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December 2015 Retro Gaming Article


December 10, 2015 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Were you part of the Christmas-morning-game-console-gift era?

At some point we need to realize video game consoles are no longer a staple Christmas gift. Pics from the 70s & 80s suggest otherwise :)
After the leaves have fallen and the air feels cool & crisp and supermarkets remove Candy Corn from their shelves, we all know Christmas is right around the corner. The other tell-tale sign of the Christmas season are the retro websites posting childhood pics of the game consoles they received on christmas morning - in the 70s and early 80s.

Vintage Atari on christmas morning The furniture is bland, the TVs are round, and the carpets are deep shag - but the kids have smiles wrapped around their heads. It's Christmas morning and St. Nick had a sleigh full of Atari, Coleco, and Mattel game consoles. So these pictures infer.

As a kid, I never got a game console for Christmas. I bought my first Atari 2600 shortly after Christmas, but I never felt the crushing anticipation of hoping to find a game console "under the tree". It seems like a milestone achievement of youth. It's regaled as a classic element of childhood holidays. But not mine.

I don't bring this up out of anger or disappointment due to missing this milestone. In fact I had to stop and do some recollection just to ensure I was correct in my assertion that I'd never received a game console for Christmas. It's such an iconic experience for so many kids, I feel as though I've vicariously experienced it through all the photos I've seen online over the years.

Vintage Atari on christmas morning It seems as though these kids were always getting that game console that was just released. You don't hear of a kid who was stoked to be getting an Atari 2600 on Christmas morning in 1984 or an NES in 1989. It was always the first year's release. Be it Atari, Intellivision or Colecovision, those childhood photos of Christmas mornings were all about being on the cusp of that new gaming experience no one had seen yet.

What a great era! Companies were trying to leapfrog one another in a race to deliver the best new gaming experience. Few consoles would have the staying power of the Atari 2600, but that didn't stop them from trying to unseat the Sunnyvale wonder. New consoles were a frequent thing in the golden age. These days we get stuck with the same 3 consoles for a comparative eternity. Without a new company or bold concept, that lengthy model is likely to remain.

I had high hopes the Ouya would bring the speed and agility of mobile gaming to TVs and give a wake-up call to the Big Three. No such luck. The Ouya simply turned out to be the first in a number of small-scale attempts at micro consoles. The Big Three lumber on with the only hope for change being a mysterious new device from Nintendo. And I suppose some of you are still hoping VR can make an impact somewhere... anywhere.

Growing up, it seemed as thought there were more hardware choices, with more brewing on the horizon. Maybe i'm jaded as an adult and the childhood wonder has diminished. Maybe the "way too long" duration of the 7th generation tainted me as well.

Vintage Atari on christmas morning At the same time, when you're spending $400 on a game console - before buying any additional games - you have to wonder how often the average consumer would be able to buy a new game console. We lived in simpler times at the advent of video games. The offerings have certainly grown in sophistication, but for all the advancements, Missile Command is still a damn good game! How many games today can ratchet up the feeling of excitement and doom like Space Invaders?

I still prefer the simpler games before memory cards and hard drives turned every game into an epic quest. I quickly met my demise in Space Invaders, but I could play Asteroids for long stretches of time. I don't recall any of my high scores. In fact, modern gaming makes me forget that games once had scores. It was fun to just play.

There won't be any new gaming hardware under the Christmas tree this year, but there will be some 2-player Wizard Of Wor going on. We have as many Atari Flashbacks as we need at this point. This year we will simply revel in the joy of having fun playing video games.

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