How I Became the World’s Greatest Gamer

Hold onto your Pac-Man hats, kids.  I have a confession to make.

I am a gamer.

And a damned good one.

It all started back in 1979 when I was nine years old. My dad walked into our living room and yelled, “Check this out, guys!”

With a flourish he clicked on our wood-paneled TV. Then the heavens opened, the angels sung and my life changed forevermore.

All due to this remarkable piece of technology:


I was hopelessly mesmerized the moment the fuzzy pixelated shapes materialized before my eyes.

What in the world is this? Is this for real? Have we all gone mad? Has all that Mello Yello mixed with Pop Rocks finally fried our brains? It was hard to wrap our heads around what we were witnessing.


My brothers and I continued to stare, our mouths agape as the ball sloooowly blipped back and forth across the screen from paddle to paddle.

Sure, graphics back then were nothing more than crudely formed rectangles, but we were in control of them! Me! A girl who wore thick tortoise-shell glasses and rainbow Mork suspenders, who had previously spent her days sticking multi-colored pegs into a magic light board!

Yeah, you know what, Dad? This really sucks.
Yeah, you know what, Dad? This really sucks.

Suddenly, we had the power to move objects on a TV screen. Our little minds were officially blown.

And my video game addiction began.

Shortly after Pong, Combat came along. Hallelujah! Thank the glorious Atari gods above!


This is when my gaming strategy skills really started to take hold. Now I had a little tank that fired and crept slow-as-death across the screen. Why, I could even hide behind barriers!  Sadly, this was my main tactic. My brothers were relentless, always cornering me, then spraying me with a steady barrage of ammunition, effectively blowing my spinning tank around the screen like a sad discarded piece of garbage.

Yet those brutal early gaming days taught me resolve, to never give up in my quest to achieve those impossible goals.

Like crossing the damn road without becoming a frog pancake.


untitled (3)Frogger was the game where everything gelled. My skills grew by leaps and bounds. A fire burned in my belly, my focus sharpened. As God is my witness, I will save Frogger! My eyes would twitch as I gripped the Atari joystick, ignoring the gnawing ache in my thumb from pressing the little red button over and over again. Ignoring all forms of human contact. Ignoring food, water or toilet. My ultimate goal in life?  To be the best gamer that ever lived. Or at least better than my butthead brothers.

My tween years flew by in a blur of pixelated images:

…there I was, swinging on a vine across precarious pits filled with snapping crocodiles!


…transporting a stunningly ugly but oddly sweet creature back home!


…gobbling up ghosts while sporting a lovely pink bow!


Then the love of my life finally entered the picture and captured my heart.

He was short, dark, handsome and unplugged toilets in his spare time.


It was the summer of 1990 and I was back home from college. I knew I had to work overtime at L.L. Bean’s folding turtlenecks to pay the big bucks it would cost to get my trigger-happy hands on the holy grail of gaming:

the Super Nintendo.

untitled (5)

And every single penny was worth it. Worth the 15 hours a day I sat there and played Super Mario Bros. until my eyes bled. I was so good at that game, my brother and his friends would often begrudgingly ask me to help them get through the more difficult levels. 

“Oh!” I’d say smugly. “You’re telling me Mario has to run, double jump, twirl, spin, flip, morph into a raccoon, THEN dive onto Bowser’s head three times in rapid succession, all while avoiding shooting laser beams and fiery pits of death? Hand me the controller. Watch and learn, my friends. Watch. And. Learn.”

Dear Bowzer, my name is Mario. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
Dear Bowser, my name is Mario. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

I could defeat any game with one hand and both eyes closed.

Gee, that’s terrific, Darla, you snicker. So you’re good at doing something really stupid and completely meaningless? Did you ever even see the sun once during your childhood? You must be so proud.

Well, first off, I do know the sun somewhat resembles a circle, and I’m guessing it’s similar to the gold coins Mario likes to collect.

Secondly, I am very proud, thank you. This weekend I plan on playing Mario Kart 7 on my son’s Wii, making sure he eats my wake so I can gloat in his face the rest of the week. Of course, this will be after I help my husband get through the harder levels in the new Tomb Raider. Yes, there will be much gloating all-around.

And they said my gaming skills would never amount to anything.


What was your favorite video game as a kid?  I will bet you I’ve played it and scored a million points.

If you’ve never played a video game, what other useless skills do you possess?

