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Why the fascination with the 2600?

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From a developer's perspective :

I never have done any 2600 programming, but I've watched a lot of in depth discussions go by here on AA. I get the impression that because the system is SO minimal, and SO hard to get anything playable on, that it becomes a real accomplishment to produce anything that's enjoyable to play. I've seen threads where people get into such depth that it's like watching a bunch of Zen masters discussing reality or a roomful of physics geniuses arguing about why string theory is a waste of time (it is). A 2600 programmer has to control every single last thing, and the opportunity for making a clever hack or doing something that no-one's ever thought of is very high. I mean, if I write a game to move balls around and do collisions with bricks using a modern computer and something like Visual Basic, I'd just get a pat on the head and congratulations for not being a complete moron. If I do the same on the 2600 from scratch, that's impressive. Some people like really hard stuff.

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I can say that my fascination with it was partly because that time was special, for a number of reasons, and the VCS one of them. This kind of stuff was new, and it was impressive beyond what people who grew up in a later era can really appreciate. This was beyond cards, or board games. It was "next-level". And they created the genres that we still play today for the most part, so when these new types of games came out it was kind of a big deal.

 

I guess I can only speak for myself, a little kid at the time, but that's what grabbed me. Tech really became a genuine obsession for certain people around then, and now it's spread to nearly everybody to some degree. I personally skipped over NES because I quickly moved from 2600 and consoles to real computers like Atari 8-bit machines, apple ][, C64 et al and never even played anything on NES until years after it's release.

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For me, it's the style of game that the 2600 has. Let me explain what I mean. What we call video games these days tend to be large, involved, cinematic experiences or encapsulated worlds/sandboxes. They have nothing in common with what were called games before, things like chess checkers and bridge. Classic games were often simple, with few rules, and fairly abstract. The complexity came in due to the interaction of those rules, or through player skill.

The Atari 2600 comes from a time when video games were still games in the classic sense: small, abstract, simple, but yet also very challenging and deep once you learned all the fine details involved in getting good. They were simple, but skill based. Not much different than horse shoes or rummy that way.

I find it refreshing to go back to games like this. They make great quick entertainment, even if I do love the modern 'world in a box' stuff. Fun is fun, you know?

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For me, the Atari 2600 was before my time. However, I have a connection to it not because I grew up with it. I grew up on the Super Nintendo. I have a connection with it because of its rich history. cultural influence, and ground breaking technology for the time. I am absolutely fascinated with the history of gaming and respect the Atari as one of the first home gaming consoles to touch so many people's lives and give creativity and inspiration to all the generations that came during and after it. The gaming world of today would be very different if it weren't for the birth of the Atari.

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Simplicity of the games appeals to young and old alike. Oldsters like it because they don't need in-depth manuals and thousands of rules. Young ones like it because they can comprehend the games straight away, and plug-in their imagination to gussy-up the experience.

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It was my first console, before I eventually got given a NES and eventually moving over to Sega. I actually don't like the 2600 that much and didn't buy any extra games for it for over a decade, and play a lot more 7800 games, but the benefit of the 7800 is the ability to play 2600 too. 7800 plugged into my TV right now so it gets a lot of use.

 

Galaxian was my first video game that I owned and it got a LOT of use followed by centipede which I also love.

 

I just bought a UNO cart (awesome stuff!) so playing homebrew games at the moment, but I have 136 carts after a recent spree - its actually beaten my 118 PS2 game collection.

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For me, it's the style of game that the 2600 has. Let me explain what I mean. What we call video games these days tend to be large, involved, cinematic experiences or encapsulated worlds/sandboxes. They have nothing in common with what were called games before, things like chess checkers and bridge. Classic games were often simple, with few rules, and fairly abstract. The complexity came in due to the interaction of those rules, or through player skill.

 

The Atari 2600 comes from a time when video games were still games in the classic sense: small, abstract, simple, but yet also very challenging and deep once you learned all the fine details involved in getting good. They were simple, but skill based. Not much different than horse shoes or rummy that way.

 

I find it refreshing to go back to games like this. They make great quick entertainment, even if I do love the modern 'world in a box' stuff. Fun is fun, you know?

WELL stated and totally agree

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Like many others said, it was my first console. I can remember playing yar's revenge, barnstorming, vanguard for hours. Was my first taste of video games. I cant even remember if I played an arcade cabinet first, or 2600.

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I like the simplicity of the graphics. It allows your imagination to run wild. I didn't grow up with the 2600. I started with the NES and worked my way up from there. Later on, I tried some older systems, eventually leading me to the 2600. Even though I wasn't born until 1978, I have a strong connection to the 70s. Hell, I had an 8 track player in my car in the late 90s, on purpose! I guess overall, I never grew up. I'm sure a therapist would have an explanation. Anyway, back on track, I still collect Transformers (just like some other members here). Something about them takes me back to a time when I was happy and the world was full of possibilities. I've also gotten hooked on antique train sets from the 50s. I wasn't around when they came out, but when I run them around the track, It's like I'm right there. So I guess the 2600 somehow takes me back to a time when things weren't as depressing. I can't really call it nostalgia, since I didn't have one as a kid, but it's somehow equivalent. It just gives me an escape from now, to a place where I'm happy.

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I'm not sure the 70's were very happy. We were getting over the racial tensions of the 60's, the Vietnam war, Watergate, the beginnings of modern terrorism, high oil prices, 3 TV channels with no recording ability, and the cold war that seemed to never end. Being able to plug something into the TV and play was priceless. It was an oasis from the depression the decade was feeding us.

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There is definitely a nostalgia attached to it as I some great family memories from playing the Atari 2600 together. I agree with the comments about its simplicity and doing a lot with a little. They had to be creative and come up with ideas for games that were just fun. They never lost sight of the fact that having fun was the most important thing and therefore these games are just timeless (well, the good ones). I loved my Commodore Amiga as well (and it also had some great games) but there were some games on there where they got distracted by the graphics and making the game look good. They forgot about the gameplay and some of the games on the Amiga were like graphics demonstrations rather than games. Defender of the Crown and Shadow of the Beast stand out from memory as examples. I remember being annoyed that the C64 reviews of the same game scored higher and wondered how it could be true, but they were absolutely spot on. I think the PS1 suffered the same with games that looked good at the time but played terribly. They also had appalling full motion video. When you go back to them now, they don't look good anymore and never had the gameplay to begin with. I am also not a fan of the interactive movie style games where large periods of time pass without you doing anything or games that start with an hour long tutorial. Give me the simplicity of the Atari 2600 any day, not forgetting the amazing things that have been achieved recently on the platform.

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