Ahh.. one of my favorite Christmas stories. As told by my mother... to my new wife when I was 20 (in 1994).
Summer 1983- I was nine, and I was the video game king of the area. I shoveled my allowance into the local arcade. I was a sucker for the likes of Donkey Kong Jr., Roc n Rope, Time Pilot, Sinistar, Mario Bros., Excitebike, Defender, and Mr. Do. I begged and pleaded for an Atari for my birthday (mid-June) and begged and pleaded more. Growing up on a farm, we didn't have fancy pants electronics and were used to doing without the finer things, but I argued an investment in this would save money in the long run. In the end, I was denied. It was unfair to spend $300 on a system for just me with my older sister's birthday a few months away and she would merit $300 then and it was just far too much money.
As Christmas approached, a few boxes of a familiar shape arrived under the tree. Some for me, some for my mother, a couple for dad, and a few for my sister. Odd.. that we would get similar sized gifts.
And as Christmas arrived, Santa dropped a big ass box in the middle of the living room.
I tore into my presents- Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Missile Command, and E.T.; Mom opened Sky Diver and Indy 500; my sister had Super Breakout and Slot Racers; Dad had Raiders of the Lost Ark, Berzerk, and Yar's Revenge. (I might be off a game or two, but these are the boxes I still have in the basement). And from Santa: a beautiful Sears Video Arcade System II.
Holy [email protected]
So my dad, a 45 year old farmer, spent time going through the manuals and fiddling with the TV until we got things hooked up. I played all morning until mid-afternoon. It was *glorious*.
Then my dad, who scowled at my foolish game playing, asked if he could try playing a few. I walked him through the controls, pointed out stuff in the manuals, put it on kiddie mode ("I think I can play as an adult"), and he proceeded to DESTROY ME IN EVERY GAME.
#$ I AM THE GAMESMASTER!
And this guy who drives a tractor ran loops around me (full disclosure: he was in the Army for 4 years when he was 18, and flew a Cessna plane). It took until the following summer to get to his level. And by then we had Warlords, Canyon Bomber, Star Raiders, Superman, Outlaw, and later the Swordquest games and Asteroids. The video game crash of '83 blessed our local Alco store with loads of cheap family entertainment.
So then my mom continues on- "...and do you remember when you came home from school early once that September and I met you at the door and shooed you back outside? That's because your Dad was busy yanking the Atari out of the living room and jamming it under our bed. You see, we DID get you that Atari for your birthday, but Dad didn't want to look like a hick farmer to his son, so he hooked it up and tried out one of the games. And from June 1st until December 24th, when he wasn't out working in the fields or with the livestock, he was glued to the TV playing video games the moment you kids left for school. We started out with just Pac Man and Space Invaders, but once they started getting cheap at True Value and Alco, your Dad was all 'one more won't hurt'."
I was stunned. And to this day, my old man was awesome.