135 thoughts on “How I Became the World’s Greatest Gamer

  1. Hahahaha! THIS:

    “Well, first off, I do know the sun somewhat resembles a circle, and I’m guessing it’s similar to the gold coins Mario likes to collect.”

    My son has been loving the card game Magic while he’s been away at summer camp. I wonder how fast he’ll dump those cards once he gets back to his computer screen and Mindcraft. I’m betting 5, maybe 6 seconds.

    1. Oh good lord,. Minecraft is my son’s newest obsession. He plays it on the little ipad tablet and will constantly bring it over to show me. He’ll say, “See this Mom?” then I am forced to sit there and get motion sickness while he shows me all the stuff he’s built and it all looks like just blobs to me. That is one game I will never play.

  2. I go through phases of mild adiction to video games. As I’m the same age as you, I went through the same early wonderment as you. Plus my Dad used to design electronic components so we were always the first to have any new technology at home. One of my first game addictions was a game called caterpillar, it was very similar to space invaders but it was a big segmented caterpilar zigzagging down the screen and you had to shoot each of its segements before it reached the bottom, and there were spiders and things dropping down that you had to avoid too. My favourite hand held game was puck monster which was basically a pac man copy. Tetris was very big for me at one time too, actually at more than one time. Oh and goldminer, still like that actually. And I also really like Mario Kart on the Wii! Tetris is the only one that I developed any great skill for though.

    1. Oh yeah! I played centipede and millipede for endless hours! When I first met my husband, we’d sit there and play old school Atari on his playstation and I’d, of course, kick his sorry butt.

      Also, tetris was huge. I’d play that on my computer back in the day. I was so good, I used to close my eyes at night and still see the game, I could even move blocks around with my mind. That was the first sign I should quit playing Tetris.

  3. Le Clown

    THIS post I love. So much nostalgia, even if you’re trying to be funny, which you are… I remember Super Mario at the arcade, and the pinball machines, and the cigarettes gamers would let burn on the screen of the game, while I waited my turn with a quarter.

    Oh… and a few years back, I hadan epic LEGO Pong duel with my wife, with real LEGO blocks and no electricity. Fond, fond memory. Magnificent™ post.
    Le Clown

    1. I could write another entire post just about arcades. Standing around, waiting and waiting for that jerky kid to FINALLY let you play Space Invaders. I remember the sole reason for my paper route was so I could have enough quarters to go to the arcade uptown. We’d all get on our bikes and zoom off, spending the entire afternoon in the dark playing Asteroids. Good stuff.

  4. Darla, Darla, Darla you hold the holy grail of motherhood…The Skill To Gloat In The Of Your Offspring. This will come is handy when he reaches that wonderful age of eye rolling and telling you that you “don’t know anything.” You can just say “Mario Brothers” and walk away slowly, turning back once to see the dust. Now get out there and kick some ass girl…for all the mothers!

    1. Oh, don’t you know it! It’s is with great pride that my son tells his friends his mother can play Mario Kart and WIN. I just wish I knew how to harness my abilities and transform them into a viable career.

  5. ha ha ha ha Hi-LARIOUS. The line about the sun/gold coins killed me. I’m with you on Mario Bros. all the way – my brother and I used to play for HOURS.

    Peppermeister and I had a Wii for a while, and then sold it because we never played. At one point I did get some serious tennis elbow, though.

    Is it sad that I insisted on keeping my old Lite Brite after my parents’ last garage sale? Maybe I should get another Wii…

    1. I’m also very good at any of the Wii games. Bowling? Tennis? Golf? I will kick serious ass. (god, I sound like such a pompous jerk and I love it) What’s funny is I’m so good at this stuff, yet can’t seem to figure out how to walk across the living room without tripping.

