Sep 3, 2016

Pop Culture League - First Quarter

This week, the Pop Culture League asks

What’s your earliest arcade or video game memory?

This was a fun mental exercise for me because I've been into video games for a very long time (I"m old). I had to fire up the Wayback Machine and try to piece together the sequence of my early video game memories. But I have to admit, it really wasn't that difficult using the game's release year as a benchmark.

It helps if you imagine a whirling time tunnel graphic here.
Or maybe just Wayne and Garth doing that flashback thing.

Was it...

going to the local bowling alley with my dad on Friday nights, which was the only real arcade in my area for some time?

stopping at the mall on the way home from middle school which had a handful of games crammed into a space that wasn't meant to hold them and a bunch of kids?

playing Donkey Kong or Karate Champ at the corner store with my best bud?
(Just like Karate Kid, sweeping the leg was the ultimate lame move.)

playing Pac-Man at the roller rink?

In my time on this planet, all the above memories fall into a very small span of years but there is one game that was the genesis of my love of video game...

Way, way back when I was still in grade school, I used to go to the local YMCA quite a bit. Sometimes for swimming lessons, sometimes for basketball practice. Until I started this little mind warp, I had nearly forgotten I played basketball as a kid!

At some point, the YMCA added a Space Invaders machine to the lobby next to the foosball table and that was the start of my love affair with video games. I remember at the end of whatever had brought me to the Y, I'd go and play Space Invaders. There usually wasn't much of a wait for the machine but I do recall having to put my quarter on the bezel to be the next pilot in line to defend the planet.

As fate would have it, this YMCA was directly across the street from where I ended up going to middle school. The school didn't have a proper gym so when it was time for PE, we walked across the street to use their gym. I distinctly remember Ladybug, Mouse Trap, and Vanguard joining the lineup during that time.

I know I played Space War which came out before Space Invaders but I don't have any strong memory of it like I do Invaders. I'd chalk it up to the ever increasing beat as you take out the Invaders one by one. Their descent speeds up, along with your adrenaline, as you have to start timing your shots to keep the ever advancing horde from destroying your bunkers and making planet fall.

I also have to give honorable shout-outs to Oregon Trail and Lemonade Stand, both of which I played in grade school.

A few other League posts

Retro Ramblings' first encounter was with an NES.
The Toy Box was lucky enough to live near an Aladdin's Castle.
Another old timer in the video wars, Marc Allie remembers Sears Telegames.

For more video game goodness, check out the post at Cool and Collected.


  1. Getting one of those Pong consoles that hooked up to the TV for Christmas.....

    1. I remember one of my friends had that before there was the Atari console.