Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Screen time

Happy “hump day” to everyone.  And no camels were harmed in the production of this blog entry.

Over the past several months my grandchildren, particularly the ones local to my wife and me whom we see more frequently, have developed an affinity for video games.  This began on the iPad (and let me say as an aside here that if ever there was a device more suited to use by kids, I’ve not seen it) with a few simple game and accelerated last summer when their Colorado cousins were here and were playing a game called Subway Surf, a straightforward chase game with jumping, bonus coins and such.  I’m sure there are many variations on it, as it may well be a variation on something else.  They also took to a golf game called Super Stickman Golf, tic-tac-toe, a bubble game and some other stuff.

This morphed into my son buying some games for his Xbox and now my grandson is hooked, wants nothing more than to play video games.  He even says he wants to bring those games here, but doesn’t yet understand that Gram and Poppy have to have the right equipment for that to be possible.

In my experience, I didn’t discover video games at quite an early age.  I was in college when the arcade phenomenon hit this country, and spent many happy hours “banging them pleasure machines,” as an old Bruce Springsteen lyric detailed.  I always liked pinball, that was a staple of a visit to the bowling alley with my brother when I was a kid.

So what did I like in the video game world, way back when?  Well, I can tell you that it was not Pac-Man.  For some reason I never really got the hang of that game.  I don’t know if it was the angles or the required wrist movements or the need to anticipate or what, but Pac-Man and I never became buds.

I also was not a great fan of Space Invaders, as it just seemed boring to me at the time.  And still does.

My preferred games were Galaxian, Missile Command, Battlezone and Centipede.  If you’re in my age range you’re probably wondering how I would like Galaxian but not Space Invaders, as one was based on the other.  I suppose the movement on the screen was part of it, and it was more colorful.  Give me a break, that was thirty-five years ago!

Anyway, I always liked Missile Command, although its message about Armageddon wasn’t so cheery.  Required strategy, multiple scenario thinking and pretty decent dexterity.  Most of my friends liked “pattern” games, where you played it enough to know what was going to happen next and played in anticipation of that pattern thereafter.  Probably explains why I didn’t care for Pac-Man, it was all patterns.  I was not a pattern kind of person, and still am not.

Battlezone put the player in the command chair of a tank, but the visual images consisted of all green lines, simulating some sort of rudimentary simulator or night-vision.  Simple and fun.

Centipede and its descendant Millipede required you to shoot at, yes, a centipede as it made its way through a patch of mushrooms and downward toward the shooter.  As the player struck sections the centipede got shorter and faster, making things harder.  I always liked that game more than my friends at the time.

So what do I play now, and how?  Not much and only on an iPad.  I still like that golf game I mentioned above, and there’s another silly one (these are all free versions of all of these games, if that means anything) that involves flipping burger patties onto a bun.  Once you exhaust your available turns some vaguely French accordion music plays, which always cracks me up.


I don’t know, maybe one of these days I’ll master one of these games my grandson likes.  But by then he’ll have moved on to something else, just like I used to.

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