Peter Griffin cries "I am proud
to scream, I LOVE ATARI!"
Bleep, bleep..bleep, Doopdoop blgrrrrh.
Ahhh, the warm fuzzy feeling any nostalgic video gamer
who is over 20 feels when they hear that beautiful analog
Bringing back the funky 80's feeling
of sneaking out of the house after dinner and jumping
on the mongoose and absolutely bolting up the street
to your more fortunate friend who was blessed by the
Christmas god with an Atari Video Computer System. Blasting
though the front door, under his parents legs and diving
straight into the action-packed head to head death match
of Combat (Network play?? Bah, we had friends back then),
the stress inducing reflex twisting attack of the killer
coloured cornflakes from outer space with Asteroids,
the comical whizbangery of Frogger and the high level
of programming genius and "great graphics"
of Pitfall. I could go on forever for I am proud to
scream "I LOVE ATARI".
The word Atari is synonymous with its original
machines like the 2600, 2600 II and to a lesser extent
the 7800. Say the A word to anyone and you'll be drenched
with fond, fuzzy memories of a bygone era when it held
the world at ransom with this new found avenue for personal
leisure and enjoyment that the TV worshipping populace
was searching for. This new technology was allowing
us to discover, as the original press releases said,
"a world you never knew existed". I hear that!!
From then on, nothing else was good
enough as board games were falling flat, cards were
for alcoholic gamblers and even the much loved TV was
losing its coolness. But, over the next couple of years
we became too comfortable with the simple games that
we had and needed something more as our human instincts
for progression came into play, thus creating a craving
for better graphics, new challenges and deeper game
play. We were becoming bored with the wood grain Trojan
and new machines with more power started creeping in,
pushing the Atari under the bed with Monopoly and Uno,
effectively dissolving the "Atari era".
From then on, Atari never gained any
acknowledgment and/or success for their entertainment
offerings since those old days, (besides the odd arcade
game) which for a company that almost single handedly
brought video gaming out of arcades and into the international
household consciousness is pretty rough. The Lynx colour
hand-held game machine never really made a dent in the
gaming market (which was the first colour hand-held
available) even though it was a decent machine, due
to lack of sales and support.
Such was the fate of the Jaguar console which
was years ahead of the Playstation etc. but never got
any support and subsequently carted some pretty poor
games. Admittedly, the hardware is pretty dated now,
but still it was ahead of the SNES & Megadrive back
in the day. The point is that Atari were still trying
to break new ground, but it was an uphill battle as
I believe no one took them seriously as they had a too
strong association with the old machines. I guess those
rusted old pixilated shacks were a little bit too tough
In our present era of the console
war and the "my box has more bits than yours"
argument continues in playgrounds and workplaces around
the world, its sobering and head-numbingly enjoyable
to rip into a fiery one man battle of skill in Pac-man,
rather than playa million dollar game that looks all
pretty, but is as enjoyable as a colonic irrigation.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a retro
retard with my head in the blue eye shadow of the 80's.
I think the new generation of consoles are great and
I'm currently the proud owner of a Nintendo 64, but
one cannot leave the loving grasp of the old "stick
in box with orange button and wood grain console"
that's the size of a small third world country with
about as much processing power as an analogue watch.
(Man WOOD GRAIN!!! I say bring that funky stuff back!!
Nintendo 128 "Wood grain edition"...DAMN!).
Just like Cornflakes, the simple things in life are
often the best.
Now, I'm not sure if it is nostalgia
talking (which no doubt plays some sort of a part in
my love for the beast), but there is just a little bit
of magic in playing a single game for countless hours
on end with less on screen and in memory during its
entire duration than the intro of a modern game. When
you think about it, the basis of games has never really
evolved and has no need to anyway, as they are only
a vehicle for enjoyment which relies on how well that
Dodge things, shoot things, race things
etc. The roots have never and will never change (unless
we suddenly decide lopping off our own limbs and eating
them is more fun). The game play is all that the Atari
had to rely on, as the graphics were as minimal as possible,
and only used just to let you know what's going on,
so you couldn't mask a bad game with sexy graphics as
so many developers do today. When will they learn. The
old games are making their way back though, through
retro repackaging of old games on new machines, but
it's like the difference between a real Moog keyboard
and a digital emulation.
Adding to that theme, the sound is
a major part of what makes the Atari so immortally cool.
The sounds that come from that piece of electronic genius
are some of the coolest electro blurps, bleeps &
farps ever invented (apparently sharing the same sound
board design as the king of boogie rock, the Moog keyboard).
As soon as you hear the first strains of Galaxian, it's
obvious that this game is lurvveee in a cartridge and
even my non-game addicted friends agree, there's more
lovin' going on in every dodgy Atari pixel than a million
rendered polygons on a Playstation. Yet another valid
reason why that danged Atari keeps dragging you back
for just one more game of Video Olympics.
you may neglect the old machine for a while, but as
soon as you remember, BAM your straight back into it.
Its like the difference between a new car, and a 1970
427 2 door Ford Thunderbird. The new car will dazzle
you with it's reliability and comfort for a while, but
after 6 months, you realise it's a soulless shell of
money grabbing corporate rubbish.
The old Ford Thunderbird may be a
bit rougher, have a few niggly problems, but the satisfaction
you gain is endless as it has CHARACTER. Something the
mid 80's killed and the 90's are reinforcing. And what
a shame that is.
