One game, one system: Atari 2600

You’ve got to start with the classics, and there’s none more classic than the Atari 2600.

I didn’t actually own an Atari 2600 growing up (although I’m technically exactly the right age bracket to have done so); I knew a few lucky kids that did, but even back then (we’re talking pre-history for some readers, sadly… and that makes me feel old), the 2600 was expensive gaming territory. I did have a few (shared) Game & Watch systems — but that’s a post for another day. The first one I purchased was from a Cash Converters around 1998, making it only around 20 years out of date. On the plus side, even with a big pile of games, it was exceptionally cheap, and it joined one that I (effectively) married into — which is the simple way of saying that the other 2600 in the house belongs to my lovely wife.
I should also note right away that while I own a 2600, when I want to play the games, I do so on an Atari 5200. The reasons why I own that particular 5200 is a great story in itself if you’ve never read it. But I own precisely zero actual 5200 games beyond the built-in version of Asteroids, which doesn’t count, so I won’t be doing a separate 5200 entry.
But the one game rule is quite strict. There can be only one, as the Kurgan might say. Which game should I pick?
I do like Outlaw (infamously, I spent part of what was effectively my Bucks party playing it).
But it’s not the one.
Neither is Combat, even though everyone’s played it.
Or Ms Pac-Man, even though I’ve got a somewhat tenuous claim to being a world champion at it.
(Twin Galaxies never got back to me, by the way…)
Still, the game I’d keep for the 2600 has to be Space Invaders. So many game types. So simple, and yet, even after more than thirty years, there’s a simple and timeless joy in blasting a few waves of aliens… even when my time is limited.
It’s even got the best plot of a game ever; to quote from the back of the box:
Aliens from space are threatening our planet. Your job is to prevent them from landing on earth by destroying each one with your laser cannon. Just when you think you’ve destroyed them all, more attacking aliens will appear. Choose from 112 games.
That’s it! They’re just “threatening”, but in aggressive human form, this is enough for us to have to destroy them, even though it’s pointless, because there will always be another wave to come. It’s almost Kafka-esque in its desperation, married to a Camus-style existential desire for existence itself to perpetuate endlessly.
(See — I did that fancy university degree for a reason, folks, although I doubt it was intended to be this… but I can still waffle meaninglessly with the worst of them!)
Space Invaders was, at that time, a trademark of Taito. Remember Taito?
Whereas most of my stuff on this blog of late has been terribly self promotional –  and for good reason – this is something I’d love to get some feedback on. Think I’m right or wrong? Let me know below!
(please note; unless you’ve commented here before, you’ll have to wait for my moderation. I get a lot of wacky comment spam, even for a relatively low-key blog like this…)
Next up: The first console I ever owned. But which game would I keep?

2 thoughts on “One game, one system: Atari 2600”

  1. Sir, you shame me – while my 2600 may still be in its original box, your individual GAMES are still in their boxes! You appear to be more organised / vigilant than the Smithsonian.
    And thanks to your selection, I was reminded of a fact that I had completely forgotten – the “number of games” feature on each game catridge (something modern gamers would surely struggle to comprehend, as to them there are only 2 possible variants for any game – solo or online).
    But 112 variations on the simple game of Space Invaders??? This weekend I will unpack my game and refresh my memory on how that is even possible!

  2. That’s very much on an individual game basis — if you check out the original post, there’s not a whole lot of organisation there! Also, I have games to play them, so in (most) cases, whether or not there was a box was irrelevant to whether I purchased it… or in other words, I have a lot of loose carts.

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