Your Dragon Ate My Pac-Man!

Do you remember the first time you sat down in front of a video game? When the world on the other side of that black screen came to life and interacted with you for the very first time? Heaven help me as I’m about to date myself, but I think I must have been in junior high when my father brought home a bulky box and hooked the thing up to our big tube television. My sister and I sat there mesmerized, watching him, wondering what he was doing. My father was always big on the surprises. Well, in little time I perched Indian style on the floor with the controller in my hand smacking a tiny little ball across the screen.  Bink, bink, bink. That’s right, you guessed it. It was pong! And I LOVED that game.

When that game first came out, who didn’t sit in front of the television for as long as their parents would allow and whack that little square “ball” back and forth? I sure as heck did.  I could go forever on one game. The ball would start moving faster and faster in an attempt to outwit me and knock me out!

It wasn’t long before Atari came along, giving us options on the types of games to play. My dad didn’t rush out and get us this system. Sadly he made us wait for the 5200 series. But my husband and his brother saved up all their nickels and dimes to buy one of the original systems – the 2600. It was a big deal. The thing still sits in a box in our garage.

Atari 2600

This was soon followed by the video arcade wave. They sprang up everywhere. There was one not too far from my high school that became a popular stop. I would drop quarter after quarter into the Pac-Man machine, eating blue dot after blue dot. Ten years back I tried to talk my husband into a cocktail version of this game for our home. He didn’t go for it. I haven’t given up hope!

An original full sized Star Wars co-op arcade game used to own prime real estate in our family room before our move. Why? Because video games and arcade games have become ingrained in the family history – and with them lots of memories of pure enjoyment. It’s unfortunate that Star Wars didn’t fit in our new home.  It was such a great game. Back in the day, my husband was local champ on the game.  On one quarter, he could play for hours on that bad boy – of course.

Today video games have come a long way from the games I was introduced to as a youth. They come to life with detailed realism, and you become part of the action. I can now be out there in the action without any real fear of harm coming to my body.  That’s pretty awesome! I can kill zombies or play in a world with magical creatures.

When my son asks, “Hey mom, want to play a game?” He can still whoop my butt in seconds flat when playing his games of choice – Halo or Portal 2. Get on the Wii with Mario and forget about it. I am driving in a ditch while he finishes the race. Is it just me or is it impossible for us older generation to drive with a steering wheel in midair without the feel of the road beneath you?

But it’s good to let my kid pulverize me and spend this quality time with him. My husband will get on the game and go a few rounds with him as well. Yes, I hear those of you that say my kid should be outside running around. But as an Asperger he fights it. He gets his outdoor time and he gets his game time as well. Fighting depression as he does, it’s important we keep him uplifted.  And games do that for him. It’s all kept in check.

It’s a bonding experience between family and friends, similar to what Kristen Lamb explains in her blog Gears of War–Playtime, Obsession, Foundation of a Happy Marriage. Video games help bring people together. Now with Xbox Live, my son can play with his friends in private parties when he is at home. It keeps him safe from the open world of Xbox and gets him connected to those relationships that lift him up. Anyone dealing with an Asperger understands the importance of that. Relationships don’t always come easy for them.

I have been thinking about video games a lot lately. You see, video games are what put food on our table, clothes on our back, and pay our mortgage.  Or at least, the work my
better half does on them.  Sometimes this work can turn our lives a little upside down, but in a good way.

Things have been crazy busy because my husband’s life these past two years have belonged to another – a fire breathing dragon. But I’ll get to that in a minute. It’s because of this craziness that I know the gaming industry is about to change the rules on us game players. Not in a bad way, but in a very good and exciting way. In fact, I predict everyone will be following suit and you’ll start to see it in games across the board.  This Sunday the 16th marks the release of the new game called Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure.  Yes, the game my husband worked on that I am not above taking a minute to pimp.

Are you ready for this? Your kids are going to love it. How do I know this? Because my kids have already given this amazing game a serious test drive. A perk of living with one of the people in charge. Even my five year old can’t get enough! An added bonus, it has my kids playing together in harmony. Who would have imagined?