      1. OH! lets not forget….DR. MARIO! That’s when it came out TWO people could play against each other on the same the same time…it was war. My brother and I would go at it. Those little pills coming down and they would get faster and faster..sweat beating off your brow…i’m feeling all Xanax now thinking bout it…

  6. Okay, here’s my sob story. Even though my father made like a zillion dollars in a sales career, beyond PONG, we never had a game system. Maybe the problem was I never asked for one because I wasn’t really into video games…UNTIL… on a whim in the early 80’s my Dad and his accountant decided to invest in some video games and put them in pizza shops and other places. They’d go around and collect all the quarters once a week until eventually they realized this was kind of a pain in the ass business. So we ended up with three of those big 1980’s cabinet style video games in our basement. Those and a rather nice pool table and we were like rodents down in the basement never coming out in the daylight. I don’t remember what two of them were (I think one was Galaga) but the one I played CONSTANTLY was called RESCUE. I’d play that game for hours upon hours and got so good at it, I always thought I’d eventually hit the end of the game, it sort of became an obsession. Eventually I had to go away to college and that was the end of the quest though. But man, if I could get my hands on one of those again…
    Here’s the game if you don’t know it:

    1. “like rodents down in the basement” Oh that killed me! I think at one point we did resemble rodents, our little faces all scrunched up and pale from the lack of sunlight.

      I do remember Galaga but Rescue?? Good thing you linked it, I’m not familiar with that one (I’m sure my husband is though).

  7. I can spit into a sidewalk crack while standing, walking or jogging over it with incredible accuracy. Take that yer momma’s back!

    That ET game was one of my all time favorites that I’d never have thought about again had you not refreshed my memory. I blame Tapper for my drinking problem today and was briefly addicted to some game for Nintendo where zombies came out of the ground and I think I was a Knight?? It was a buddy’s game system as Nintendo never made its way to our house. I’ll end by fondly recalling the epic SEGA NHL games we played in the dorms my freshman year in college. Good times, Darla! Fuck the sun!

    1. haha!! I was so close to naming this post F*ck the Sun.

      About ET….we wanted that game so badly, but it cost like a ridiculous amount of money. I think my parents were like, if we buy ET, that is ALL Santa’s bringing you kids. So my mom wrapped it up in its original box and stuck it under the tree, it didn’t take a genius to figure out what it was. My parents went off grocery shopping one night and we had the brilliant idea of slowly slicing it open and playing it, then wrapping it back up when they pulled into the driveway. God, we were horrible horrible kids.

      Your knight comment reminded me of another kick-ass game that blew us away back then, Dragon’s Lair. We were stunned we could move a cartoon hero around! It blew us away.

      1. So it’s driving me nuts that I can’t think of the name of that stupid game, thanks for that! I think we should all write our own video game posts now! You should host it. From playing Pole Position back when it was THE racing game at Pantera’s Pizza to Spy Hunter at the roller rink when I couldn’t get a couple’s skate partner to my current addiction to some game called Assassin’s Creed, it’d be epic! My wife is probably shivering from a chill somewhere right now…lol.

        1. Yeah, I was just trying to google the game you’re referring to….hm….
          God, I would LOVE to write more posts about video games, especially old school ones. Your idea about all of us picking one and writing about the memories behind it is brilliant.

          1. Your character was like a little knight I think and you had a knife to start with (again, I think). You killed zombies that popped up from the ground. If you did something or other then you got a sword maybe a jousting pole??? Maybe I’m making the whole thing up!! It would have been between 1989 – 1991 that I was into it. It’s maddening.

  8. I think this is the first time I have come across someone who love to play games. So welcome Darla, I am a fellow gamer too. I wrote about it in Confession, one of my posts.

    1. Oh yeah, Myst! Now THAT was another game that blew me away. Course you actually had to use your brain to figure things out with that one. Many a time I’d mindlessly pace around the endless paths trying to figure out what the hell I was suppose to do. Good times.

  9. NotAPunkRocker

    So many choices! Let’s see, I was all about Pac-Man, but it was the blue and yellow screen version, and Q*Bert. I would play those all day, and on “expert” too (remember the Atari had a switch you could flip for that!). I remember my parents making me get up late one night and play my father in Combat; he could not understand how I kept beating him and my mother wanted to see. Turns out he was like you, strategic, and I was all about moving in whatever direction and hitting the fire button all the time.

    In the Nintendo genre, my heart belongs to Super Mario adventure and racing games. My favorite was Super Mario Brothers 3, because you had the cool power suits to use and the warp whistle. Right now we are saving for a Wii U (RIP, regular Wii) so that we can get the newest Mario Kart in the spring.

    Then there is Tetris. Between computers, NES portable and at-home machines, arcade games and phones, I can play that one anytime, anywhere. It is my zone-out, need to clear my mind activity.

