Wednesday, November 2, 2011

If you build it... it could be really cool!

I think a big part of growing up in the late 70s and early 80s was video games - at least for boys. I remember going to the movies at Trolley Square and playing Star Castle in the lobby. I remember hanging out at the Gold Mine arcade in Crossroads Mall and playing games like Battle Zone and Joust and Rampage. I remember the first time I saw Dragon's Lair, which was such a sensation because it used traditional animation. I never got really good at any of them, because my income was mostly limited to mowing lawns, but we also had an Atari at home. I'd save up and buy game cartridges and my brother and I would play them for hours sometimes. I even "beat" one of them - Demon Attack, a Space Invaders kind of game - and was disappointed that the screen just went blank and I couldn't even see what my score was.

But I don't feel the same way about the video games kids (and lots of grownups, too) play now. They don't have a limited number of lives and you can save your place and start where you left off. Worst of all, many of them just don't seem to have a clear objective - it seems to be a lot of wandering around. Besides, I don't have that much patience anymore. So I was kind of excited when I stumbled upon a software online called MAME and a number of video game files from my youth. Seeing those old games again was a lot of fun, and the kids actually enjoyed playing them. And I've sometimes thought it might be fun to install those games on a computer that could be hooked up to the television with some joysticks or paddles instead of using the keyboard, but finding a simple joystick that doesn't resemble something from an F-22 fighter jet (and cost almost as much) hasn't been so easy.

I realize this isn't the normal kind of book I review here, but Project Arcade: Build Your Own Arcade Machine by John St. Clair looked like it might have some good ideas and tips. Unfortunately, the focus is geared toward making your own Arcade cabinet - just like the old days. And that's an idea that sounds really cool - it could be loaded with and configured for all the old favorites - and no quarters! Of course, that's assuming your wife doesn't mind, right? There are also ideas and plans for "desktop" Arcades, which are smaller but still not the simple setup I envisioned. It's a great book if you're looking to spend some time and money to build your dream Home Arcade. But if you just want to plug an old computer into the TV you probably don't need it.  (I received this book from Amazon Vine.)

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