19 March 2010

Galaga - Atari 400

I used tho think my brother's friend Ricky was one of the coolest guys in the world. I was probably 8 at the time, and he and my brother were in their 20s. They had cool old cars. They had pretty girlfriends. And Ricky had an Atari 400 computer hooked up to an old color TV in his bedroom. My brother was cool enough to take me over there one night. In fact, my brother Danny was always great about taking me with him when he was doing something fun.
He took me to Skateland with his girlfriend. (One night they wouldn't let him in because he had a Heineken tank top on. I thought he was a badass.)
He took me to my first arcade.
He took me to see movies and, unlike my brother Ralph, he actually paid for the tickets instead of shaking me down for the money Mom gave me for the day.
Danny was, and is, a cool guy. He introduced me to the Atari 2600 when I was a kid. This whole blog might as well be dedicated to him.
I don't know if he still talks to Ricky - if memory serves Ricky was the kind of guy who often was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong stuff - but I remember the night Ricky let me play Galaga on his Atari 400.
Galaga is to gamers what rice is to a sushi chef. If you can't hack it, you might as well find something else to do. This is not to say that I'm a master, but I can get my money's worth out of a quarter.
It's also the kind of game that haunts gamers of a certain age (30s). It pops up throughout your life. When I was a kid and Ricky let me play it while he and my brother were partying, it was a perfectly translated arcade game played on a home console. Back then, that was the highest praise you could give a game.
Years later when it was tucked into a corner of the college game room it was an old school title that was certain to attract people who knew what they were doing. When I graduated and a friend of mine bought a Galaga cabinet for his basement office, I knew it was one of a handful of games – Mrs. Pac Man, Missile Command, Donkey Kong – that would truly last forever.
But the one thing I think about more than any other when I see an old Galaga cabinet in a hot dog joint or tavern is my brother, Danny.
It's a cool game. He's a cool guy. And I was a lucky kid.
By Victor Paul Alvarez