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GunMod's Gaming Journal

It's That Time of Year Again...

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also posted on my Game Informer Blog here: GunMods Game Informer Blog

That time of year is fast approaching again.
Trees starting to show less green with more yellow and oranges.
Noon time temps are not so high as to make you feel as if you
sucked a water balloon into your lungs. Night seems to come
just a little quicker (and I do love the night).

You see, as a gamer/PC nut, Autumn and Winter has always been my friend.
Well, expect for those rare moments when an ice storm knocks out the power for days,
only then is Winter the bane of my existence.

As a child (and adult), all my favorite times were in the Winter. I was born during the Winter.
Actually, I was born during one of the worst blizzards in Ohio's recorded history.

Thanksgiving and Halloween all take place in the winter. And even though I'm not much
of a sports fan, winter was also when the TV in our house was always turned to football games and
the sounds of the crowd whistles, tackles and the soothing droning of Pat Summerall and
John Madden would put me to satisfying sleep like a hibernating bear.

And Christmas, oh Christmas. I don't care what your religious beliefs are.
I'm talking about the commercialized, "American Christmas", where your religion didn't matter
nearly as much as your power to believe in Saint Nick (and how much your parents could afford).
I can remember laying under the Christmas tree, marveling at all the colorful twinkling lights.
Staring up into the tree from underneath brought me a peace then that I haven't felt since.

See Summer, Summer never changes. Summer is always stupidly hot.
Always annoying me with insistent insects who want nothing more than to drain me of my life blood or
inject my with some wild jungle sickness. Summer is for people who look good in muscle shirts and shorts.
Summer is for people who don't turn red when outside for 10 minutes.

All was right in my world in the Winter.
No stifling heat, no mean stinging bugs.
No having to wear clothes that showed-off my "husky" frame.
Sure school was a drag, but not until I reached puberty and besides,
school is worse in the summer, that's why they call it "Summer School".

For those few blessed winter months I didn't have to be good at P.E.
I didn't have to worry that Julie from school would see my jelly belly and
my glowing white arms and legs.

I was much more comfortable hidden in plain site with my winter coats, scarves,
and whatever extra clothing my Mother would pile on me as I headed out the door.
Winter was when I could hide the reality of my less than stellar physique.

Oh, and let's not forget, pockets!
During the Winter I would have a multitude of coat-pockets to store junk in.
Each Autumn would be a nostalgic treasure hunt where I would find things
I had put in my pockets and had forgotten over the summer.
Money, candy, even the odd school homework sheet I thought I had lost.

As you can probably tell by now, I was not an athletic kid, nor was I what most Fathers
envisioned their sons to be. I was... well, I was a geek. A happy, oblivious geek.

To me, anything with circuit-boards, speakers, diodes, lights and a screen was
considered among man's greatest achievements.

I was born at the dawn of the computer age. The term "PC/Personal Computer" wasn't heard
in my household until I was 8 years old, and then it was some obscure, scientific gadget that could do math really fast.

It was in the Winter that I saw my first video game.
My brother and I were walking around the electronics department of our local department store looking
at the new cassette tape players when we saw a group of kids standing around a TV on display.
As we edged closer, my brother, four years my senior, let out a gasp and said something to the effect of "Holy sh--"

As I was only 8 at the time, I was much shorter (and weaker) than my brother,
I had to wait for an opening. Once I was able to squeeze between a few other boys,
I looked over at the TV and... my.life.changed.forever

It was something called an "Atari 2600 Home Entertainment Console"

It was games you could play on a TV, in COLOR!
You could actually control what was happening on the screen, in real time.

I suddenly saw something that I could relate to and knew I would love the rest of my life.

This amazing device could give me all the electronic bliss I could handle.
I could fly, shoot, be in a tank, dive in the oceans, all while still looking at the TV while sitting
on the couch in my Superman Underoos while my hair was still sticking up from sleeping!

This was something I could do that didn't require that I be able to do 100 push-ups,
or run the track in under 5 minutes. Here was something that only required the things I was already good at.
I had a sense of adventure, an imagination, wonder, and two hands with ten fingers.
I could even be GREAT at this.

As I stared at the tank battle going on in front of me, (my eyes glazed over and most likely drool rolling off my lips)
I felt a new sense wonder and expectation of adventure that I have seldom experienced in my life since.
When I looked at the screen, I didn't see square pixels. I didn't hear bleeps and bloops.
I saw a enemy hill in front of me, my tank rolling toward the top to scan for enemies.
I heard the rolling creak of the 20 ton tank, the thudding boom from the cannon firing at my enemies.

I was lost, I was saved, I was doomed all at the same time.

Of course, my parents would make me wait 3 more years before I could call one my own.
My brother and I were only allowed to play the Atari on weekends for one hour on Saturday and an hour on Sunday.
And that was only IF our grades were good and IF we did all our chores that week.
I never told them, but I would have sold my brother to smelly green trolls for his hour of time.

I would fantasize all week about my "time" with her. Yes, she was a she, how could Atari be anything but a Goddess?
In class I would picture new areas I would find in games,
new tactics in Combat! to outwit the enemy AI. During my dreams I would figure out why that flashing head always
zoned in on my position in Berserk but when I'd awake, I would forget what the head was trying to tell me.

It was the best of times, it was the... heck, it was THE BEST of times.
There was nothing better. At least until I got my first computer,
a Tandy Radio Shack Color Computer (TRS-CoCo) for my 11th birthday.

...and it was Winter then too.

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General Thoughts , Memories

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