Confessions of a Classic Gamer

Posted on Sep 11th 2012 at 11:26:42 PM by (DaveMMR)
Posted under Colecovision, cartridges, consoles, 80s

In 1982, the "fad" known as video games had reached an impossible high. Arcades were popping up everywhere. Beloved video game characters were being turned into toys, breakfast cereals and Saturday Morning cartoons. Pac-Man was suddenly as recognizable as Mickey Mouse. I was only six at the time but I was mesmerized by these endless digital wonderlands being presented. I knew what I wanted for Christmas that year: an Atari 2600.

But my parents, always better at researching their purchases than chomping ghosts, knew that there was a new product on the horizon. One that was supposed to put Atari and Mattel's offerings to shame. They decided a Colecovision was the best use of their holiday budget. How could you blame them after seeing this ad?

That Christmas morning my older sister and I were greeted with a new Colecovision, complete with Donkey Kong cartridge, and a second game - Mouse Trap. I distinctly remember being shocked I had to actually control Mario instead of him doing fancy stuff on his own. Again, I was only six. That being said, I learned fairly quickly.

As time went on, my library increased. I don't remember there being any particular clunkers in my collection. We'd spend an entire afternoon trying to figure out how to get past the force field in Zaxxon. We'd play Smurf Rescue in Gargamel's Castle until the score rolled over to zero. We'd take turns using the steering wheel (Expansion Module #2) to get as far as possible in Turbo, cursing the dreaded "icy road" part.  We'd spend evenings playing Ken Uston's Blackjack/Poker pretending we were big shots at the casino (while simultaneously mocking the dealer's weird facial expressions when busting our virtual bankrolls.)

It's funny how blissfully unaware we were of the Colecovision's weak points we've only realized years later. The controller was a horrible, fragile little monster. The 12-second delay on the first party games seemed excessive. The power supply had it's own zip code. Didn't matter. The Colecovision had what seemed to be an endless supply of entertainment. Even in my young mind, I knew that this was going to be the console of the future.

Except that future would never happen because of two rather nasty events that were arrows piercing straight into the heart of the beloved Connecticut Leather Company.

First, there was that nasty Video Game Crash of 1983. Like most young gamers, I was complete oblivious to the business problems going on at the time. I never thought twice as to why my parents were able to pick up more games as gifts not realizing they were in clearance bins and purchased for next to nothing.   

Secondly, while Coleco could have been a contender in the burgeoning home computer market with their Adam add-on, it had a serious fatal flaw. Due to a design oversight, the computer's magnetic field would thoughtfully erase your software when booting it up. Combine that with a price tag unable to compete with the wildly popular Commodore 64 and the company was suddenly on life-support with only Cabbage Patch Dolls to keep it breathing.

I ended up with one of those Commodore 64 computers a year later, my parents again wisely seeing that the Adam computer I asked for was destined for paperweight status. The Colecovision, slightly hobbled by a broken joystick port and seemingly outdated, sat collecting dust. It saw only very little action when I wanted to play Mr. Do! or Time Pilot. But mostly it was hard to go back. Why play a five minute game when I could boot up the likes of Impossible Mission or Zork I and have my entire gaming evening laid out for me?

Years went by and I moved onto the newer consoles. During the peak of the Nintendo Entertainment System's popularity, the family and I took an expedition into New York City. I gather up some of my allowance money to see if I couldn't find a new NES cartridge for the venerable console. The stores weren't selling anything different than my local Toys R Us. But then I saw, on the shelf of some tiny electronics shop, something really awesome: a completely new-in-box Colecovision. I remembered the time I spent years earlier and how the one I currently had that busted controller port. I decided to use my hard-earned allowance money and relive the "recent" past.

That evening, instead of playing some throw-away third party NES game, I played every single old cartridge I had, suddenly remembering why I had so much fun. Sure the games weren't as complex as Super Mario Bros., Zelda or Contra but they had an undeniable charm to them I couldn't ignore.

Admittedly, the Colecovision went back to the corner soon thereafter. It was the age of titles like Ninja Gaiden and Mike Tyson's Punch Out!, with new, exciting releases around every imaginable corner. But I kept it around for those little gaming fixes I needed every now and again. A quick round of Q*Bert beats Milon's Secret Castle any day of the week.

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The world of gaming, classic and modern, from one collector's perspective filled with anecdotes, recollections, and the occasional broken control pad.
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