jcalder8's Blog

Posted on Sep 11th 2011 at 03:57:54 PM by (jcalder8)
Posted under Biography, Memories, Stories, Commodore 64

After some very positive feedback I am going to continue writing out my life story.... or at least the parts that are G rated and have something to do with video games. For anyone who has not read part 1 here is an easy to find link: LINK 
When I finished the first part I had finished by writing about the Intellivision which remains my favorite pre-NES system. During this part I..... well you'll have to keep reading to find out.

Every summer we would go to a Kamp Ground of America(KOA) and there they would have an amazing room filled with arcade machines. I would estimate that they had between 8 and 10 games but as the years passed they decreased the number until they probably only had 2 or 3. As I said we never had a lot of money but I would always be given two quarters a day so that I could play a couple of games. Like most kids my age I would watch the games run through their attract mode, this is something that I have passed along to my own son so this tradition can continue(actually in all honesty I still love watching it play through). I have a vivid memory of sitting on a stool and watching Excitebike play through.

Although I was not able to get too far in it I would normally be able to play through at least a couple of levels before I would lose. My downfall was the night race if I made it that far that is. But even in the loss I would find enjoyment, I still get a "kick" out of your racer kicking the can and hitting himself in the head with it. It was during these visits that I also developed my love of pinball machines. I do not have any specific machines from these trips that really caught my imagination but they did ignite the first sparks that have continued to today.

In school we used aging Apple computers but there were still a few games that we could play with it. They were old apple ones which is about all I remember about them but I do remember the game that we played, Oregon Trail.

Oregon Trail is a resource management game where you are attempting to navigate the Oregon trail. At the start of the game you are allowed to enter the name of your characters which, of course, we abused relentlessly. The computers were old enough that they were all in black and white and there were only a select few that would play any of the games successfully. Whenever we had a computer class there was a mad rush of any of those computers. We were allowed to use them during our lunch break so were many breaks spent waiting for "My Butt" or "Your Dick" to drown or die of a snake bite. Of course no one actually made it to the end, honestly I would be shocked if we even made it a third of the way, but it was still the most memorable game that we had at my elementary school. It would not be until high school that I and a group of friends would play computer games together in a class room.

I had a couple of friends who were brothers, one a year older and one a year younger than me, whose father was a computer teacher. He had a Commodore 64 at his house this meant that I had access to even more gaming experiences. I believe that he was sharing games with other people at his school since they rarely had the boxes to go along with the games and the labels were almost always hand written. We were not always allowed to play it since their dad was often using it for work but when we did there were a plethora of games to pick from. The game that stands out the most I only got to play once and it was World Games.

The younger brother had gotten it for his birthday so we fired it up and everyone had to take turns playing it. First we went through all the games but the cliff diving was the crowd favorite. We each took turns smashing our heads into the bottom of the pool. After many trials and much laughter at the poor guy's expense we did figure out the right time to pull out of the dive it was much more enjoyable to just send him to his death. The other game that I remember playing at their house was Lemmings. We would rotate turns by level each of us getting to solve one. I always enjoyed watching the little guys blow up after the level was completed. Now that I think about it maybe it was something about being at their house that made me want to kill virtual creatures.

My parents eventually bought a Commodore 64 off of this family. In order to earn the computer my brother and I had to go a whole year without watching any cable TV which in 1987 was not nearly as big a deal as it would be today. Since the system was old at the time we were able to pick up some cheap games for it including a water polo game, which remains the only water polo game that I have played. I played Ghostbusters and I would get more and more nervous as the ghosts sped up. I remember my hands starting to sweat as Staypuff marshmallow man would start to form. I played a Batman game where we could never figure out how to get past the first few screens. The strongest memory that I have is that you could turn Batman pink. My parents bought me Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego complete with the dictionary, I think I played it 4 times total, even as a kid I knew that learning and video games just should not mix. Then there was Impossible Mission, although I remember it being brutally hard I also remembering a feeling of accomplishment when I was able to beat a room. We had Below The Root, like Batman I could never figure out how to play it but I saw the beauty and wonder that could be inside a video game.

The main aspect of the game that stands out was bushes. I remember gliding into bushes and then trying to get through bushes only to have my tool break. One of our more popular games was Winter Olympics. My brother and I would try to outdo one another to get the highest or fastest scores. There was one very memorable birthday that my brother had when one of his friends set a time of 22.23 on the bobsled run, a time that despite numerous attempts we were unable to beat. My favorite game for the system was Circus Charlie. I loved the graphics and gameplay, jumping over monkeys while on a tightrope will never get old, it's the music that I can still hear that brings me back to sitting in front of the TV that we had hooked up as a computer monitor.