The game is played with collectable toys, and these toys are the heroes of the game world. They’re known as Skylanders. By placing the toy of your choice on the Portal of Power (connects with your game system), the Skylander is magically brought to life in the game! Switch the toy = switch the character you are playing. But the magic doesn’t stop there. This is the part I think is really cool…

The engineers behind this project have worked hard and long to bring you something I think we can all truly appreciate – compatibility. When you are playing Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure on your Xbox 360, all the level-ups, upgrades, treasure, and such
are remembered by the toy because they are alive and have little brains!  Smart little buggers.  If you decide you want to go play the game at your friend’s house and they have a Wii, no problem!  Take your collectable toy and place it on their portal. Your leveled up Skylander will come to life with all the upgrades, experience level, etc.  The toys work
across any of the major game systems.  Is that amazing or what?

It’s a far cry from the version of Dig Dug or Centipede my friends and I used to play in the back corner of our local pizza hang-out. This game is groundbreaking and innovative. Think about it – taking two things kids love – video games and toys – and bringing them together for the first time.  And where will games go from here?  Are the digital reality games like V-World or New Cap City seen on SyFy channel’s Caprica so far off?  Will Gears of War soon be literally inserting the player in the thick of it?  It really makes you wonder…

Where do you see the future of video games going? At what point and with what game did your electronic ride begin? Is your story similar to mine or are you part of the younger generation that started with something much more sophisticated? I look forward to hearing from you.

35 thoughts on “Your Dragon Ate My Pac-Man!”

  1. Patrick ThunstromPatrick Thunstrom

    Okay, I’m impressed, a mainstream AR game is a great thing to see coming down the pipe! Serious gamer here, I taught the good of board games, but you can bet much of my time with my friends is with video games.

    As for my original chance at video games, the NES with the ‘Triple’: Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, and Super Track and Field. Powerpad and Zapper, of course.

    Now I mostly play games on my PC and of course my collection of board games.

    • Debra KristiDebra Kristi

      Board games are great! Of course, I used to be a horrible cheat when I played. Don’t tell my mom. Oh wait, she’s probably reading this. My daughter likes board games. But then we are talking Candyland and Chutes and Ladders.

      I know many people who play on their PC. It’s a great way to enjoy the games. So glad you could stop by Patrick!.

  2. Jennette Marie PowellJennette Marie Powell

    I think you and I must be about the same age, because I have a very similar memory of my electrical engineer dad bringing home Pong! And I agree that video games can bring a family together. My daughter practically leaned to read when she was four, and she and I spent an entire weekend on the couch playing Pokemon Gold on my new Gameboy Color, as I read all the text aloud to her. Now I am more into casual games as I don’t have time to get really involved in something longer, but I’m glad there are so many choices, from WoW to Pong derivatives that you can still find on the casual game sites. Fun post!

    • Debra KristiDebra Kristi

      That’s fantastic that your daughter learned to read from the video games. I am reading the lines off the Smurff village game to my daughter all the time. Maybe it will work much the same way. But I too have far less time for the activity. Time is short and there is always soo much to do!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and your wonderful comments Jennette. 🙂

  3. CC MacKenzieCC MacKenzie

    I don’t game Debra, simply because I have no time! Have you ever thought of writing for a game? Some of the plots, twists and stories are simply awesome (I’m told by my son who is a rabid gamer). He’s an expert on Xbox 360 and plays with people ‘live’ all over the world. He’ll be thrilled I ‘know’ a wife of a games designer.

    This is a great looking blog, Debra. And I’ve just subscribed.

    • Debra KristiDebra Kristi

      Ha ha ha. You don’t know how many times I have heard that (The part about knowing a game producer). My husband was actually a script writer in Hollywood. He had been hired, as an independent contractor, to write a game story line years ago. The show he had been working on had been cancelled, leaving him in between jobs and hungry for work. The company liked him so much they offered him a full-time position, although not as a writer. He liked the idea of a steady paycheck well enough he took the job. He loves what he does, although he is often tweaking the story lines, but can put in some gnarly hours. You can tell your son he is kind of a big shot. 🙂

      I am glad you like my seasonal look. It’s fun. Thanks for subscribing. I’ll be checking out your Romance with Fizz & Fangs in the morning.

