games personal

Atari 2600 vs. a modern-day 9 year old

We found my wife’s old Atari 2600 at her mother’s house a few months back.  I’ve been fiddling around with it off-and-on ever since.  Sadly I discovered that it was missing some pieces.  Thanks to what must have been divine intervention, I found the final piece I needed this past weekend.  With great anticipation and trepidation I inserted the Pac-Man cartridge and clicked the power toggle to “on”.  I didn’t realize it, but I was holding my breath hoping it would work.  The moment between flipping the power toggle and seeing the result on the screen felt like an eternity, but was actually probably less than a second.  Astonishingly my house was filled with glorious plinky music and my TV shone with a beautiful 128-color palette!  Within seconds, I heard my wife shout from the other room, “I hear Atari!”  This was amazing because she had no idea I was working on the machine, and she hadn’t heard the music from these games in probably 25 years.

Moments after the machine was turned on, my nine year old step-son came running into the room.  Most likely he could sense that his fondness for video games is directly descended from this machine.  Perhaps some sort of genetic race memory.

We set him up with a few games: Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Video Pinball, and Chopper Command.  Below you can see him tackling Space Invaders.  On a related note, I was nearly in tears when I discovered that the cartridges no longer worked for Pitfall and Q*bert.

We discovered very quickly that the controller’s response wasn’t very good anymore.  I guess 25+ years of entropy had an effect.  The next photo is him in mortal combat with Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde.

Chopper Command and Video Pinball seemed to grab his interest more than the slower-paced games such as Pac-Man or Space Invaders.  I had forgotten with Space Invaders that once you shot, you could not shoot again until your bullet had either hit something or run off the top of the screen.  That is extraordinarily frustrating while playing.   He was pretty excited once we discovered how to set the auto-fire on Chopper Command – more destruction in less time.  Frustration was also compounded because the controllers weren’t responding as well as we’d like.

Overall, he played Atari for about 30 to 35 minutes.  While my wife and I were caught up in the nostagala, he was clearly underwhelmed by the graphics and playbability of these games.  As soon as he could politely excuse himself, he was back to his Club Penguin and Playstation II Lego Indiana Jones.

12 thoughts on “Atari 2600 vs. a modern-day 9 year old

  1. I loved this. Jared is similarly unimpressed by ’80s video games, even the modernized versions. We’re old.

  2. I think this is complete torture. I’m totally reporting you to Child Services. To see a child of this generation playing a 25 year old game system is unbearable. Get the kid a Playstation 3 or Wii, for crying out loud.
    You’re going down, you animal. Expect a knock on your door soon. If you know what’s good for you, you will hide that Atari and never show it to him again.
    I’m sorry, I can’t continue. This is heart wrenching. I’m scarred.

  3. Ok, Ed is partially right, but dude, lighten up. The Artdie was part of our life. Limited exposure will not harm the child but prolonged use may lead to a life of (gasp) computer science or some other perverted profession. He might even grow up to be a redditor!

  4. Sorry, should have read Atardie. See what years of gaming and education do to a young persons mind! And I only have a MS…

  5. I find it very interesting that a “modern-day” kid could not enjoy a slow game like Space Invaders or Pac-Man.

    At what speed do we need to go to grab children’s attention these days?

    Sorry this comment is already too long for most anyway so I’ll close.

  6. Permial – Thanks for the comments. However, I’m pretty sure Ed’s comment was intended to be tongue-in-cheek.

    Thanks for stopping by!


  7. Way to go Shag. Remember people, eye candy is nice, but it’s playability that counts!

  8. “We discovered very quickly that the controller’s response wasn’t very good anymore”

    Red Skull does not remember Atari controllers EVER being good! Playing for a long time hurts bony hands. Do you not know, American, that the study of ergonomics did not exist, indeed, did not need to exist, before the Atari controller???

    Yet, even the controller you now possess must work better than a brand new Intellivision controller.

    Red Skull’s favorite part of playing video games is “taking A.I.M.”! (Evil guffaw)

  9. About the same experience here… My six-year old daughter complained these “games were too difficult/fast” and quickly left.

    Having planned to teach her BASIC on my aging Atari 800XL, I too felt very disappointed. Is it us or the kids that have changed?

    At least, 27 years too late, I managed to complete a few games (5 and counting 😉 that I hadn’t been able to tackle back then.

  10. Hello, we were doing a massive cleaning at home and my brother found atari 2600, I somehow couldn’t throw it away and trying hard to play it but it isn’t working apparently all parts seems fine, can u help me to find out what could be the problem.

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