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Why the fascination with the 2600?

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Probably like many who are hanging around this forum, I’ve been a gamer since the home version of Pong was released. I have owned almost every console up to the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U, at which point I became disenchanted with modern gaming.

 

In terms of strictly playing games, I would say my favourite consoles of all time are the original Playstation, Super Nintendo, and Dreamcast, in that order. However, I would say the 2600 is the console that has had the most impact on me (in an almost emotional way), and to this day I’m still endlessly fascinated with it. I think it’s awesome that amazing homebrew games are still being released, and would love to live in some parallel world where the Atari VCS was still a thing.

 

The thing is, I’m not really sure why this is the case. Why is there still a connection with this primitive outdated machine 40 years later? I wonder if anyone else feels the same way, and if so, can you articulate why?

 

 

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I'd imagine for many it was their first console and they grew up with it. The other, for me anyway, is how they did so much with so little. I can still cruise through a game like Adventure or H.E.R.O. and enjoy it. Today there's 50GB games I try & go yuck. Far as the emotional attachement, I've got that with most of my owned consoles/computers through 2000. 2500, Colecovision, Commodore 64 & Amiga, Sega Genesis/Saturn/Dreamcast. Even the OG Xbox since it has one of my favorite games of all time on it, Jet Set Radio Future.

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1. It did SO MUCH for gaming, with SO LITTLE hardware.

 

2. It came along at an interesting time in history: (a) It was first, (b) it coincided with the arcade game boom

 

3. I was just the right age to fully immerse myself in it and obsess over minutae like I wouldn't have if I were older.

 

4. It laid the groundwork for future console ecosystems, including management of third party licensees. Nintendo's iron grip on cartridge manufacturing was a response to Atari's lack of control for its platform.

 

5. It's old enough to be sufficiently different from modern gaming to make it interesting, with a style all its own.

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For me it is because it was my first console and I still have that same console. Another thing I believe it has going for it is it was THE home console during the Golden Age of arcade gaming when video games were a huge cultural phenomenon.

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For me, the VCS/2600 combines two new life-altering technologies: Video Games and Microcomputers

 

Video Games:

For those of us who were there at the time, we remember that playing a coin-op video game was still a somewhat new phenomenon. Remember that only five years had passed since the introduction of coin-op Pong and the introduction of the VCS. Coin-op games were still very much in the Black & White era, when the VCS brought video games home and displayed them in color. The original pack-in cartridge was Combat; which used the arcade game "Tank" as a starting point to demonstrate how the player/missile graphics system in the VCS allowed for multiple game variations per cartridge.

 

Microcomputers:

The year of the Atari VCS was also the year of the microcomputer Triumvirate.

post-12574-0-76255900-1555166504.jpg

 

While most American households could not spare the $600 cost of entry for a home computer ($2,500+ in today's dollars), the VCS was pricey, but do-able. The text above the cartridge slot said, "Video Computer System". And those of us who were paying attention knew that it wasn't just rhetoric; there really was an honest-to-gosh 6507 microprocessor in there; as Wikipedia explains, "essentially a 6502 chip in a smaller, cheaper 28-pin package".

 

For those of us who lived close enough to a Radio Shack to spend a Saturday afternoon writing an "I'm thinking of a number between one and ten" BASIC language program on the 4K Model 1, until the manager kicked you out... going home afterwards and playing "Space War" on the family VCS would fill your head with fantasies of storing physics formulas inside a computer memory to calculate the motion vectors offset by the gravity of the "sun" in the center of the screen.

 

And a final thought; this was "The Atari Age". There were some other names in coin-op video starting to appear, but there was this feeling that "Atari" was the original and the best. There was a definite connection between "Atari at the arcade" and "Atari in your living room". I can't think of another intersection of technology, entertainment, and a brand-name before or since.

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Mostly due to being particularly suited to pre Nintendo game designs.

 

Also, a love for risk taking one man band game development :)

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Nostalgia. It was the first "computer" in my family's home. While I was being introduced to Apple IIs in school as a child, we got a VCS at home. From Sears. Under the Christmas tree. I still remember the fascination!

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(a) It was first,

Buuuuuut it wasn't its not even first to have game programs on cart (thats the channel f)

 

But atari had a large fanbase when it came out which helped a ton

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The games are fun, man. H.E.R.O is cool. Pitfall II. Asteroids. Adventure. I never cared about how a game looked, only if it played well & challenged me. I've been trying out the Super Nintendo and I hate the thing. Buttons in awkward spots, games I don't care for. Sure the games are pretty, but I haven't found one that I really like. I'm glad I went through the catalog before getting a Super NT based on the hype.