  4. rachelfunkhellerrachelfunkheller

    My darling girl. I have fond memories of playing Galaxian, never got into Pacman. But I used to live in an apartment above a cigarette machine and video game vendor. There were tons of old arcade video machines shoved into the storage space. Their clients all wanted the new machines so didn’t bother to repair the old ones. One day they brought in a dumpster to take away all the old machines. I used to think they should have fixed them up and sold them off to collectors. Sigh. End of an era.

    Thank you so much for sharing your family stories with us. Keep up the good work.

    • Debra KristiDebra Kristi

      I played Galaxian too! Oh Rachel, that is a terribly sad story. They should have fixed those machines. Or even sold them “as-is”. Someone would have taken them off their hands. We sold ours on eBay. There are a lot of people out there willing to pay for the old vintage arcade games. I hate to see waste like that. Ugh.

  5. Reetta RaitanenReetta Raitanen

    Great post, Debra! I can totally relate to the wonder of first gaming experience. I’m a little younger than you so for me it was with Commodore 64 and Giana Sisters, Winter Olympics game… and Samantha Fox Poker game where she strips eventually 😛 My mom confiscated that one real fast when she realised what it was about.

    I’m awed that your husband is developing a new Spyro game. It was my favourite game for PS1 and I was devastated when Insomniac stopped developing it. The PS2 games sucked and totally lacked the magic of the original three. The last bit was when one of the later PS2 games required fighting to move on in the game and it was done very badly. We don’t have Wii but my mom does. If the new game is faithful to the original spirit (playful adventuring), I will totally buy it 🙂

    • Debra KristiDebra Kristi

      Thanks Retta! I have never heard of the Samantha Fox Poker game. Wow! My mom would have flipped out. I still remember her reaction when she finally realized what they were singing in some of the songs on my “Rocky Horror Picture Show” Album. LOL Yeah, I didn’t get to keep it.

      Back in the late 90’s before we had kids I used to get a little crazy with the games. I was addicted to Crash Bandicoot and Apocalypse. My husband brought home the then new Spyro game for me thinking it would be right up my alley. But the way the camera moved with the little dragon made my stomach churn. I wanted to hurl. My tendency towards motion sickness and that game didn’t mix. It was too bad. This new game is a Skylanders game that Spyro happens to be in. It is not a redo of the original Spyro, just so you know. But it is still a fun game and can be played on any platform. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  6. JenniferJennifer

    Oh, Debra. You think you’re “old” because you remember when your Dad brought Pong home. I remember when my _husband_ brought Pong home! Hmm . . . or did I actually get it for him? He was a submarine officer, and after 3-1/2 months at sea, he’d have a month of R&R with muster twice a week and 24-hr duty a couple times that month. So he/I got an Atari, and he’d do nothing but play that first week home. Space Invaders was the ruling game. Now he and the boys are into fighting demons in whichever game, and I still have to set time limits or nothing else gets done around here. Me? I play solo games like MahJongg or Spider. Usually very late at night. :0

    • Debra KristiDebra Kristi

      Hi Jennifer! Wow, a submarine officer. That’s commendable. That has to be an extremely hard job. Thankfully he has you and the boys to come home to. I loved space invaders! It always started sooo easy. They would move super slow and you could just pick them off, zap, pow, blast. But then they would speed up on you, your heart rate would start to climb as you raced against the clock trying to pick them off before they reached your base. Beowwowooo Game Over. Ha ha, now look how we shoot and fight in games!

      I sometimes try to put time limits on my big boy when he plays but that doesn’t always work. 🙂 Thanks so much for your comments and for stopping by Jennifer!

