Posts Tagged ‘gaming’

Remember Atari? Specifically the Atari 2600?  if not, you may want to just wait for the next post, since this one is gonna be all about the good old days.

Back before the original xbox, or even Nintendo 64, there was the Atari 2600, one of the first game consoles hooked up to the your colour TV.  I specifically mention colour TV, because believe it or not, around this time there still were black and white TVs out there in the wild being used, in fact i think most people had their big 20″ colour “Sylvania” TV in the family room and then maybe an old B&W in the basement for the kids. Before the Atari 2600 there were other gaming consoles of sorts, but none really caught on, and calling them that is a bit of a stretch anyway.  PONG was really popular but people grew tired of it and realized there must be a way to play other games.

The year was 1977 and video games were something played mostly in dark dingy smoke-filled Pinball Arcades, hidden away in the corner of the bigger malls, with as much drug selling going on in them as there was quarters being fed into the slots of the games.  Good times… cough, cough, weez, click click click…

For those with a bit of money, you could bring the fun home without all the drugs, smoke and other bad influences.  The consoles were priced pretty high for the time at $199, but for many the fun was worth it and the era of at-home-gaming really began to develop. After the reign of the Atari, its numerous revisions and re-releases, and the development of the competing Coleco console, third party companies started making games for those platforms, which caused some problems of its own, but really was the beginning of the multi-billion dollar game developing industry of today.

Enough history though.  What prompted this nostalgic look back was something i saw at the local Costco store – the Atari Flashback2+.  The console is a meager $29, which by todays standards is about what it costs to go to the movies and have refreshments, as opposed to the original cost of $199 which by 1977 standards was enough to buy food for an entire family for a month.

This re-release of the Atari console isn’t aimed at the current generation of gamers, after all the graphics and simplicity of the games are less than what most people have on their cel-phones, but is aimed more at those of us who look back fondly on our misspent youth and want to recapture a small part of it.  The console itself is the third re-release of the console, following the 2004 Atari Flashback and the 2005 Atari Flashback2.  Some of the games have changed in this version, and for me the Flashback2 is actually sounding like the one i’d prefer since it had a personal favorite of mine on it, “Climber”, but if you like the sports games of old then the Flashback2+ may be your retro-console of choice.

It’s not going to rock your world with the graphics, and your kids may look at you like you’ve lost what’s left of your aging mind when they see the old styling and simplistic games, but sometimes its fun to step back and be a teen again, reliving moments and memories from long ago. Now if only i can find a local supply of Grape or Orange flavoured potato chips and Chocolate Charleston Chews i’d be in retro-heaven.

tcg

My favorite blood-related niece mentioned to me the other day (via facebook, since we never actually see each other anymore – nudge nudge) that games for the Mac are hard to find.  I was perplexed a little by that comment until i started to ponder it more deeply, and yes, in fact she was right – sorta.

If you go to any of the big box retailers looking for Mac games or even programs for that matter you will be hard pressed to find any that are specifically Mac, you may find a few dual-OS games, such as Spore, or World of Warcraft for instance, but very few if any that are solely Made for a Mac. The gaming stores handle all the console games, PS2, PS3, DS, XBox, Wii, etc., and maybe some windows based stuff, but nothing for Mac.  There is always the Apple Store, if you want to purchase games online that is, because still, sadly, not all cities have a brick-and-mortar store to go to.  Where i live we are fortunate to have a recently expanded pseudo-apple store Mostly Digital that sells most of the stuff you can get through Apple.ca (or Apple.com) although some of it needs to be ordered in, but thankfully that is typically a next-day thing.  Sure there is always Amazon, or Macgamestore if you want to buy online, but not everyone is comfortable using a credit card to purchase on the interweb, nor does everyone have a credit card.  There are quite a few games already created for Macs, be they ports of windows games, or multi-platform games that are offered for various OSes and consoles, and if you search the web you will find many, but actually physically finding them in a store you can walk into and pick them up is another issue.

I know Macs are still a small share of the computer market, and an even smaller share of the gaming market, but how much of that is just due to lack of availability?  Maybe the old adage “if you build it, they will come” could be rewritten to “if you stock it, they will buy”.  Could the lack of availability be one of the reasons that Mac-gaming is not booming?  Possibly.  It used to be that Macs had the image of being used by creative types and were only meant for serious design-use but with that image changing and Macs being sold in more places and aimed at students as well as the pros, there is a growing calling for more apps, more programs and more games.  So i say this to all of the retailers out there, you can’t sell what you don’t stock.  The gaming market is made up of a lot of the same people who are buying most of the Macs out there, students and young professionals.  More and more places are selling Macs, hopefully they take that one step further and begin stocking more programs and games that work on them.

BTW, don’t tell her, but she is also my only blood-related niece 😉

tcg

After our little flood in the basement, we had taken all the electronics out and put them in the loft to dry, in the hopes nothing was damaged, but we were expecting at least the Xbox360 to be pooched, the power brick was sitting in the water and plugged into a surge suppressor that was on the floor also in the water. Normally electronics and water don’t play well together so i was not hopeful.  Well, today I figured everything was dryed out as much as it was going to, so I plugged things back in one at a time while crossing fingers, toes, eyes and anything else I could cross.  The xbox power brick worked, it reported normal status, in standby mode actually, so i plugged it in to the console and powered it up.  woohoo.  i’ve never been so happy to hear that familiar startup sound.  As soon as i got it up and running and logged in, i was informed there was an update available so i downloaded it.  i had read a bit about the NEW Xbox Experience, and was keen to see what the hype was all about.  A fairly short download later and i was looking at the new Xbox Experience as shown above.  Aside from a different look to the whole thing, there are some tweaks to the navigation, and you are greeted with a screen to create your avatar as soon as you log into your account.

Once you select your staring point, It is really very easy and a lot of fun, although you can get hung up on all the possibilities and subtleties very easily, believe me.  i spent a good 30 minutes trying out multiple combinations of various facial features before finally settling on one i liked.  It can be almost as much fun to create your avatar and get he/she looking “just right” as it is playing a game, which sort of explains some of the popularity of games like SecondLife and to a lesser extent Spore, where you create who you want to be and what you want to look like.

I’m curious to see where Microsoft is going with all this, these avatars will be used in certain games in the future, and for right now they are your gaming presence, the “you” people see when they check your profile or stats or check to see which friends are online.  Its definitely a neat idea and one that has tons of possibilities for the future.  IMHO, M$ has taken a good step in this, too bad they didn’t put as much time and effort into the design of the original Xbox360, because i am sure there are many people out there suffering with the “ring of death” that would rather have a working console than a cute little customizable 3d character.

tcg