    1. An “expert” switch!! Get out. I don’t remember that. (my brain is only operating on 10 % due to all those video games I’ve played)

      Combat had these weird but fun glitches too. I remember if you positioned your little tank in the corner, it would do this strange flipping, zooming across the screen thing. I guess we were bored with Combat at that point? I also remember Combat had levels were you were airplanes dropping bombs or something. All very wholesome family entertainment for the 1980s.

      The newest Mario Kart for the Wii U is something that my son and I are both looking forward to. I’ve played the old Mario Kart for so long now, I can drive those tracks in my sleep now. Maybe this is why I suffer from insomnia? Nah.

      1. Well, from one Super Dork to another, I thank you for that link. I laughed out loud when I saw it. God, we though that thing was so cutting edge back then! (and it was, of course)

        I actually bought my husband the old school Atari a few years ago, they repackaged it and were selling it along with all the old Atari games. We had fun playing stuff like Circus Time and Space Invaders.

  10. I remember being so good at Atari downhill skiing that when I watched the Winter Olympics, my whole body would twitch and contort to get the skiiers down the hill.

    Asteroids and Intellivision’s Burger Time are also in my rusty skill set. I love this post!

  11. Oh my. That was a total walk down memory lane. Thank you for taking me on that journey with you. From pong, to frogger & pac man, to mario. My younger brother and I used to play until the wee hours of the night, and one night, long after he had gone to bed, in the very early hours of the day, I beat that sucker. I ran in to wake him from his sound sleep to gloat, I mean so that he could share my glory and excitement. He was not as enthused to be awoken from his slumber as I had hoped.

    Years and years later, my brother and I grew to be adults (well, one of us, anyway), and I had my own kids. Two boys . . . who now have a Wii and are obsessed with Mario. As I sit there watching them play, I flash back to those many years ago and realize that I actually remember those levels and obstacles they face. I have yet to dive in to play against/with them, as I don’t want to crush their poor sensitive souls just yet. I have years to accomplish that goal. I should probably save up for their therapy first, though. That’d be the responsible parenting action, no? 😉

    1. Misty, you just described my life. I also remember playing Mario until 3 am one night because I was about to defeat the entire game. I remember the inevitable let-down though. You finally get through all the worlds, defeat Bowser, save Princess Peach and what happens? Nothing. No money, no glory, no fame. Just some stupid silly parade of Mario and Luigi with a few fireworks in the background if you’re lucky.

      And yes, please, give your precious boys a few more clueless years of not knowing their own Mom can kick their butts. Don’t tell my son this but, I actually have to purposefully LOSE sometimes playing Mario Kart so he won’t get too mad.

    2. Oh Misty, you must jump in and crush them! I like to interfere by grabbing a controller and upping the high score on whatever they’re playing to unattainable levels. It pisses my daughter off so she’ll try and try to beat my high score and the boys will watch her in anticipation with their mouths agape. It’s like they sense that she is possessed or something. It totally keeps them quiet for like 6 minutes. Worth it.

  12. Confession: I never owned a video game console until the Nintendo Wii (which I probably used a total of 20 times).

    I had a Gameboy… I used that sometimes to play Pokemon Blue. Video games have never really appealed to me. I think I’m boring.

    OH WAIT. There was this one computer game called Daisy’s Garden or something that I liked. And the Sims was my obsession for a while.

    1. Uh huh, I know allllllll about the Sims. I was totally into all those games back in the late 1990s. Then I’d forget to feed the entire family and they’d all start peeing all over the floors and crying. It was very traumatizing.

  13. Oh the memories, Darla.

    I learned to not play games when, during the summer of 1981, I emptied my savings account, turned it into quarters and fed my future to PacMan. It wasn’t all bad or stupid. Because I realized while playing that I had been wasting my life previously with a man who I really didn’t want to marry, and I dumped him that fall, when my quarters ran out.

    But I don’t play games. Because I can’t stop when I do.

    1. I was so into Pac Man, one Christmas Santa brought me a yellow Pac-Man baseball hat, a Pac-Man t-shirt, Pac-Man trashcan and Pac-Man comforter for my bed. I know, it’s really sad. God, I miss those days. Now I see my son obsessed with Mario stuff and I just laugh and laugh. Then cry. Then laugh again. Mostly cry. I miss Pac-Man.

        1. Pool was something that took me awhile to learn. It’s loads of fun though. Nothing like splitting a pitcher of beer and shooting pool with your friends. I haven’t done that in a LONG time. sigh….

