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.

Atari 2600, I Love You

Valentine’s Day is once again upon us, so I thought I’d share my memory of one of my first loves – the Atari 2600. And when I say “first love,” I don’t mean “childhood toy that provided many happy memories.” By “first love,” I mean “object that gave me my first - and only – hickey.” 

And, no, we didn’t go any further. I’m not that kind of boy. 

Flashback to 1982: Roger, one of my best friends, was an electronics whiz. This is the guy who built a working Tesla Coil just to torment his cat. (He was a whiz, but I didn’t say he was bright.) Anyway, Roger’s newest project was to try to get the world’s fastest 100-meter time in Activision’s Decathlon. To do so, he disassembled an Atari joystick and combined the switches with a block of wood and an electric drill. The theory was that a wire attached to the spinning drill bit would ‘slap’ the switches fast enough to max out the ‘power’ bar on-screen, giving Roger the world’s first sub-3 second 100 meter sprint. After having his fingertips shredded for the 80th time by the impromptu weed-whacker, Roger shelved his project. However, the broken pieces of the joystick remained on the kitchen table just I arrived with the rest of our weekly D&D group. And here’s where our story actually begins. 

As our game began in earnest, I found myself growing bored with what was going on. (I played a cleric and was only needed when one of our party was in need of a quick Cure Light Wounds spell. I was the team medic so often, my character might as well have been named ‘Hawkeye.’) 

Looking around at the pieces of the broken joystick, I chanced upon the joystick’s rubber “sheath” – that black rubber plunger-looking thing that slips over the stick and base. (A 2600 condom, as it were.) After tossing it up in the air and having it fall to the table like a big suction dart a few times, I looked around the table, screamed “Look! I’m a unicorn!” then stuck it directly to my forehead. I pranced about the table and got the laughs I wanted – except from Roger, our now-glowering DM. 

Roger called me a “stickhead” (or something that sounded a lot like that) then reached over and yanked the stick off with a POP. There was an uncomfortable pause as every eye stared at my face and every jaw dropped. Then the laughter began. The “fall-away-from-the-table-in-danger-of-peeing-yourself” laughter reserved only for those times when one of your friends has done something galactically stupid. 

I ran to the bathroom and stared at myself in the mirror. There, in the center of my forehead, was a perfectly round red dot about an inch across. I had given myself a hickey with an Atari joystick. 

Now, this is NOT the kind of accident easily explained to your parents. (“Well, you see Dad, there I was with a joystick stuck to my head…”) Even worse, was trying to explain to the entire student population of my school. (“So there I was, facing down a gang of Klansmen bikers…”) 

After about 2 weeks of Hellish junior high school torment (made even worse because I didn’t have a girlfriend I could blame it on), the damn hickey began fading away and, eventually, so did the taunts of “Hickey-Head.” I learned a valuable lesson from that incident that I’ve taken to heart: “Never stick things to your face that might leave embarrassing blemishes.” 

Nope, now I stick them to OTHER parts of my body.

Next time: “How I Contracted Mono From My Commodore 64”

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