house for the first time since my operation. I don't know yet whether it was my renewed ability to walk a bit more than a few steps at a time or the fear of the car battery running down, but we took the car down to Video Ezy to rent a few more films and have a 50m walk to the post box on Hampton Street.
I'll put it this way: luckily, the car is on the comfortable side of things, as far as cars go. Still, it was something to be able to walk a bit without requiring an emergency landing after a couple of steps, even if the walk would break new slow walking records and I created a traffic jam on the sidewalk.
At least my evolution gives some reason for optimism. Today I went to a doctor to remove the bandages (just so there'll be some professional eye to assess the situation), and he said it's quite good (looks quite ugly to me).
With the progress comes new expectations for going back to work, something which I'm really looking forward to. At this stage it's still a stretch, given the 20 minutes walk each way when at this stage just the waiting for the train could be tricky, but hey - it's something to aspire to.
What strikes me as terribly odd in retrospect are the quick switches in fortune we have been going through lately. About a month ago, I was all fine; then I had 80% chance for having a cancer; and then just a few days ago I have learnt that the 20% side won and I'm off the hook. I don't think I actually digested that; it all seems like a weird movie to me.

Anyway, on our visit to Hampton Street yesterday I picked up a copy of the Atari Anthology for the Xbox: a collection of 80 old Atari games. I know that by today standards it's crap games, but for $14 the chance to reacquaint myself with old memories did not require second thinking. It's definitely a good time to be shopping for Xbox games, even if the P3 based console is officially pronounced dead; it certainly doesn't matter in the case of 25 year old games.
We played a bit yesterday, and took particular pleasure with the two player Pong variants. Most of the games are, well, the definition of crap; but some games, like Missile Command and Asteroids, are surprisingly good, while Yars Revenge "striked" me as an excellent game and games like Pong and Combat are excellent two player material. Again I see that a good game is a good game, even if it only required 1kb or RAM.
I'm reading Bill Bryson's Thunderbolt Kid book now, which tells his account of growing up during the 50's in the USA. The usual Bryson magic works and I keep on telling the similarities with my childhood, and with the Atari Anthology in focus a lot of childhood thoughts started popping up.
In retrospect, the Atari signaled the end of the age of innocence for me. Up until the arrival of the 2600 console, most of my entertainment came in the form of playing outside with friends after school. It was the same for all "the boys in the hood", and I was actually the exception because I liked to read a lot. However, with the Atari came the ability to effortlessly entertain myself at home without requiring anyone's hand at that. Back then I was so hungry for entertainment I actually did absurd things, like playing two player games on the Atari console on my own. With the limited TV broadcasting in Israel at the time, the Atari managed to achieve what nothing else could do before: stick kids at home and make them anti-social without anybody realizing this is the case because of the technological innovativeness of the Atari. And look where it got us today, with full blown TV and internet: today, you don't see much in the way of children playing outside, not here and neither in Israel; definitely not to the extent it was in my childhood (or Bill Bryson's childhood, for that matter). Today kids go to "football class", whereas back in my time you'd just meet back in school and hope someone would have a ball with him.
Another Atari related anecdote comes from observing the games' cost. Back when I was 10 and nudging my parents to get me more and more games, their cost was prohibitive. Being a spoiled child and aided by the fact my father worked a lot in New York at the time, I ended up with 14 cartridges, more than anyone else I knew at the time. Today new games are still expensive, but those Atari games are easily available for free over the web; I actually chose to spend money on them and get the Xbox version out of convenience.
And they say that we have progressed during the last 25 years. We have more, but appreciate it and enjoy it much less.


uri said...

Most of the games (old and new) are probably crap, but the good ones are still good.
"Manic Miner" on my old Sinclair Spectrum was a great game, so was Archon on the Commodore64 (and indeed on every platform).
Tetris could have been played on your Atari had it been invented yet (i.e. not much graphics), and it's also a very good game (in a different way).
And don't get me started on the "Art of War", Dune2, Heroes. Oh, wait, I'm back in modern times.
Anyway - I agree with you - good is good.

Moshe Reuveni said...

The formula doesn't work in every case, though. "Star Raiders" is an Atari game I thought to be pretty amazing, but now it looks like shit. That said, I think the problem in this particular case was added glorification on my bahalf, even if the game didn't deserve it.