How Atari Made Me Atari Man

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I’ve often said that one of the most blessed and cursed aspects of being a creative person is you can remember things more vividly and accurately than other people. In the case of this said article, it would be reference to my very first gaming experience, which just so happens to be on a pre-crash console, although one could certainly say this console was partially responsible for the crash that would be to come. I really like this story, not just because of it’s highly personal sentiment, but also because me it taught me to have a better appreciation for the industry as a whole, the creative process behind making these countless games and consoles that would mark my life in certain points, as well as, quite simply, a better appreciation for what was afforded to me as a child. This is a tale I tell quite often at my store on weekends, usually when someone asks me about my background with all the items that sit in my store, and I’m fine explaining to new customers because, as I’ve said many times, this business can be given a bad name by shady resellers, so my hope is when I tell them this story it eases their fears a little bit, even if they still decide not to make a purchase.

b_Bowling_Color_front When I was 5 years old, like a lot of sons that age, I looked at my father with a  lot of respect, admiration, and reverence. My mother didn’t work until I was 9  years old, choosing to be a stay at home mom, making sure her 4 children didn’t  kill one another, that the house didn’t burn down, and that her children always  wore clothing that they would most likely later in life be horrified to admit to  friends that they ever had anything to do with. Amidst all of this were video  games. As I tell everyone, while we were the first family in our neighborhood  with an original Gameboy, we were NOT the first family to have an NES, this  didn’t come into our home until 1988 or 1989, I don’t recall exactly when, so for  us it was the mighty Atari 2600, which was purchased by our father, and since  he was the one providing the entertainment, along with a roof over our heads,  food on our table, and clothes on our back (as my now 67 year old father still  speaks of proudly to this day) it was his selections that created our Atari 2600  game library, and he was very much into teaching his children new things, so it  didn’t take long for him to place me on his lap, flip the switch on the Heavy  Sixer, and there I saw, for the very first time, Bowling. At the time I didn’t  understand why this was the first game I would ever play, but several years later  I understood. My father was an avid bowler in high school, and I even joked to  my father when I saw his yearbook that only bowling was listed under his activities. He still protests that the person he listed his vast contributions to the Dunmore High School Class of 1965 simply lost the piece of paper and could only remember my father mentioning bowling. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know.

bowling (1)What I do know is I remember how quickly I understood the game, and how my father taught me little tricks that I still use today playing Bowling, from where to position your bowler, to when to flick the joystick at just the right moment to keep the ball on track, increasing your odds on getting a strike. I can still close my eyes and hear that little bloopy sound that would play when you’d get a spare or a strike. It would be many, many years until I would devote a lot of time, money, and effort to learn as much as I could about gaming, beginning with the Atari 2600, earning the moniker Atari Man, which really has less to do with my knowledge on the subject, and more on how epic I supposedly look with an Atari logo shirt on and a cape blowing in the breeze. Still, I credit my father for introducing me to not just a game, not just a console, but something that would stay a vital part of my life for many, many years to come. The Atari 2600 is not my favorite system, or even one many speak fondly of these days, but it is the system that started it all for me, the one that, without it, would have never let me to where I am today.

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