  7. deborahjhughesdeborahjhughes

    GREAT post! I too remember Pong and playing that stupid game for as long as the adults would let me!! lol. When PacMan came out…big time excitement! My favorite arcade game was Centipede. I learned how to trip the machine and get extra men (or whatever it was, it’s been awhile). LOVED it. When Nintendo came out, we were there…brought the thing home, hooked it up and became hooked! We moved with the times, getting each new system as they came out. My son and grandson are HUGE gamers. Colt, my 7 year old grandson, has been playing video games since the age of two. He’s awesome at it and I am so impressed with how quickly he solves whatever dilemma confronts him in the games. I now have a Wii and I thought that was pretty exciting. We have friends or family over and will gather in front of the TV to play games that make us jump, run, wave, drive…whatever. Pretty funny to watch others play. This new game of yours looks quite exciting!! I’ll pass on the word as I know a lot of game players who will love to hear of this. You can bet I’ll be giving it a try when it’s launched. Thanks for sharing!!!!

    • Debra KristiDebra Kristi

      Hi Deborah! Wouldn’t you just freak when you’d blast the Centipede and he would break apart into multiples so that you then had to watch for them coming at you from several directions? That was great for dividing your focus and attention.

      Colt sounds like a wonderful grandson. It never ceases to amaze me how the kids can pick up on the games so fast and just flow with it. Like it’s in their blood, they’re naturals at it. Sounds like your family really makes full use of the Wii gaming capability. That’s great! You have just inspired me. Maybe we should pull out the Wii at our next big family gathering. We could get everyone playing tennis or something. Thanks Deborah! And thanks for stopping by! BTW, I was at your page the other day, congratulations on the award!

  8. Kara Flathouse (@KaraFlathouse)Kara Flathouse (@KaraFlathouse)

    I have found memories of playing Atari with my parents as a kid. In fact, we still have the system tucked away somewhere in the attic I believe! We have a Wii now, and we are probably behind in that because we haven’t bought anything new for it in the last year. It is fun for the family to play together, especially when it is too cold outside to do anything else.
    I will have to check out your husband’s game, sounds very neat!

      • Debra KristiDebra Kristi

        Yes, the gaming industry, like the computer industry, can move fairly quickly. Sit still for any length of time and you get left behind. Don’t feel bad, we are a gaming family and we still haven’t invested in a PS3. Although my husband talks about it from time to time for the blu-ray feature.

        Loved your input Kara! Thanks for stopping by!

  9. August McLaughlinAugust McLaughlin

    Great post, Debra! When I was in middle school, my brother got an Atari for comfort after having his tonsils out. Nintendo followed, namely Mario Bros. I’ve since lost my passion for video games, but I do believe that they are on the up and up and growing continually more realistic. I could see our favorite thrillers being converted into games–maybe even implemented into Kindle and ebook versions for the reader. We’ll see! In the meantime, my games are limited to mindgames…for my fiction, of course! 😉

    • Debra KristiDebra Kristi

      Funny you should mention that. I have tried to pitch that idea to my husband in the past. When I’ve come across a particular character that I thought lend themselves well to a dark video game packed pull of action. He’s not buying from me but would probably listen if it came through different channels. The areas are perfect for cross-over. After all, favorite video games have already come to the big screen.

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and stopping by August!

  10. Louise BehielLouise Behiel

    I will never forget the thrill on the day I discovered the Ms Pacman pattern on the Atari. I could play that game for hours and never die. After many weeks of whooping everyone’s butt, kids inlcuded, I finally let them in on my secret….the game started gathering dust soon after.

    my son and I, when he was a teenager, played Ultima, back when it was a pc based game. we spent hours and hours and hours on that game. he did the fighting and we solved puzzles together. what a hoot. I remember it well.

    thanks for the happy memories

    • Debra KristiDebra Kristi

      Ah yes, Ms. Pac-man with her pink bow and different map. Loved that one too! But you gave away your edge with you told them your secret. :O All the puzzle solving is fabulous brain exercise. Too bad we don’t get true exercise from the simulated fighting. Maybe someday they will work that out in some way. Who knows.

      Thank you so much for sharing your memories and swinging by Louise!

