Reading all the press for Austin Grossman’s new novel, YOU has me thinking back to my first love of video games.
My parents used their tax check (something that was always set aside for frivolous spending, even when we were too poor to pay our bills) in 1982 to buy the Atari 2600. They brought it home with Combat and Pac-Man.
For a few weeks, it was ruled by the adults. I remember watching them and waiting for the few times they would let me play. After a while, it firmly became my territory and for birthdays and Christmas, I started getting games.
There were a few that were my favorites. I was a huge Pitfall and Choplifter fan. I liked Missile Command a lot and still play it in the arcade when I can.
Yet, the game that really grabbed me was Defender.
I remember one evening after school. I was around nine or ten. I sat down in front of our ancient TV to play Defender and didn’t look up from the screen until my mom told me it was supper time. I replied back that I couldn’t stop, I had already made it further than ever before.
She actually let me keep going.
My family came in after supper and sat down to watch me play. I kept going well into the night. I just couldn’t die. I kept raking up points and ships. I kept killing everything that got in my way and rescuing any poor citizen of the world I had sworn to protect who was unlucky enough to be abducted.
As my bedtime arrived, my parents could see that something magical was happening in front of them. They sent my sisters to bed, but I stayed up.
I ended up playing the same game for over seven hours that night. I finally had to shut it off and was shuffled off to bed, disappointed because I had to stop, but secretly happy that my parents had let me play for so long.
My mom pulled out her 120 camera to take a picture of the score (which I can’t remember now), but the photo turned out blurry. I seem to remember that there was a contest where you could send your score in, but the picture never made it.
I never had that great of a game again, but that night still sticks in my head. My hands on the joystick, thumb on the red button. My bare feet stretched out as if I was a sea fisherman fighting with the biggest catch of my career.
I felt like a god for those few hours, a Hero, A Defender!