I was born in the '60s so I grew up with the old Atari 2600. Now, that obviously makes me biased towards it since nostalgia comes into play but I also experienced the Odyssey 2 (HATE that fucking thing), the Intellivision (best friend owned it, played almost all of its games, never got into it because of the graphics style and I HATE that disc controller thingy), the Colecovision (not bad but for some reason never got into it) and the Vectrex (magnificent, basically perfect, including the analog stick with 4 buttons, at the time I felt the screen was too small - I was wrong of course). It was always the 2600 for me. And, later, the 5200 (I owned an Atari 800, same friend with the Intellivision had the 5200). I didn't really get into anything after that (NES, SNES, Sega, etc.) because of the type of games they had and I was getting a bit overloaded with console games. Now games are really user-driven movies, not interested in that, either.
I also went to arcades. A lot. Those are still my absolute favorite games (only 5200 Star Raiders rises to that level). I agree with those who point out an arcade shooter/high score mindset fits with 2600 games vs. story completion for later systems. I don't give a shit about running around a world and solving the story on a game console. I had paper & pencil role-playing games for that (Traveller, AD&D, Tunnels & Trolls). The 2600 was great for that arcade mindset. The graphics are shit, I agree, but in a sense that was an advantage. Not really, obviously shit is shit, but I think not being able to hide a poor/boring game behind great graphics forced programmers to make games that were very playable (of course there were still many garbage games made, as with all consoles). That is key to me and it has its roots in arcade games as well. My favorite games all-time are straight-forward ones like Tempest, Red Baron, Xevious, Star Trek: SOS, Space Wars, Armor..Attack, Star Castle, Warlords, Missile Command, Robotron, Space Firebird, Rally-X, Qix, Space Duel, Centipede, Wizard Of Wor, etc. So many great games.
Controllers matter. Fuck d-pads! Goddamn, I hate those things so so so much. I grew up with dedicated arcade controls and only the early 8-bit consoles even tried to reproduce that experience. That means joysticks, of course, but that also includes analog sticks. Also, paddles & spinners (they are not the same!), trak-balls, steering wheels/pedals, and combinations of those. You never held the controllers in your hands, they were mounted. I liked having the Atari joystick sitting on a table (or in my hand, but still), having the trak-ball on a table (2600 and 5200), all the different options. Any gamer who claims that a paddle/spinner/trak-ball/steering wheel/button game plays just as good/the same with a d-pad or joystick is retarded and needs to stop calling himself a gamer. They are different! Sometimes subtly, but significantly. I cannot stand playing Centipede or Missile Command with a joystick, same goes for Breakout and Tempest, Pole Position and even Asteroids. I'll tolerate the joystick for buttons swap (digital to digital), but the rest are terrible.
As for "blaming" Atari for the crash, I suppose that that's partly due to Atari being the face of that gaming generation and the one-two punch of E.T. and Pac-Man. E.T. is a horrible game. It's not the worst, no, but it's maybe the worst compared to the hype. Same with Pac-Man. You can find worse Atari games but did they have the same "Oh shit, I cannot wait for Pac-Man for the Atari!!" expectation? And disappointment? I'd say no. In a way it's how I feel about Ralph Nader. He isn't the only reason that muscle cars died in the early '70s but he's a big reason. I will smile when he's gone. That's how much I love muscle cars. In the same way I can understand a hatred for the games that are commonly accepted as destroying the best era of video games. I still miss those arcade experiences. Not what arcades turned into (a bunch of driving pods, FPS cabs and ticket redemption bullshit) but seeing Tempest for the first time with a crowd around it so big I couldn't even see what was going on for a good half hour until I got closer in line to play. I remember spending 10 dollars one weekend playing basically only Xevious when it came out (the arcade had a good deal, 7 tokens per dollar, even more if you got 5 bucks at once). Tried so hard to beat that game. The 2600 maintained that vibe even if the graphics could not possibly hold up for most arcade ports.
I also hate cute games. Centipede and Dig Dug are 2 of only a handful of exceptions that I like to play. Those later NES/SNES/Sega consoles seemed to gravitate towards cartoony characters and veer away from shoot everything that moves games. I don't care about cheering for a character in a video game, I'm used to steering a vehicle or aiming pip in order to waste something, usually many somethings. Even when there is a character, like in Wizard Of Wor or Black Widow, the character is faceless, not cute. But if you grew up with that sort of video game then the older games will tend to be more anonymous, no "hero" to latch onto.