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Buuuuuut it wasn't its not even first to have game programs on cart (thats the channel f)

 

But atari had a large fanbase when it came out which helped a ton

First to stick around long enough to have a decent library, anyway. First to be popular and have a few killer games.
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Star Raiders, first console killer app. Still a great game.

 

Also, Pac Man, played that for hours and hours. I bought the console on that strength.

 

By the time the NES came around, we were all playing 16bit, ST and Amiga. So the NES was a step backwards, games were priced totally rip-off, and nobody was interested.

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First console "killer app"? Not Star Raiders, but Space Invaders. When that was released, stores sold out of consoles (as well as cartridges) seemingly overnight.

 

First programmable console in my household was the Fairchild (late 1978). Problem was, that there were only a couple of games that had any replay value. The rest weren't as much fun as even the built-in games. Pretty much forgotten about within a year and Atari took over the world.

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First console "killer app"? Not Star Raiders, but Space Invaders. When that was released, stores sold out of consoles (as well as cartridges) seemingly overnight.

 

First programmable console in my household was the Fairchild (late 1978). Problem was, that there were only a couple of games that had any replay value. The rest weren't as much fun as even the built-in games. Pretty much forgotten about within a year and Atari took over the world.

 

I meant Space Invaders, thanks for the correction. And I actually thought it looked wrong, couldn't put my finger on it.

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Probably like many who are hanging around this forum, I’ve been a gamer since the home version of Pong was released. I have owned almost every console up to the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U, at which point I became disenchanted with modern gaming.

 

In terms of strictly playing games, I would say my favourite consoles of all time are the original Playstation, Super Nintendo, and Dreamcast, in that order. However, I would say the 2600 is the console that has had the most impact on me (in an almost emotional way), and to this day I’m still endlessly fascinated with it. I think it’s awesome that amazing homebrew games are still being released, and would love to live in some parallel world where the Atari VCS was still a thing.

 

The thing is, I’m not really sure why this is the case. Why is there still a connection with this primitive outdated machine 40 years later? I wonder if anyone else feels the same way, and if so, can you articulate why?

 

 

 

I was feeling a little the same after the Wii U. It was only because of my son that I caved and bought a PS4 that Christmas. I'm so glad I did. The PS4 has been soooo much fun to play with. I really couldn't ask for much more out of a modern console with it's wide variety of games and other software like media player and netflix just to name a couple.

 

 

As for my personal connection to the 2600? I believe it's because she was my first. You never forget your first :P

 

EDIT: That and 2600 games are still just as fun to play for me now as they where over 30 years ago.

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Nostalgia and familiarity. I can't really play a lot of 2600 games these days and enjoy them. It's just too primitive. I'm sure there are those who can, but I'll bet the number of those people is a subset of the number of those who really talk about the 2600 here and buy its games, because a lot of those people are just doing so because they grew up with the system and remember it fondly. And there's nothing wrong with that - I enjoy my memories too, and there are games I grew up with that I still play mostly for that reason too.

 

Funny thing is I asked for an Intellivision from my parents because even at the time, I thought the 2600 was too primitive. So this could be one of those things that really separates people by just a couple of years, 40 years ago.

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I still play VCS games. But I do not play them for any length of time. Recently it's down to 10-20 minutes per week.

 

Mostly VCS (today) is about familiarity and remembering the good times of being a kid and discovering everything in computers and electronics. Seemed like such a vast hobby and career field compared to the BS my parents were doing.. or not doing..

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Posted (edited)

I like the Atari games for to be not too complex. Insert module, play game, shut it off, nothing lost. Do that with a Nintendo switch for example. Insert game, learn controls, do tutorials, play, get angry because things gets too complex, shut it off, loosing progress. After two weeks you forgot how to control that game....so all over again...learn controls, do tutorials and in case you saved earlier, learn the history of the games story again....means you can also start at the beginning. Im done with that. Thats gaming? If one asks me, its not gaming.

 

I like my original 6 light. Even if it produces a RF signal beyond good and evil. Maybe Ill do a av mod, maybe not. What counts for me is the easy accessibility on all atari games I possess. And not to forget to mention the process when you insert a new game. Big handy modules with big picture or text descriptions on it. On my Switch for example the modules are very tiny. So tiny, youll need glasses to read the modules name or to see the pictures. Well, thats just work to me if I just want to play a game.

 

And so on and so on. The list only would get longer the more I would write :-) I like my Atari and the illusion of technical advantages on newer consoles have been demasked on me. Everything on there is just a big money making machine. DLC, controller that costs 80 for a pair, paid gold subscriptions, illusion of getting more content if you collect gold points for buying aso aso.....

Edited by Lohe
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Probably like many who are hanging around this forum, I’ve been a gamer since the home version of Pong was released. I have owned almost every console up to the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U, at which point I became disenchanted with modern gaming.

