Call it "The Lighter Side of Gaming", if you will, but "JoySchtick" just sounds so much cooler! Join Tim Snider through his irreverant (and completely true) misadventures in videogaming.

"The Calculator Video Game Book"

(c) 1983 by Tim Snider, 11th grade

When I was 16, my parents picked up a book they thought I might like - a book of calculator games. With any common pocket number-cruncher, you could fiddle with the pluses and minuses and play a few simple games like Hi-Lo, Moon Landing, spelling out "SHELLOIL," etc.

"We know how much you like video games," they said, somehow thinking that my Casio was some kind of primitive Game Boy or something.

I fooled around with the games a bit and learned how to punch in 7734 (heh heh) before I grew bored . Grabbing my high school notebook, I began devising my own calculator games based on arcade games. Over that weekend, I had written the rules for several.

Back at school on Monday, I was in study hall, punching in numbers on my calculator and pushing little slips of paper around on a crudely drawn playfield in my notebook.

"Whatcha doin'?" asked my study hall neighbor. "Playing Pac-Man," I answered as he gaped at me. Before study hall had ended, I had copied down the rules for "Calculator Pac-Man" a dozen times.

The requests started to roll in for other games and I dutifully came up with new ones: Missile Command, Space Invaders, Galaxians, Robot Bowl, Berzerk. For I had my own cottage industry.

Time passed, and I kept adding to my little game notebook, more out of hobby and habit than anything else: Death Race, Frogger, Asteroids, Star Castle. As I put the finishing touches on yet another of my little games (Crazy Climber), I noticed I had an entire book of these "calculator, pencil, and paper" games. Why not submit it as an actual book? I went to the public library, found a book on copyright registration, and mailed off the forms, a copy of my crudely written pages, and $10 for fees. Several weeks later, I remembered that I had a major "creative works" project due at the end of the school year. All students were - supposedly - to have been working on these the entire school year and were to be quite impressive. Of course, I had nothing...until I opened the mailbox. There lay a manilla envelope containing my Certificate of Copyright Registration. So, at the end of the year, I turned in my notebook and the certificate. As far as my teacher was (and still is) concerned, I had written a book for my project. It's the only A+ I've ever gotten in my life.

Looking back, I'm curious as to how a 16-year-old kid was able to copyright a book of games blatantly based on actual, rights-held, trademarked arcade machines. Nowhere in my amateur manuscript did I acknowledge the original rights-holders. (I was a kid. What did I know?) Don't the copyright-checkers watch for these sorts of things?

Obviously, I can't do anything with this "book" here in 2004 because:
1. It's incredibly amateurish and written in a precursor to "h4><0r speak." (For reasons I've yet to fathom, I used the word "grody" a lot.)
2. Why play games on your 8-digit calculator when you can upload MAME onto your Palm Pilot?
3. I stomped ALL OVER many copyrights and trademarks when I wrote it as a kid, and I'd be sued into the stone age if one single page was to ever see print.

Maybe, one day, I'll be inclined enough to clean it up and post one or two as a lark. After all, why fire up the Game Boy SP when you have a Texas Instruments just waiting to be played with?

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Last updated: Monday, July 04, 2005 10:03 PM