  14. I was a Space Invaders savant. Guys used to ask me to play and I could thread the needle with those tiny little ships like no other. I never really caught the bug. It is supposed to be good for your brain!
    Go Darla!

  15. Agreed and agreed more. I did every one of the games listed and now I have evolved to get destroyed online against people way better than me. I remember Yars Revenge being one of my favorites on Atari and playing Tomb Raider just like you husband. I am a lifer. Will still be doing in my Old Folks home.

    1. I’ve never ventured into online games. I’d no doubt lose. I need to keep my winning streak alive by playing only my 11 year old son.

      I love Tomb Raider. I’ve played all of them, from the very first one to the most recent one.

  16. The first computer game I loved was Atari’s “Adventure.” You’re this square (and I don’t mean you lack cool-ness, I mean you’re actually a square) going through a castle, occasionally fighting dragons that look vaguely like ducks. Or keys. You’d have to look them up.

    And I also remember the first time I won Super Mario Bros. There was a brief instant where it really seemed like something – SOMETHING – should happen. Confetti falling from the ceiling. Money spews from the Nintendo console like a slot machine. Something.

    1. I don’t remember “Adventure” I’ll definitely have to google that one.
      There was nothing worse than spending about 50 hours playing a game only to realize you have nothing to show for it after you won. No cheering, no money. I would just sigh and say, “Well, so that’s that. I suppose we have to wait for the next Mario now….”

  17. The potential to be a great gamer is within me. I took my youngest to preschool one day and spent the whole time playing Donkey Kong. Forgot to pick him up. Wouldn’t go near it after that. Spent a weekend in Whistler with the family, and every moment I could escape from family fun at the waterslide was spent in the free video arcade room shooting stuff and throwing grenades. Don’t even know what that one was called. I love shooting stuff. Then I got a slot machine gambling addiction, and had to self exclude. Those machines just suck you in. But I love them. Who needs sunshine.

    1. Ooh, yeah, Donkey Kong! Another great game I forgot to mention. We currently have the old school one and it’s actually very hard to play. Games nowadays are so easy.

      I hate to admit this because I’m normally an anti-violence person but yeah, I’m very good at shooting games, too.

  18. Impybat

    Ahh, my Gaming Tmeline look something like this: It started off with Atari at my best friend’s house and many after school, weekend, and school vacation hours playing Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pong, Missile Command, Centipede, and Space Invaders. Her brother had these awesome portable mini arcade games One was Donkey Kong and the other was Pac Man. They looked like this:

    Fast forward a few years when we finally got an NES console and could stay home and waste many happy, unproductive hours, I mean, play and beat your high score! My personal favorites were Pinball, Pro Wrestling (I was always The Amazon because he could BITE) Rad Racer, Kung Fu (the boss’s laughs cracked me up), Lode Runner, 1942, Ice Climber, Paperboy (I would break windows on purpose), Excitebike, and Wheel of Fortune.

    And then there were the many happy unproductive hours spent at Dream Machine and beach arcades playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ikari Warriors, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Galaga, and Jurassic Park pinball.

    1. Impybat

      Ooops replied too soon. I also had a GameBoy and I played mostly Dr. Mario and Tetris. Mr. Impybat and I had a Wii which we were obsessed with for a couple of years but I’m pretty sure the Wii Fit is what led to my plantar fasciitis. We just got an Atari Flashback 4 which is pretty awesome.

        1. Impybat

          My husband and I switched places with the Miis to see what it would do (there’s about 100-lb. difference between me and him–I am very short and he’s a husky guy) so it looked like he had dropped a whole bunch of weight, and the trainer goes, “That’s…that’s INCREDIBLE!” Then it went on to scold me for my sudden “weight gain”.

    2. I just showed my husband that link and he said, “I WANT ONE!!”

      Oh, yeah Paperboy! Good stuff. I also played tons of Mortal Kombat. My brother would always pick the guy who would just electrocute everyone. Where’s the skill in that?? really took the fun out of it.

      Dream Machine was the place to go on the weekends. My parents would just dump us off there for the day. God, do I miss that. My kids don’t even know what an arcade is now.

  19. Confession time. I am an Atari hoarder. I have my old Atari 2600 game console set and a huge box of cartridges. Occasionally, I still troll eBay for more. Just to hoard away and, maybe, drag out for play when all of my 80s pals stop by the house. I love this. And, I now know not to challenge the Maineiac at Pong. I might beat you at Frogger, though. 🙂

  20. I had forgotten all about combat! Holy flashback, Batman.

    Your frogger skills grew by leaps and bounds. Ha. I see what you did there. Clever girl.

