My first experience with video games was when I was 11 years old. Back then they had arcades instead of home video game systems. I remember I went in with some friends and was overwhelmed by the sights and sounds that emanated from the door. Lights were flashing, bells were ringing, and people were cheering for their favorite player.
They had just opened this arcade in the local mall. All my friends it been in before me, and that’s all they could talk about at school. They were talking about things like high scores, levels, bosses, and extra lives. I had no idea what they meant. But when I walked in there, I knew I was in for a new experience.
I had five dollars in quarters in my pocket from my paper route, and I didn’t know where to begin. At first I watched some kids play, but some of the games looked too complex for me as a beginner. So I settled in with a game called Galaga. I was alone spaceship shooting at aliens that were falling from a star filled screen. The music was right in my ears and I felt exhilarated.
I didn’t do very well my first time, but I kept on playing until I got the hang of it. From there I moved on to more complicated games. Defender caught my eye and I decided to give it a whirl. Here I had to rescue people from the clutches of another group of aliens by zigzagging back and forth shooting everything in sight.
From there I moved up to Asteroids which required multiple fingers to operate the buttons in a bit of a choreographed dance. Getting the coordination down was a little tricky, but after about two dollars in quarters, I got the hang of it.
People say that video games were a waste of time and money, but it gave me an opportunity to interact with people that I normally would not have. I even made some new friends from my school who I had seen in class, but never talk to. Now we had a common pastime in which to share at lunch or after class.
We even developed tournaments in which we would all play each other until there was a decisive winner. I developed a camaraderie with a very large group of kids that I never would have met otherwise. To this day, when I walk through a shopping mall I miss hearing the distant sounds of the neighborhood arcade. Home game systems are okay, but it’s not the same is meeting the gang and spending an afternoon laughing, playing, and competing against each other with the newest video games.