Why do I still play Atari 2600 games? Well....truth is, I've actually been hooked on the 7800 games lately, especially the homebrews.
But truthfully, I love 2600...and 7800 really isn't that much younger if you consider its 1984 birth year...I consider the 2600, 5200, and 7800 all from the same era, so I'll talk about the 2600 and 7800 in the same terms...partly because they have a lot of the same games.
Why do I still love those games? Lots of reasons. I got the 4-switch woodgrain for Christmas in 1982. I had asked for the Coleco table-top Pac-Man game, but my parents instead got me and my brother the Atari and added in the Pac-Man cart, and I was ecstatic. It was beyond my wildest dreams that my parents would even allow an Atari in the house, given that years earlier they made my brother get rid of his old video game system!
The biggest reason was one that I could never quite realize until Inky here actually put it in these words to me circa 1992, 1993:
The 2600 games have amazing replayability. For the most part, those games -- and others of that era -- are simply challenging. You were challenged to constantly beat your score. Modern games, however (at least those on, say, the NES, Genesis, SNES, etc. - remember, this was in the early '90s), while they have wonderful graphics and sound, just don't have the replayability. The typical scenario of these games? Survive a level, next level, repeat until you beat the boss character. Now repeat all that until you beat the, uhh, I guess "CEO" character...and once that's done? Game's over. Why bother playing it again once you already know how to beat the game? I forgot what game it was, but around that time my ex-sister-in-law's younger brothers bought one of the latest Genesis games at the time and it was a huuuuuge deal, high demand, hyped game...they beat it in an hour. What's the fun in that? Games of the "classic" era? There was usually no CEO character to beat and end the game; your player character eventually DIED at some point, and if the game came to an end without you losing your life, it was most likely due to a roll-over bug.
Also, I was a video game addict, and I actually had a surprisingly small selection of Atari games (I didn't even get Pitfall! until 2006!), plus the Vectrex system my cousin gave me because he grew bored of it. (Man, I regret giving that thing away to another cousin, whom I've long ago lost touch with. I did see him a few years ago at my grandmother's funeral, but I felt that wouldn't be a good time to ask if he still had it.
) I only got to the arcades once a month -- during our monthly family trips to the mall half hour away, and was given a $1 allowance for Aladdin's Castle. I sucked up everything I could. I played whatever I could because, well, I loved playing video games! I'd often swap 'em with friends...("Hey, I'd love to borrow your Millipede cartridge. Wanna trade for Q*Bert for a week?") I'd watch others play. Just something about watching things on a screen and making them move really got me. I think my parents kind of put two and two together because in 1988 they got me a Commodore 64 as an 8th-grade graduation present, and right now I'm a software engineering student. That shows you how video games were really a big part of who I am today. All because I loved my Atari...and still do.
And really, they just don't make those kinds of games any more...just think about the whimsy and variety you have among Pac-Man, Q*Bert, Pressure Cooker, Kaboom!, Pitfall!, Oink! (is there any Activision game that doesn't end with an exclamation point?), Food Fight, Keystone Kapers (ahh...there's one!), etc. You just don't get that kind of stuff any more. But it's the whimsy of the characters and the unique game play that made these games so memorable, and I think that's why Angry Birds was such a hit -- it has those same characteristics that we loved about those old games.
Nostalgia is a big part of it too. Playing my Atari games brings back memories of playing video games with my cousins and friends, Christmas and other holiday gatherings, days off from school....and of course memories that I DON'T like, like wanting to play the games but my parents were watching the TV (they weren't about to let me connect the Atari to the kitchen TV!); my mother screaming at me to put down the game to have supper, to fold laundry, etc., while I was about to beat my high score (parent's just didn't understand/care), and wishing to God there were a way to pause the game....my typical punishment, also, was "no Atari for two weeks" -- and by "Atari," they meant ANY KIND OF VIDEO GAME, and they meant that video games were not to be a part of my life in any way, shape or form -- that meant that I couldn't watch someone else play the Pac-Man Plus machine at Kroger, and if I was outside and my brother was playing the Atari, if I were being punished, my parents would make my brother close the shudders so I couldn't see the screen from the outside. (This is one reason Butters is my favorite South Park
character -- he's always grounded for the slightest things, just like I was always given the "no Atari for two weeks" for the slightest thing -- cutting my fingernails too short [dead serious], giving my brother a dirty look, even tapping on the speaker of the TV when the sound got distorted [my dad thought i was losing my temper about something but I really wasn't]....) Generally I was limited to an hour a day of Atari, and at one point it got to the point where I'd have to ASK PERMISSION to play Atari, regardless of whether anybody was watching TV or even if anybody was HOME! (that's right, I was expected to call my mom at work to ask! Guess how often I actually did that.) And there were literally times when I'd ask permission to play, get the permission, plug in the adapter, fire up the system, and before I was even halfway through one level, my mother would call over to me and tell me that that was enough. (!!)
Now, the reason I mentioned both the good AND the bad in my "nostalgia" point is that, well, I'm (physically, at least, and legally!) an adult now, and as such, I don't have the wrath of my parents any more. I can play these games really whenever I want. I don't have these limitations. I don't have the one-hour limit my mother imposed on me. My dad's not around to tell misinterpret my tweaking of the speaker as losing my temper; he and my mom are a good 40 miles away from me, and nowadays if I were to tap a speaker or something, he'd just say "Be careful, don't break it!" (One of these days I really do want to fire up the 7800 when my parents are over visiting just to see what happens.
) And the only punishments I've gotten since I've turned 18 were a couple of traffic tickets, but I could still come home and play my Atari. This is one reason I'm glad I'm an adult: I can do whatever I want. And I'm older and wiser now and know that I can solve that problem of there not being a pause button in case I have to answer the door, take the dog out, etc. And of course, the Atari can still be a source of good times and getting together with friends. (I did that in 2007 with Atari Age folks, and I'm hoping to do something like that again next month -- see the "Events" board!)
And another reason to love these games? They're easy to learn. For the most part, you could plug in an Atari cart that you've never played before, and with the CX-40 joystick with just one button, you can figure out how to play the game fairly quickly. Nowadays, though, you have these game pads with so many buttons you have to learn and keep straight...plus, they usually force you to play LEFT-handed; dammit, the games I played (except the Nintendo games) at the arcade and on Atari were RIGHT-handed!!! (and the Klax machine at one of the local places here is left-handed...arghhh!!)
And the Atari games were - and still are - just plain FUN.
Does that answer your question?