    A friend of mine is the CEO/Owner of MLG. Do you know what that is? Major League Gaming. They sponsor tournaments all over the country. There are now professional gamers who follow a circuit. The top gamers make a pile of money. That could be you, too.

    1. Wow, that leaps and bounds/Frogger thing was a total accident. I could never purposefully be that clever.

      And yes, I should definitely join this MLG thing and make a ton of cash. I will drop out of college first thing tomorrow morning.

  21. roxie

    I was good at Moon Patrol and Kangaroo! 🙂 … and to a lesser extent Ms. Pacman. “Doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo, doodle-doodle, doodle-doolde, doo doo doo!”

    1. Ms. Pac-man was kind of a letdown for me. I thought it was going to be this amazing new game. Then I realized, wait a sec….it’s exactly the same as Pac-man but she’s wearing a stupid red bow! I want my money back! (I still played it nonstop anyway)

  22. When I was in college I worked part-time at an arcade. My skillz might be a little rusty now, but back then I was epic on Frogger and Asteroid and Super Mario.

    Still, I preferred the air hockey table over the video games. Weird, I know.

    1. Funny you should mention air hockey because that is one game I was TERRIBLE at. Just pathetic. My brothers would fire a shot and it’d go straight into my goal, over and over again. Then they’d yell out “GAME OVER! Play again?” in such a cruel way.

  23. I loved Pong! And then Tetris and then I fell in love with Mario and the rescue of Zelda. Did a little Pokemon, but thought it was boring. And now on the Wii I play a lot of anything and everything! Yes video games rock!!!!

  24. Confession time: I totally suck at gaming. My mother would rather die than to allow a gaming unit enter our house. We were only allowed to watch TV for one hour a night, and only on non school nights. We could watch cartoons in the morning until breakfast and then the TV was off. I would sneak over to my friend’s house and beg her to play pong, but she never really wanted to play it. Later on, I did get into Tetris a bit. But honestly, these days, it’s Bejeweled Blitz, Solitaire, and Sudoku on whatever electronic device I have handy. My son kicks my ass at Mario Brothers. He cracked me up the other day when he figured out how to get cheat codes to get characters for his Wii Star Wars game. He offered to help his buddy get a few characters, but the kid said he usually just bought the characters with the money he earned in the game (such a rule follower- doesn’t rock the boat or color outside the lines). Not my kid. He makes up his own rules, takes shortcuts when he can find them, and colors his own damned pictures! Oops. Where were we? Oh yeah, gaming. You rule Darla! Kick butt!!!

    1. Ha! Well, your son once again sounds like mine. He does the cheat code thing. He’s like a little mad scientist trying to figure out all the quirks and cheats of the Mario games.

      I play Bejeweled Blitz and Candy Crush on facebook now and that’s pretty much it. I can’t play the Wii much as my kids always take it over.

  25. Darla — how do you do it? You are SO funny. Your posts bring a big smile to my day — I am always so excited to come read them. You are just so funny it’s not fair. Because I’ve always been the dork, not the funny one. I’m glad you want to be my friend nonetheless. 🙂 I didn’t play many video games but I did play pong, and I was awful. And the first time I saw Mario Brothers was when I was babysitting these three boys around age 11 and they were going crazy with it. They kept wanting me to play because they would fall over laughing every time I jumped into oblivion, which was every ten seconds. And forget about Q*bert! I bet you could do that one, too… All those games were to me were eaters of my quarters that I’d rather spend on a jelly bracelet in the prize machine. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  26. Ah, this brought me back, D! Back to the days when I would spin jump and machine gun my way through Contra. To this day, beating that game is one of my finest accomplishments. That’s kind of sad–maybe I should start playing Tomb Raider with Mr. Rache to capture that feeling again? (At least this time there’s a save option and you don’t have to start ALL the way back at the beginning!)

    1. yes, definitely share some memories with Mr. Rache and play some Tomb Raider with him. Kick his sorry butt. And you’re right, now games have a save option. I remember the old Mario games you’d get three chances and if you blew it, game over, start again.