Like I mentioned before, game play
rocks. I'm not saying that every old game rules, but
the classics are true classics in the honest sense of
the word. They will never be banished from that magical
place in your mind with all your memories of your greatest
glories and triumphs gently wrapped up in galactical
foil and cotton wool. When you're truly into any game
of decent substance, not just floundering about, you
totally forget about the simplicity of the games graphics,
for whatever lacks in the graphics is made up with imagination.
(Remember that?) You become totally consumed as the
outside world becomes that static white haze which engulfs
the tunnel of vision that surrounds your screen. Your
insistent problems of mortal life sizzle into the void
as you teleport your starfighter only to find that you
are placed in front of the largest pink cornflake you
have ever seen about to smash you into space dust.
This feeling from any good video game
is universal despite it being old or new, which is why
I love them oh so much. I still whip out my Megadrive
and whack on the odd few classic games like Madden ‘92
and I am currently head deep in Lylat Wars on my 64,
but it is still no Atari. Just like a new BMX ain't
no Dragster with chopper forks and an AM radio. Both
cool, but for different reasons.
the years march on by, the games and machines become
less and less reliable, joysticks start to break down
(which is when you start using an old Megadrive controller)
and it's obvious that the life of this "forefather
of the modern electronic entertainment age" may
be coming to an end. But there will always be the slaves
of the old Atari, and I can see the legions growing
now as we may now have pretty tricky machines but, akin
to the CD vs Vinyl debates, some people such as myself
argue that you can't upgrade style. And, as any Vinyl
collector will know, the feeling of digging up some
long lost classic in a dusty old flea market, finding
an Atari with games all boxed is like heaven on a stick.
Because of the growing scarceness
of Atari and associated machinery, a certain collectors
mentality is coming into the mix. Hopefully it never
becomes too cool otherwise the cash hungry opportunists
will, just like old Star Wars toys, scam all the remaining
hardware and try to sell it for a million bucks. The
elite of us all know that we don't need the padding
of comfort of the newest invention to lull us into happy
What I wonder is will todays kids
whose roots lie in Megadrive's, SNES', Playstation's,
Saturn's and Dreamcast's value them in years to come
as we value the old Atari? Only time will tell...
Ok, so you own one or intend to own
one soon. This is what you need to know...
Love your Atari and it'll love
Mr Atari is getting
on in the years, so here is a little guide of how to
take care of the biggest (physically and historically)
game machine in the universe. I know it all sounds a
bit obvious, but it's amazing how easy these things
are to forget and how little people actually adopt the
practice of loving your little robot-o-fun:
- When your finished making party,
take the power pack OUT of the power point or turn
the power point off as they frizzle in a minute.
- Try to rig up a cover for the
whole machine to avoid dust getting in the cartridge
slot and switches as it will kill it because they
aren't the most resilient machines and you ain't
gonna get no warranty punk.
- Keep your game cartridges with
the bit you put in the machine covered for the same
reason as above.
- Don't force the cartridges in
and out as they should just pop in without much
of a click. Its more like you moosh them in.
- ALWAYS turn the consoles power
switch off before inserting and removing games,
otherwise you'll frank the game and you'll be destined
to look at fuzzy lines which sucks more bangers
than Pauline Hanson.
Search and Destroy
Finding the perfect Atari can be easy and
difficult at the same time. It just takes a little commitment
kid. Firstly, go ask all your relatives as that can
uncover a few surprises. Flea markets are your friend,
and also, your friends are your friends so ask around
and most people are more than happy to offload their
old "junk" onto you. You'll be amazed as driving
controllers, spare paddles and strange games you never
knew existed may pop up where you least expect it. Also
look in local papers and the trading post. and I've
even seen them at cash converters. The whole system
with controllers and a good amount of games should only
set you back around $20. Any more and you want to be
getting a load of stuff.
Show us ya goods!
CONSOLE: This is your vehicle to distant
worlds. There are a few different versions of the Atari
like the CX2600 which was the first issue with the wood
grain in the front, the 2600 that was all 1980 modernistic
and the 7800 which was the last ditch effort for the
Atari posse which had slightly better graphics but not
much else. All the games play on pretty much any of
JOYSTICK: The most common piece of
hardware and easiest to find as they are pretty much
everywhere. If they break, which they like to do pretty
often, an old Megadrive controller will suffice.
PADDLE CONTROLLER: You'll need this
for Breakout, Video Olympics, all pong variations and
a fair few more games, so it's almost a necessity that
you find one so you can play some of the best games
on the machine. Hard to find in working order.
DRIVING CONTROLLER: Basically the
same as the Paddle, but for some reason, is the only
controller that works on driving games. Good to have
as there are some great driving games (Street racer,
KEYBOARD CONTROLLER: Needed for the
educational games and the basic programming game. Not
really necessary at all, but cool to have because they
are so pathetically cool.
POWER PACK: An overlooked accessory,
they don't take long to burn out, so its more than likely
you will need to repair or find a replacement from Tandy
which is a bummer because the original pack looks funky
as hell with the silver symbol just concreting your
social status as the king roger. Oh well...
The games, the games, what
about the games?
are hundreds of games floating around, from the garden
variety games to some full on ones that you may only
ever see once like on multi-pack cartridges with elves
jumping mushrooms and stuff. It's basically the harder
you look the more you'll find. It sounds stupid but
you'll get addicted to the hunt for games and hardware
and soon you will have about 5 machines, a plethora
of controllers and much gameage, and still be looking
The search is almost as cool as playing
the games themselves, but prepare to meet many nerds
who think that their machine is so vintage it's worth
$500. Atari's rule!