 

In terms of strictly playing games, I would say my favourite consoles of all time are the original Playstation, Super Nintendo, and Dreamcast, in that order. However, I would say the 2600 is the console that has had the most impact on me (in an almost emotional way), and to this day I’m still endlessly fascinated with it. I think it’s awesome that amazing homebrew games are still being released, and would love to live in some parallel world where the Atari VCS was still a thing.

 

The thing is, I’m not really sure why this is the case. Why is there still a connection with this primitive outdated machine 40 years later? I wonder if anyone else feels the same way, and if so, can you articulate why?

 

 

 

The 2600 was my first console, but I don't like it as much as I do some of the later machines I owned because it felt too limiting even then. But the 2600 homebrew scene is awesome for sure. Many games they produced are more compelling than many original titles.

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My first introduction to gaming was the TI 99-4/A and the Commodore 64 (later). My first console was the NES. :)

 

Part of the appeal for the 2600 for me since I don't really have a nostalgic connection to it is the simplicity and engagement of the games, like others have mentioned. I have a heck of a lot of fun playing games like River Raid or Asteroids simply because you turn on the 2600, you grab your joystick, and you go. My daughter and I for a long time had a long-standing Freeway competition where she was pretty brutal!

 

The homebrew scene now is simply fantastic. I haven't been able to buy as much as I want, but I picked up Ladybug and Pacman 4K last year- those are fantastic games. Wizard of Wor is shaping up to look awesome, and Mappy looks awesome too.

 

So many games, so little discretionary income. ;)

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It was my first console in 83 (or 84?) One advantage was games were cheap for it, New games often being in the $20~ ish price range before the market collapsed. If course they were REALLY cheap then. Yeah, Nintendo might have brought gaming back into the spotlight, but they also bought them into the routine $80+ range.

 

Games were about being fun, simple to play, nearly impossible to master affairs. Look at what kids play now days, many cellphone games are really just reimagined, sometimes literally reskinned Atari style games.

 

And it doesn't hurt that 40 years later, I can still get new games that do things that we would have insisted were impossible, even only a few years ago. And it still remains easy to pick up and play around your schedule, he that a few minutes, or a few hours.

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Games were about being fun, simple to play, nearly impossible to master affairs. Look at what kids play now days, many cellphone games are really just reimagined, sometimes literally reskinned Atari style games.

 

 

I had always thought about this regarding cell phone games and have actually found many gameplay elements in new cell games would work really well on the Atari.

 

As for my fascination, it is a combination of nostalgia for my first system as well more of an understanding of just how amazing and pioneering some of those early programmers were when making games around the limitations of the system.

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I've never liked the straight "nostalgia" explanation or the word "retro", partially because it excludes me since I didn't grow up with this stuff, but also because I think it tends to trivialize the whole thing and tie it into a retired experience.

 

To me the 2600 retains the dreams and imagination of video games in a way that is generally lost in contemporary gaming.

 

Many of the best 2600 games were made by a single person and my impression is that the average size group of designers/programmers/writers was something like five or six people. Compared to today when a console game typically has hundreds. So it is much easier as a fan to fantasize about being one of those people, like being in a band. Also on this scale it has always seemed more practical to me to consider these makers as authors or artists or inspired engineers, with an appreciation for the true form of the thing.

 

There was experimentation and discovery in those days and the commercial and industrial enterprise was much less regimented. It looks like a creative bubble where everyone was chasing new ideas and concepts. The engineers, the entrepeneurs, the salesmen, the manufacturers and the consumers were all a party to a spectacle of production and innovation. It is fun to reenact that spectacle, whether you were a part of it or not.

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I've never liked the straight "nostalgia" explanation or the word "retro", partially because it excludes me since I didn't grow up with this stuff, but also because I think it tends to trivialize the whole thing and tie it into a retired experience.

 

To me the 2600 retains the dreams and imagination of video games in a way that is generally lost in contemporary gaming.

 

Many of the best 2600 games were made by a single person and my impression is that the average size group of designers/programmers/writers was something like five or six people. Compared to today when a console game typically has hundreds. So it is much easier as a fan to fantasize about being one of those people, like being in a band. Also on this scale it has always seemed more practical to me to consider these makers as authors or artists or inspired engineers, with an appreciation for the true form of the thing.

 

There was experimentation and discovery in those days and the commercial and industrial enterprise was much less regimented. It looks like a creative bubble where everyone was chasing new ideas and concepts. The engineers, the entrepeneurs, the salesmen, the manufacturers and the consumers were all a party to a spectacle of production and innovation. It is fun to reenact that spectacle, whether you were a part of it or not.

If I may ask, how old are you that you have this tremendous insight?

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