When growing up, there were only a few ways for a kid to get his or her gaming fix. There were primitive handhelds, game consoles, and arcades. The majority of homes had the Atari VCS (which became the 2600). Some friends prob had less well known systems like the Intellivision and later the Colecovision. On YouTube, I see a lot of lesser known gaming systems that were available at the time, but I can only remember playing one obscure system outside of the mainstream big 3 and it was an the Odyssey 2. Every Christmas season The JcPenny Catalog and the Sears Wishbook would have these videogame systems and games and some other systems that I never saw in real life, like the Vectrex. My own mobile gaming came exclusively from the Mattel Football 2 handheld. It had Glowing LED’s that simulated a “football” game the best it could. That was State of the Art mobile gaming Circa. 1979-80
With no source of income outside of Christmas and Birthday money, owning a wide range of games was out of the question, unless you were completely. My mom kept a roof over my head and food on the table, so if I wanted to play something I didn’t own, I had to go to a friend’s home. If you had a good group of friends, you had a large pool of games to play from. One guy might own 3 or 4 games, but 6 guys, not counting duplicates, would have access to 15 to 18 games. It was like having a personal library of games.
Shopping time, as a kid, was big deal. You always hoped you were headed to the mall, because some malls had arcades. My mall contained an arcade and I would always talk my parents into letting me play a few games. I was around 7 the first time I went. way back in 78-79, I remember playing Lunar Lander and Night Driver when ever I got to the arcade. I could barely reach the pedals on the Sit-down Night driver cab and I had no idea what I was doing when I played Lunar Lander, but man, I liked that big thruster handle. Between promises of being good, and saying I just want to look, its amazes me how much manipulation was required just to play a game. When I was older and growing up in the LA basin, I ended up having a few more alternatives for playing games compared to a lot of my friends and my ohio roots.
After my parents divorce, my mom gathered me and all of our stuff up and headed to Los Angeles. Thats where her side of the family was living. 2 things stand out in my memory about moving to LA .One was having my bike stolen at the park by a kid who asked if he could ride it. He rode away and I never saw my bike again. I learned Quickly that not every kid is your friend. That was a rough introduction to life in the big city. The second thing was making a group of friends, and how they introduced me to a California staple, The Liquor store. Our liquor store was located at the end of the block in a mini-mall. Out west, a liquor store has a very different meaning, its a mini-market, you can buy anything from chips and food stuffs, to sodas and Alcohol. Back east, a liquor store was usually a store that only carried liquor, there was no chips, sodas, or ice cream. It was an adults only kind of establishment. Our Liquor store also had videogames. The first one I played there was Centipede. Before heading out, I had asked my mom for a Buck and she obliged my tiny request. My friends took me up to the Liquor store and I had never seen a trackball game. I remmeber putting my quiarter in and my friend telling me how to play the game. I ended up spending 75 cents and left a quarter for a pack of Now or Laters, which I shared with everyone. I still flash back to that store every time I load Centipede up on MAME.
My mom owned a little dry cleaning store in Long beach which had a Liquor store just around the corner. There I played my first bootlegged game, Crazy Kong. In fact I played Crazy Kong before I’d ever heard of Donkey Kong. We didn’t go to malls too often, so I had a place that was a replacement for my lack of arcade access. I had the bowling alley. My bowling alley was impressive in both the breath and scope of the types and number of video games available. They were also great about how often they changed the games out. I got the chance to play many great games and a lot of obscure ones too.
End of PT1.