Takin’ It Back to the Old School

Space Invaders Controls

So without rejecting the theme I am trying to formulate here I want to continue with gaming for people over 50.  In doing so I don’t want to reject the classics. This blog post discusses a few classic games and will mix in some topics we have been discussing in the class I am currently taking at the University of Michigan this semester.  One of the topics will be the ability to manipulate these games through their controllers as related to interactivity. I know, you already know about the controllers…joystick, buttons, a trackball or even a gun so my point is not to bore you with the basics but to mix in the classic argument of interaction and maybe a little about challenge and the objectives of each game discussed.

Ms. Pac-Man & Galaga

Pong, (Ms.)Pac-Man, Defender, and Frogger… some of the mindless classics played by millions of kids, and adults, around the world with nothing more than a joystick and maybe a single button for the purpose of jumping or some other linear action.  These games appealed to people of my age, and hell, why shouldn’t they have. They were fresh off the block. Nothing out there was ever like them before. People who are now around the age of 50 were the target audience for these games then. The idea behind the simplicity was in that a frog should only do a few basic movements in order to cross the road and they wanted to keep these games simple.  The question comes back to would a game like this be considered challenging given that the actual objectives were so mundane?


The interaction for these new “students” of video gaming was in the give and take.  I gave these games a quarter and they took my three lives, which pissed me off enough to put in another quarter to continue to get better at these games.  The interaction of these early games and gamers was mostly in the attitude that, myself and so many others retained, I was going to beat “you”. You have to think about the fact that we were the children of those who fought in WWII or Korea.  We weren’t hard, but we were raised harder than the kids today but not as tough as those who raised us. We retained part of the “you mess with me and I’ll kill ya” gene which was just enough to make us come back for more and more “punishment” from these inanimate objects.

Dodgeball – Greatest American Sport Ever!

We weren’t an entirely different breed than the kids growing up today, we were just limited on our challenges back then.  Doing 10 pull-ups, climbing the gym class rope up twenty feet, and beaning another child in the head with a rubber Dodgeball were the best we had then.  Although I LOVED the Dodgeball challenge, mostly because I was fortunate enough to be good at it, I still wanted more challenges in life though. Kids now have such an extensive amount of challenges that I would have never fathomed what was to explode from a square “ball” bouncing back and forth across a black background to which would be deflected by a vertical “racket”.  In the beginning the extremely limited interactivity of games has blow up to something much more now.

“Feed Me!!!”

In review of any of the original games objectives, one can see that they couldn’t have been more simple.  That wasn’t the crux of the idea behind these early games. They were supposed to be easy. The idea was to draw in the masses with an easy concept and keep their attention with the challenge of completing these simple objectives with the hope of completing the game, if there was even a completion to them (and in many cases I don’t believe there actually was one).  If there was, then the completion would be the ultimate goal of the game. I can’t tell you how many quarters I spent on these games. I would run home from school, go out on my paper route, deliver my papers and then collect money from “just enough” customers to make sure my papers were paid for, then I would head right up to the arcade with the rest of the money.

For any younger readers, you have to understand these games were “out there” and there wasn’t anything like them that we had ever seen.  Playing them was cutting edge. Relate it to the over 200 VR games that PS4 has out now. It was as exciting as that “new” technology is. (VR tech has actually been out for many years but is just now catching on…kind of like 3D movies, been there for years, never quite made it, but they keep coming back).  The interaction with these games was, obviously through the controls laid out in front of us, but it was also psychological in that we wanted, dare I say needed, to beat these machines.

VR Gear from PS4

These games were simple, challenging, and they had obvious objectives to a final goal.  For us “old timers” these were the epitome of the computer age. Overall, with the classic games, I don’t believe there was very much in the way of physical connection to the games.  At least not like the gaming industry is creating for us now with technology like VR and the full immersion VR that is soon to come from companies like Virtuix Omni who will, hopefully, work with PS to integrate their tech to the games PS has.  This is the new wave of the future which I hope catches on in a big way because after experiencing it first hand…it is incredible and needs to become the next big thing.

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