  11. Kristy K. JamesKristy K. James

    I’m really bad at video games, but talk about a blast from the past! I COULD play Pong a little bit. And my father jumped on the arcade thing and owned one for several years. But that craze is over now. One opened in our town for a few months. Didn’t last long, which I think is a shame because arcades were cool! 🙂

    • Debra KristiDebra Kristi

      Yes, sadly the day of the arcades have passed. Although you still see them in push-outs at the theater or casinos to pass away the time while you wait. My father considered investing in an arcade. But then he considered investing in a lot of things. LOL Bless his heart.

      • Debra KristiDebra Kristi

        Thanks for stopping by Kristy! It’s good to see you here again. 🙂

  12. ElisaElisa

    I loved the Atari LOL! Such a fun post. I really wonder what the future of gaming is 🙂

  13. Debra KristiDebra Kristi

    Hey! Thanks for swinging by! Loved your post today. Thanks for the compliments on mine.

    We lost so many hours on those systems as kids, didn’t we? The technology of it all is ever evolving and advancing. We got where we are today because developers were inspired by what they read about in books and saw in television shows and movies. Well, I don’t know about you but I have seen some pretty advanced stuff depicted in the movies and books in recent years. So….

    We are only limited by our imagination. 🙂

  14. deborahjhughesdeborahjhughes

    Bought the game Skylander today. My 7 yr old grandson LOVES it. But I’ll admit that my husband and I think it is pretty cool too. Thanks for blogging about it.

    • Debra KristiDebra Kristi

      You are welcome. I am so glad you are enjoying it! You know it’s funny, we have only gotten to try the test versions. Hubby hasn’t brought home the final product yet. WHAT UP! LOL In his defense, he’s been sick. Too many long hours at the final push. He promises to bring it home tomorrow.

  15. Carol J. AmatoCarol J. Amato

    Great blogpost, Debra! It sure DID bring back memories. I was a Ms. Pacman and Frogger fan myself. I still have those games for the computer!

    • Debra KristiDebra Kristi

      Thank you Carol! I can’t think of Frogger and have flashes of the Sienfeld episode where they try to get the Frogger machine across a busy street to save George’s high score. The things we do for our video games and status saves. Pac-man is the only game I downloaded onto my phone. I made the mistake of putting other games on my ipad and now I never see it. One of the kids always has it! lol

      Thank you so much for stopping by! It was a pleasure.

  16. Tameri EthertonTameri Etherton

    How the heck did I miss this post?!?! I love Spyro! I played several games until I started to get motion sickness from flying. I’m kind of a spaz that way.

    Oh, man, do I understand how your husband’s life was anothers for two years. SO glad the game is done and you can *cough* relax for a bit. Yeah, I know that’s a dream. Anyway, fun post. I never had those game systems, but you can bet David had every one of them. My favorite arcade game was Pac Man. Now I’m a Zelda girl. Love me some Zelda.

    My husband and son love Flynn’s Arcade in California Adventure. They have all these old school arcade games that take tokens. It’s so fun to watch them play. If you get a chance, check it out!

    • Debra KristiDebra Kristi

      I will definitely have to check out Flynn’s the next time we are at California Adventure. I am told by little Ms. Crazy Head that will be for her birthday. Ha ha.

      They already started working on the follow up game. He was flying out to meetings and other important development stuff before this game launched. *sigh* At least the hours won’t be as crazy for a while. He brought home one of each character on Friday and while I was gone this weekend I hear my crazy daughter played that game for three hours non-stop on Saturday! She’s only five! Then got up Sunday and it was the first thing she wanted to do. Now my whole family is addicted. What am I to do? I should introduce her to Zelda so she can have a girl role model. LOL

  17. JulieJulie

    I haven’t been addicted to a video game since the Pac-Man/Asteroid days, and we don’t have them at home. But I do believe any activity can be a healthy, bonding one if it’s done TOGETHER, which is what you and your family do. It annoys me to hear people labeling activities as inherently bad or inherently good, when what really matters is the quality of time spent on that activity.

    • Debra KristiDebra Kristi

      Thank you Julie. I tend to agree with you. I just spent the morning playing match the cards with my daughter on a video game. She loved showing me how it all works. She was in her element. LOL
      Some people are simply narrow minded to label it all as a bad or unhealthy thing. We take them with a grain of salt. People are what they are. It’s unfortunate.

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