It was around this time that I first heard about the NES. I do not remember the names of the person's house that we were at but I remember the NES was in the basement and the game that we played was Bad Dudes.

The family was friends with my parents and they had two daughters who were roughly the same age as my brother and I. As is often the case they had to show us how to play before we could attempt to play. Since I am the youngest my brother got to go first until it was finally my turn. I held down the button to charge of my punch before letting go and watched as he "rocketed across" the screen, anyone who has played the game can tell you "rocketing" is not exactly the most accurate description of what happens, but in my mind he was an unstoppable force, at least until I started facing enemies. My turn did not last nearly as long as anyone else but at least I had had a chance to play it. I think that was the only time that my family ever visited this persons house because it was years before I played the game again. This was by no means the only time I used family friends to get my gaming fix.

There was a family just down the street from where I lived that had a 15 year old and a 5 year old. When I was 7 or 8 I would frequent there to hang out with whoever was there and play with their NES. I only remember a couple of games that they had, one of which was Bayou Billy and the other one I will get to in a minute. Bayou was very rarely played and the only memory I have of actually playing it was laughing at how bad it was and the driving stage. They would often rent games so that I got to try a variety of games. The other game that they had was Zelda, the official gold cartridge.

Although we did not play it very often, it being a 1 player game and a bit above my head since I had never played an RPG before, it provides one of the strongest memories of the time that I spent over there. I had, and still have actually, a cheat book for the NES and in it they listed a way to get to the second quest. Well I wanted to see it but I did not want to delete my file so the younger brother and I deleted his older brother's file so we could enter the cheat in. Of course when the game loaded and it still looked the same we decided that we had messed up royally and hoped that his brother wouldn't want to play his file any time soon.... actually I never did find out if his brother found out or not.

This time I am really just guessing but I would hazard to say that I am now 8 or 9. There are many more stories to come. I am a bit disappointed that I have not been able to flush out more memories from all the gaming that I used to do on the Commodore but I think the reason for that is because I just stuck to playing the same games over and over again. Coming up in the next part, we get an NES!

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A lot of your memories echo mine. The C64 was a blast with Maniac Mansion, the Infocom games, Karateka, and as you mentioned, Impossible Mission. The thing I loved about that game was the voices. I loved starting the game and hearing "Ahhh, a visitor. Stay a while... stay forever!" I'd also purposely jump into pits just so I could hear the sound of him yelling from the fall. Great stuff, keep it coming.
I always used to try and find pinball machine while camping too! My dad would give it one try and then I'd get the rest of the change he had on him.

My sister and I used to play the hell out of World Games also, but the NES version. Speed Skating was our favorite. Actually they were all favorites except the damn log rolling.

Logged alot of recess time on Oregon Trail as well.

Looking forward to number 3!
I don't mind admitting that I am quite jealous of your memories of computer games.  While I did play a lot of Oregon Trail (weren't there two different versions?) in elementary school, I almost completely missed out on computers.  Sure, I did have a couple of friends who had computers, but per their parents I wasn't allowed to touch.  So while I did get to see quite a few games (Blue Max on C64, Commander Keen and Dune 2 on the PC), they were always out of my reach.  This likely explains my decade long obsession with computer gaming.  I spend nearly all of the eighties (until 1989) in the arcades, which were abundant in south eastern Michigan until the early nineties.

I don't know if I speak for the rest of you, but doesn't jcalder8's article make you want to do a writeup of your own gaming pasts?  Now I don't think mine was all that interesting, but at least it didn't include any obscure PC games or iOS titles (which is all I write about now...).  I did manage to beat Super Mario World in a Target while it was on a five-minute timer.

Can't wait for the next article.

@Duke.Togo: I had forgotten about that voice, now that you mention it my brother and I used to laugh about the yell.
@Crabmaster2000: We only ended up playing World Games that one time because he ended up breaking the disc shortly there after. I have picked up the NES version since I started collecting and you're right, log rolling sucks.
@bombatomba: I've actually known a fair number of kid's whose parents work with computers so I have had lots of access to different games. This will be coming out in the coming parts!

Thanks for reading.
Roger that.  At the house of my first "NES Friend" (also had Oregon Train on his dad's computer), we played a boat load of Super Mario Bros and Excitebite.  UP ALL NIGHT, SLEEP ALL DAY!  And the friend I knew with a Comm 64?  World Games!  As Duke.Togo mentioned, same games from the same great era.

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