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Growing up Atari

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Cebus Capucinis


I have talked about this quite a bit, so I am sorry if someone has heard this already.


Today I went through some of my Atari collection and played some of the old carts. Of course, I inevitably got to Space Invaders. My Space Invaders has got to be one of the worst examples of an Atari pic label cart on Earth; the end label is barely hanging by a thread, there is plaque all over the front label, and there are all sorts of scuffs, dings, and scratches. All-in-all, it is a terrible cart.


I have come across lots of Space Invaders replacements for my Atari collection, but none are ever good enough. I'm not complaining; some of them are absolutely perfect in condition. Some are absolutely pristine, appearing to have been made in the factory yesterday. But I'd never trade, buy, or swap my copy for one reason: my dad.


One of my very earliest memories involves my dad and the Space Invaders game. It was the very first Atari game I ever played! I was 5 or 6 at the time and, as most small boys do, loved following my dad around doing all sorts of 'grown up' things like helping take out the trash, cleaning the floors, working in the yard, etc. Of course I was more of a hindrance than a help, but it was still one of my proudest 6-year old accomplishments to help out my dad. One day while following him around and getting in the way, he sat down at the TV and started playing a game! I didn't know what it was all about so I sat next to him and watched.


A cavalcade of interstellar aliens dropped from the screen, with only my dad to save the planet from destruction. Of course, being 6, I was mesmerized -- but then, something amazing happened! An errant shot from an alien killed my dad's spaceship. Of course, anyone familiar with the 2600 Space Invaders knows the rather 'fart-like' sound that emanates when your character dies. I was absolutely in STITCHES! This was the funniest thing I could ever experience in my entire life! A spaceship that FARTS!


After laughing until I was blue in the face, I remember my dad giving me the controller and letting me try to play. How could a kid take a game seriously after hearing a sound like that? Clearly I purposely went out of my way to die, rolling on the floor as soon as I heard the sound. This probably went on for 10-15 minutes, much to my dad's irritation (of course, being the good-natured dad he is, he likely just grinned and put up with it). My attention span finally stopped with the noise and focused on the game. I was terrible at it, surely. Six year olds aren't notorious for getting billions of points at video games.


Then my dad did something that to this day still makes me smile -- he switched it to the co-op game variant in which 2 plays can play simultaneously. I'm not sure which one it is, but it is the one in which the ships cannot cross each other -- they simply bump against each other and don't move past. I must have played Space Invaders with my dad for hours. We would go out of our way to bump into each other purposely, pushing the other person on the shoulder and saying things like 'HEY PAL GET OUTTA MY WAY' and both of us would start laughing.


As I grew up, Space Invaders didn't become as important, and I had forgotten the game. Before I left for college, however, I was going through some boxes and found my Atari 7800 and a bunch of cartridges. Many did not survive my mom's garage sale tendencies, but I was amazed and very happily surprised to see that beat up Space Invaders cartridge.


I still have it, obviously, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. You can have your video games with your HDMI graphics and your ultra-lightning-fast gameplay. I'll stick to my beat-up old Space Invaders and the memory of a 6-year old and his dad.

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