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Simple Pleasures and Retro Memories.
Posted on Wednesday, February 6 2008 @ 23:11:32 Eastern

I feel like I watch too much of the same movie lately. What movie you ask? Why, none other than "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters." This was a DVD that I actually won in a contest recently here on GR, and I have to say, I choose wisely.

The entire documentry is a comedic look at competitive classic arcade gaming as a guy named Steve tries to break the high score record on Donkey Kong, which is owned by a infamous gamer known as Billy Mitchell. Mitchell had numerous records before, one in Centipede, one in DK Jr, and he recently scored a perfect game in Pac-Man, and by perfect, I mean he ate every pellet, piece of fruit, and ghost for 226 levels without dying. Yeah, thats a feat.

While I won't spoil any of the movie to you guys, I will say this; it is a welcome trip down the memory lanes of yesteryear, and makes me reflect on my own, as an avid gamer from the late 80's and early 90's about my own triumphs and trials with games like this. Games like Asteroids, Missle Command, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders; these are simple, classic games that were low on graphics, short on sounds and restricted in movements, but above all else, they were fun to play.

Let's face it. Arcades in the United States are a relic now a days. Console games were great, and are frankly my choice of medium to begin with. We all, at the very least, have grown up with console games in our homes. But how many of us were arcade rats, scurrying to the nearest free machine of Galaga and Gauntlet? What about the archaiac gun games, like Police Trainer and Virtua Cop, some of the first rail shooters in arcades. The graphics slowly, over time, became more complicated.

The games never did though. Playing a game of Berzerk today would be the same as playing it ten years ago, short, fast, furious and fun at the same time. Classic arcade games were simple pleasures when we were all younger. The famous, like Pac-Man and Galaga, to the not so famous, like Crystal Castles or Ladybug, touched numerous gamers for years, and still do. Even today, some thirty-somethings compete each year in classic arcade games, just for the fun, the thrill, and the competition. Hell, I  challenge any of you not to find a game of Pac-Man, Defender or Galaga in a local arcade, they were so fun and addicting, it is almost mandatory to have them in an arcade.

But I guess that is turning into nothing but memories now, as classic arcade games are ported, emulated, and removed from the very medium they belong in, quarter snatching machines that are unforgiving in their difficulty. Those thirty-somethings who play these classic games are a dying breed. New, young gamers around my age, the barely twenty-somethings, would be lucky if they even heard of Centipede or Missle Command, and it would even be rarer if you found someone who knew how to beat an obscure game like Berzerk or Depth Charge. Classic arcade games, and classic games in general, are now becoming the retro games of todays super power-shoot em up games and expansive MMORPG markets. They are around, but are played only when were bored or waiting for something to load.

But one thing that will never be captured again, however, is the comaraderie that accomponied classic arcade games. I remember years ago I was with a group of friends at a local Fun Station, playing a game of Defender and Hogans Alley in the corner of the arcade, as they had to make room for new machines like Dance Dance Revolution, which is now the most played arcade game in the world, and Time Crisis. While I love games like Time Crisis, I think my group of friends enjoyed the classics over the new age technology at that time, simply put because of the inspiring competition to outdue each other in scoring.

I guess the simplicity of these games is what hooks people, and the competition that goes into learning it is even more admirable. Learning patterns, true hand-eye coordination and skill is something that is bred from classic games, and mastering these makes you a better gamer overall. I guess that is why those same thirty-somethings who love classic arcade games so much still play them to this day, for competition and for recreation.

In the end though, thinking of classic games like Donkey Kong should be fun. The simple pleasures they brought to us, and to the industry, are what makes them classics in their own right. These games, which many would consider retro now, are not retro in the sense that they are old and in fashion again. At least to me, and to perhaps everyone in "King of Kong," these games are still in style, and never will lose that edge to the higher polygon counts of arcade and console games. Simply put, arcade classics will never go away, and there is nothing like playing it in the darkened warehouse that holds arcade machines in long rows, waiting your turn to jerk a joystick and multi-tap two simple colored buttons as you rack up points destroying mushrooms, missles, spaceships, barrels, robots, bombs, or even ghosts. This is where this simple pleasure comes from, and nothing can take that from these ever important machines.

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