  27. I have to say, this is a brilliant approach to doing a memoir-based essay–my life in video games. Fun!

    However, I never played video games as a kid. I’m just about 8 years older than you. But then that’s not much of an excuse. I will say that my 6-year-old nephew is and Angry Birds maniac. And me? I bake one hell of an apple pie. Does that count for anything?

    Hugs from Ecuador,

  28. Oh my God, this was nostalgia central! I had something on my dad’s old Atari computer called ‘Break Out’ which was basically your version of Pong – a small pixilated ball verrrrrrryyyy ssllllooooooowwwlllyyy floated from one side of the screen to the other, and it was the MOST EXCITING RUDDY THING ON THIS EARTH. 🙂

  29. Space Invaders. Somewhere between Pong and Pac-Man, came Space Invaders. I would catch sight of the glowing, pulsing shapes on the screen out of the corner of my eye at the mall, at certain high-end restaurants – there even was a Space Invaders at the laundromat in college – honest to god!

    I yearned, oh how I yearned to master this game, but I lacked the three vital components needed.
    1) skill
    2) dedication
    3) quarters

    You, my friend, apparently possessed all three. Hat’s off to you and your fabulously awesome useless skill, Super Darlio. I’m so jealous.

      1. My dad brought home a pinball machine when I was in college. It wasn’t any recognizable character, but man, the kids went crazy! Our dank, dungeon of a basement was THE hangout for my 6th grade brother and his friends.

  30. Combat came with the Atari, so I played it often. I played Asteroids all day when I was home with the chicken pox. Pitfall was my favorite, though. You’re so cool, Darla! 😀

  31. I’ve never been good at video games. We had Intellivision, not Atari. My sister rocked Donkey Kong. I could just never get past any of the levels. So now, while everyone else plays games on their iPads and phones, I don’t even bother.

    1. The older Donkey Kong game never really interested me and I wasn’t that good at it, either. My son wants to play minecraft on the iPad right now. This is why I hardly get a chance to blog anymore.

  32. The Atari games came out when I was in my early 40’s and all 3 nephews had one. I got to play the games they had when they were in school or late at night when they were in bed. I loved Frogger, Pac-Man and Q-Bert and if I wasn’t interrupted or had to go to sleep or work, I would play until I dropped. The same with Tetris when my nephews got Game Boys. Back in the day, my local laundromat had 2 arcade games, 1 of them Ms Pacman. The same group would gather at the same time on Saturday mornings to do our wash and join in the Ms Pacman challenge. I ‘trained’ for Ms Pacman during the week at an Arcade near my work. I loved going there, loved working out some of my frustrations with the help of Ms Pacman and loved going back to a job I hated feeling refreshed — as if I’d been both to the gym and a therapist.. These days, I love to play games on my computer but mostly stick to Angry Birds.

    1. Y’know, it really is relaxing to me and is a kind of therapy. Your story brought me back to the days in college when I was at the Laundromat all Saturday playing arcade games. My kids will never know what that’s like as they now play any game they want on their iPad.

      1. Thanks. Your story took me back to those days and all the fun with other people playing Ms Pacman at the Laundromat. I’m sorry your kids won’t get to know what it’s like; hopefully they’ll discover their version of fun at the Arcade. I enjoy the mental challenge of the games I play and still find it good therapy. I tell people that I play games to line up my thinking….

  33. I had a full-blown Tetris addiction that I’ve never quite kicked. I’m like a person who quit smoking. I’m good as long as I don’t see or smell Tetris. But the second I’m in the same room, I lose all control, stop speaking to anyone around me, start shaking until I get my fix, and I am lost for hours.

    I am also really impressed that you Super Mario Bros. 3. I could never do it! I was totally into all of Mario’s cool costumes, but I never really got how to use the raccoon or frog ensembles.

    1. I had to give up Tetris cold turkey. It was taking over my life. Now it’s Candy Crush Saga on facebook. I guess it’s true, you just trade one addiction for another…

      The earlier Super Mario Bros. used to be incredibly difficult to play and you could never “save” your progress. When you died three times, that was it, you’d have to start over. Now the Mario games are so easy to me.

  34. I love this post. From the highly recognizable games (we had all those I bet!) to even the TV set that sits in the cabinet (we had that too.) After Atari, we moved up to Sega – yes, my brother was a true Sega groupie and Nintendo was the evil one! Funny now that Sega and Nintendo games are played on the Wii. My brother still thinks it’s wrong.

