Wil Wheaton went nuts over some recordings of kids playing arcade games. I haven’t listened to them yet, so Wheaton may be justified in his nuts-going, I don’t know.

What I do know is that Wheaton’s mania for nostalgia is parallel to my own lately. So I found the ending to Wheaton’s post a bit more thought-provoking, and, hopefully, worthy of a small post.

He posed the question of choosing, to own for your very own, any four arcade games, and what would they be? Oh, and a pinball machine.

I never really enjoyed pinball the way I enjoyed arcade games so I immediately modified it to be any five arcade games. Even then, I had trouble picking just five. Here’s the list that first came off the top of my head:

  1. Pole Position (sit down version)
  2. Battlezone (stand up version)
  3. Elevator Action
  4. Asteroids Deluxe
  5. Tempest

Three of the five are vector-based graphics games. Only one (Elevator Action) features personal violence – the rest are abstracted violence (very much abstracted in the sense of competitive racing for Pole Position). And all of them feature a simple, single goal, rather than complex story-telling. They’re just games where the point is to survive and do as much damage as you can (or race as long as you can go).

And they all date to 1980-1983 – the years I went to high school.

Every single one of those games, at one point, were installed in the local 7-11, and I must have spent hours and hours, and quarter after quarter, playing each and every one of them, oblivious to anything else, mesmerized by the flashing lights. Most times I would be wearing headphones and listening to a mix tape of some sort, songs recorded off the radio, which would explain the lack of any songs not cut from the corporate commercialist cookie-cutter, ugh. It wouldn’t be until later that I discovered that there was a lot of awesome music that did not get played on Portland radio stations…

Blowing up asteroids, or stylized tanks, or shooting enemy spies, all stood in for whatever it was that I was avoiding out in the real world.

If only I had any idea what it was, exactly, I was avoiding?

What would my life, or anyone’s life, be like without video games? It would be irresponsible of me to speculate.