WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT LIFE FROM MY ATARI AND THE SPOILED KID AT THE END OF OUR COURT
By Kevin Staszkow
I’m the oldest of five children. My father was a teacher, and my mother didn’t work outside the home. We lived in a suburb of San Francisco on a safe cul-de-sac. Needless to say, in the 70’s and early 80’s when I was growing up, there was not a lot of money for video games. We had an Atari 2600 and a few games that we played the hell out of. We would drool over the Service Merchandise and Sears catalogs each season wishing and hoping for the latest releases. And we did manage to score a few carts every Christmas and on our birthdays.
At the other end of our court lived this kid named Michael. Michael was an only child. But what Michael missed out on as far as siblings, he made up for in Atari 2600 cartridges. Michael’s dad drove a truck and was away from home a lot. When he was around, however, he always seemed to appear with the latest Atari release. Every few weeks, Michael would invite us over to check out the latest releases from Atari or Activision. On rare occasions, Michael would even let us play. On Christmas and his birthday, Michael would always rate a stack of great games. I think the reason I stopped believing in Santa was that Santa was so unfair. For my brothers and I, Santa only could manage 2 cartridges to share among the three of us, but for Michael, there were five or 6 games waiting just for him. Why would I want to believe in such a jerk?
I learned a lot about life playing Atari with Michael. For me at least, like most things in life, video games are not nearly as fun without other people to play them with. Even if the game is for one player only, it’s always more fun to have a buddy by your side cheering you on or taunting you. The best games were the ones that required two players or more to play. Dodge ‘Em, Tennis, Indy 500, Video Olympics, Home Run, Combat, Fishing Derby, Maze Craze, Basketball, Air-Sea Battle, Outlaw, and of course Warlords; these were the games that led to our biggest conflicts, but at the same time, strangely brought us together. 8-bit games require imagination. Trust me, back then it wasn’t “in the game.” What games lacked in graphics and sound, we created in our own minds. We put ourselves into those games and they became a part of us. In our minds we were "flying aces, race car champions, tennis stars and space pioneers" EVERY afternoon, right on our court. If it wasn’t for the Atari, Michael and I never would have been friends.