Having just returned from Europe with my Commie crushing Air Force father, I found myself back in the cradle of western civilization(read:Halifax). We visited a little shop called Consumer Electronics, it was a strange store where other dads flipped through catalogues, as there were no items on the shelves, just stands with catalogues where you wrote down an item number and brought it to the lady behind the desk, she brought you your choice.
No walking, no talking, and no salespeople. The beautiful unelectronic internet.
I was 7, my father 25, and I had no idea what a videogame was, besides Q'Bert that I would play for 2 quarters while at the PX on the Military Base. But dad did, dad had developed an unhealthy obsession with a little game called Galaga while posted to an air force base in Bermuda. Of course he also loved beer, but thats another story altogether.
He asked the lady to bring out the Nintendo box, pronounced Nine-ten-doo in the eighties, and a Sega Master System. He glanced at the rear of the boxes, looked at some of the games, and saw the holy Choplifter mega cartridge. Telling the lady behind the counter that the Nintendo games looked like crap, he would take Choplifter and a Sega Master System. I had no idea that this would push back talking to girls by years. More important than that? I wouldn't care.
That piece of black plastic saved me from sweltering summer heat, boring trips to grandmas, terrible hotel rooms, innumerable sick from school days, and survived my friends and their greasy fingers at sleep overs galore.
But first we had to figure out how to turn it on.
For an hour we sat there turning the box inside out looking for a cartridge or a card that contained the two pack in games(god I miss those)- hang-on and Safari Hunt. Back then Sega packed the games right into the console. Unbeknownst to my dad. To this day my accidental discovery of that still makes my heart flutter, which was unrepeated until I discovered that mashing on the buttons while turning it on brought up "Sega Maze"!
I had the 3-D glasses, and a good circle of friends to trade games with, and when I NEEDED to play a nintendo game- Wayne down the street suddenly became my friend. But seriously, he was a spoiled brat and I could only stand him for the time required to finish Mario Bros 3.
I eventually graduated to the Sega Genesis, like everyone else, and the Super Nintendo, but several years ago I picked up a brand new Sega Master System in the box with Phantasy Star. I was shocked to find out that games were being made up until 1996! I picked up Robocop Vs. Terminator, Psycho Fox, and several others (including a terrible but ambitious version of Mortal Kombat) and to this day still relive a little of the joy of the good ol'days.I always wind up putting a few minutes into the old Safari Hunt- as impartial as I am, Duck Hunt was hot garbage compared to that game.
The industry today boasts amazing technology, and I enjoy the new games alot, but they are an entirely different beast. Things have definitely changed. There are no "warp whistle" mysteries anymore. Gamers have become jaded in their expectations, just like the evolution of any media format I suppose, but it is no longer a personal experience. From memory its hard to separate the fun of the sleepover, from the fun of Alex Kidd in Shinobi World. I have no issues separating the experience of GTA IV from my life at the moment I played it. It was a solitary experience- life happened around it, and I took breaks from it to play GTA IV. When I was a kid, games happened with life. Perhaps its a matter of new games having your undivided attention. I mean it wasn't important to know why the Princess needed to be saved.....