From the second I first saw Pong, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the history of video games it was the first home game system, I was hooked on video games. I came from a big family, including me there were five of us kids born to my Mom and Dad, and from the get go we all played games and learned to be competitive. When we were packed off to live with my Aunt and Uncle, they had four kids and three foster kids to boot so that made 11 kids all together, my sister Linda had died before we moved in with Aunt Rageaholic and Uncle Adultery, so you can imagine how much more competitive we all became. We all wanted to win at Monopoly, rummy, Masterpiece, whatever. When Pong was introduced in the early 70's I wanted one so bad I could taste it. I knew I'd kick some serious ass if I had it and all the other kids in the house would bow down to me when I whipped them at Pong. Alas, it was never to be because we never got one no matter how much I whined and begged.
But my love for the nascent video games of that era never died and one day during the county fair in Lee County, Virginia I got to play Space Invaders. Oh my god, it was heaven to me. Blasting those little invaders as they got closer and closer and that mechanical heartbeat sound the machine made got faster and faster the more levels you went through. I poured quarter after quarter into that machine over the next few days. I was well and truly hooked.
When I got to college I had a little cash every month from my jobs on campus and I was able to draw my late father's Social Security, that was before St. Ronald Fucking Reagan cut all that out, so in between buying copies of National Lampoon and Rolling Stone, cases of cheap beer, ounces of wacky weed for $40 bucks a pop, Pony brand sneakers, polo shirts that had little alligators on them, and Levi's jeans, I played more video games. I played them all. Pac Man, Ms. Pac Man, Gorf, Galaga, Zaxxon, those shitty martial arts games, Q Bert, you name it I played it. I was not great on them but some of them I got pretty good at. Playing them helped calm my competitiveness.
After college I kept on playing arcade video games up until a few years ago. I used them as a way to deal with my frustrations about where I was in life and I loved to take out my aggressions on some fighting game rather than take it out on a real person who might kick my ass. I also used them, just like I used wacky weed and heavy drinking for a time, to make me forget that I wasn't doing well with the ladies. But thankfully I stopped smoking weed and drinking to excess, I met Sparky, and I finally started working grown up jobs that made me some decent money.
But every now and again when I started going on the road selling for Myers Tire Supply and later for that last company I worked for who shall remain nameless, I'd stop at an arcade in whatever city I'd find myself in and I'd play a few games on my lunch break or I'd stop in one at the end of the day if I was out of town and I'd play some for a bit before I went to whatever cheap motel I was staying in that night. I still loved the feel of the joystick in my hand and the thrill of competing against all the other people who had played that machine and against the machine itself, but I didn't invest nearly the money or the time in them like I did when I was in college.
And no matter how much I played them I was never as bad as the guys in this film:We finally saw The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters last night. I had heard about how good it was and I read about how much Chris and Kristi loved it, so I couldn't wait to see it. When I picked it out at the video store Sparky was not too thrilled about it, she thought it was going to suck but I told her to hang loose and to give it a try. When I put it in the DVD player last night she said, "I'll probably fall asleep, so don't mind me," and she laid down on the couch and snuggled under her favorite couch blanket.
But much to her surprise she was hooked from the first minute. And she knew nothing about the world of arcade video games before she had seen this film.
This movie is wildly good. It's all about the rivalry between two guys who both want to have the world record high score on Donkey Kong. One guy held the record for many years and he thought he ws invincible, the other guy is a nice guy who just happened to have an affinity for this video game. They "clash" as they try to out do one another in their race to be the top Donkey Kong player in the world. To them this shit is life or death and to us the viewer it's sometimes funny and painful to watch them go about their business of trying to best one another.
You take sides quickly and when the official video game world does their best to try to cheat the upstart you can't help but get pissed. It's easy to watch all the gamers in the movie and write them off as nerds but that's selling them a bit short. They're just like any other group of people who compete, like baseball players, or politicians, or wrestlers, their field of competition just happens to be arcade style video games. I felt alot of empathy towards them and I could easily see how they got so wrapped up in it.
You'll enjoy this documentary even if you never played a video game in your life, but if you have, then you'll enjoy it even more. I highly recommend it.
And for the record, I never got passed the fifth screen on Donkey Kong. And I never got a perfect score on Pac Man either. But I did finish all levels on this game a few times:
And I do have an X Box.