    I grew up watching him playing these games, and there were some eventually we’d play together. Fun times they were, and hey, hand-eye coordination right? That’s important! Of course it didn’t actually translate to real life, but nevermind that.

    Now my favorite game is The Sims, which I did a post on earlier. Um, well, it was about how I like killing my Sims off in new and unusual ways. It’s more of a challenge without a machine gun, you know. Or a plunger. Anyway, great post! Thanks for the memories.

    1. That is so true about the Nintendo/Sega rivalry. Funny how people get so wrapped up in one or the other. When I first met my husband he was all about Playstation and I thought Playstation sucked. We finally convinced each other to cross over to the dark side. Now we play it all– playstation, Nintendo, Wii, Xbox….

  35. themominblack

    I. Love. Super. Mario. With. All. My. Heart.

    I’m not a gamer but I lament the loss of our Super Nintendo on an almost daily basis. In all seriousness, I’ve probably thought about it once a week for the past 12 years (Whoa. When I write that out, it looks a little sad/creepy).

  36. Favorite game: Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. No system will ever top the SNES for amount a quality of gameplay. New systems have better graphics, but if you gave me one system and all the games for the rest of my life, SNES hands down.
    Warms my heart to see Mom roundly stomping the rest of the family in video games. I’m quite sure that even with my long time love for games, you’d stomp me too. I always seem to hit a plateau and have to struggle through some of the more challenging skills.

    1. OH, yeah! Legend of Zelda is one of the best games ever. My kids and I were all really into playing the most recent one on the Wii. (and I’ve played all the older versions, of course) I’m hoping they come out with a new one soon, but I realize it probably takes years to develop.

  37. It would not have taken me so long to comment, Darla, but that Frogger screen shot sent me into a Mello Yello Pop Rock seizure. I’m better now. Shit! You are like some kind of nostalgia queen. I once owned an arcade-sized Gallaga video game. Yeah, it was an anniversary gift. I no longer have it. I lost it in the divorce. I have many obsolete skills, but the one held over from the 70’s is…wait for it…I can blow a Hubba Bubba bubble this size of my head.

    1. (gasp) You lost the Gallaga video game in the divorce?! That sucks! If I ever get divorced that would be the first thing we’d fight over, all the game systems. The kids? Eh.

      I also was a champion Hubba Bubba bubble blower! Small world.

  38. Oh memories. I started to read this three times before I actually finished because as I started into it, I’d suddenly be distracted by little colored squares I had to move out of the way and fit on top of one another. The doctor said its my residual Tetris Syndrome, which might linger for another two decades or so.

    I played Super Mario so much that it caused a brain bleed, I’m certain. Also loved the green and white Frogger game on our Apple II computer.

  39. Fun post. What a trip down memory lane. I was pretty good at pong and ok at Pacman. Didn’t really get hooked on the atari etc. Guess I missed out!
    Don’t know if you heard I’d been layed off on the last day of school (June). I was called back to work for my district last week and staff start Monday. Yikes for me since it will be a move from alternative HS to 6th grade MS. Glad to have a job but that’s the end of my summer 😦
    Here’s to the start of school, that annual ritual marking time marching on…

  40. thdem

    As I was born in 1991, I missed out on the very start of videogames. But my teen years were full of amazing games as well. I started with Half-Life: Blue Shift & then went to Half-Life, absolutely amazing games, as was HL2 and its episodes. Only question remains where HL3 stays. I went through quite a lot of games during my teen years but decided to stop some three years back so I could get to know how the sun looks like. Nowadays, I game sporadically, but I don’t buy any games and so I’ve missed out on incredible games such as Mass Effect 3, Diablo 3, Battlefield 3, all 3’s apparently. I’ve written them down on a list so that I can play them on twelve screens in the highest resolution on an Alienware, once I’m rich and famous. *cough*

  41. I LOVED playing Mario and Mortal Kombat as a kid. I play Skyrim, Dragon Age, Soul Calibur 4, and much more….love the RPG stuff. Great post-I got all weepy by the time I got to Mario.

  42. OMG! I just found my soul mate! I loved my Atari. LOVED it. Funny thing was, in my house all the girls were gamers. Pa just watched. But mom, Grandma and I each had a game that we could roll over. I could roll over Mega Mania, mom could roll over Ms. Pac man, and Grandma could roll over Space Invaders. Because my Grandma was wicked awesome like that. I think she once played it for four hours straight because she couldn’t lose.

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