I thought I might as well start at the point where my gaming experience originated with the Atari video game system. As a child of somewhere between 4 and 6, the Atari was my first gaming system. Sure it is primitive, but at the time it was something different and unique.
I must confess that the system I had was not the original Atari 2600, which featured the wooden casing, 2600 junior which was a very cheap 3rd edition of the system. It was released in 1985.
This was gaming simplicity at its finest. The controller was a simple joystick that had a single button to accompany it. Games were mostly blips on the screen that had minimal objectives, though some games do stand out…and I’ll share those later. I should also note that due to my young age, or small hands or for whatever reason that seems odd now, I held the controller upside-down. The reason for this was for closer placement of the button. The button was in the top left corner and for some reason, I thought it felt better to have the button in the bottom right so I could use my left hand with the joystick. Apparently, I knew what I was doing since nearly every controller design now has the d-pad or stick on the left.
My style of holding the joystick also meant I had to play every single game with an inverted X and Y axis. I don’t know how I managed to do it, and I certainly could never train myself to do it now, but in retrospect that was quite a feat.
128 colors and graphics that made the NES look like something from the year 2025, the Atari 2600 wasn’t flashy. It did the job however, and that was more than enough.
Pitfall was probably the best known game for the system. It was the 2nd highest selling game for the system behind the extremely disappointing game Pac-Man. Pitfall was also a unique side scrolling adventure game.
Essentially you had 20 minutes to cross ponds of alligators, jump scorpions, and maneuver around other obstacles without dying. You are supposed to find 32 treasures and achieve the highest score possible. I remember playing this game more than any other.
Another classic favorite of mine was the puzzle game Q-Bert. I remember getting tens of levels deep and spending countless hours trying to figure out how to complete levels that continued the climb in difficulty.
With all the great games this system produced, I’d be doing a disservice by not admitting that I owned what many consider the worst game ever made….E.T. Not only the worst game, but almost single-handedly destroying the Atari company and the future of video games altogether.
I never really knew what I was doing. I remember running around with E.T. and constantly having play halted because I fell in a giant pit. Getting out of these things were massive chores. Then when I did get out, 5 seconds later I got to do it all over again. What fun!
There’s so many great memories with this system and a large number of games that I had a ton of fun with. Playing Combat with 2 players, getting to an impossible level in Moon Patrol, and controlling Snoopy in The Red Baron were great times.
It’s certainly not the best time I’ve had in video gaming, but it was my first time. Sure the games are almost all terrible now and have little to no replay value compared to games even a few years later, but at 5 years of age, there was nothing like it.