30 Days of Video Games: Day 1, Very First Video Game

I’ve been gaming for nearly all my life; I’ve had some gaps in it, times when gaming wasn’t a priority. But when all’s said and done, I’ve spent more of my lifetime gaming than not, and it all started when I was five years old and played my very first video game.

My very first video game was Pac Man on the Atari 2600. I was five, and my family was moving back from Montana to New Hampshire. My mother flew from Montana to Boston with me, age five, and my two-year-old brother, while my father drove a U-Haul cross country. I have a lot of impressions of that trip: my great aunt picking us up at Logan, and taking us for Chinese on the way “home”… and what “home” was for those first few weeks.

While we waited for my dad to arrive, we stayed with my mother’s middle sister and her family. I got to meet three cousins, and in the process, met their Atari. Prior to this, I knew nothing about video games. But when I saw the pixels and heard the simple music and sound effects I was hooked. There was an allure to avoiding and evading the ghosts while trying to gobble up the dots, and a certain tense excitement that came from advancing through the increasingly difficult mazes.

I remember staying inside while my brother and cousins went outside; I had to advance to the next maze. I had to eat the pear, and then it was the elation at having to get the pretzel and the banana. It was methodical and hypnotic, but far from mindless. I remember the increasing tension, and the way my hand would get sweaty as I gripped the joystick. And the way my knuckles turned white and my eyes widened as I tried to navigate a tricky passage. I was just five, after all.

These days my Pac Man experiences are limited to arcades, though I’ve gotten a Ms. Pac Man app on my Nook. However, the experience isn’t the same. I find playing certain games on my xBox is a closer experience to what I had at age five, because of the level of concentration and engagement I have in it. Pac Man and Ms. Pac Man weren’t just games for me, at that age: they were experiences. They were also what flipped the switch in my brain that got me gaming.

It’s fitting that this first prompt asks for the first ever video game I’ve played. My time playing Pac Man was quite formative for my personality as a gamer. Would I still game if not for that? Probably. But the fact I did play Pac Man, and become so immersed into it, is definitely what kindled my gaming fire.

Tomorrow: Your Favorite Character (or JayRain is like a kid in a candy store)…

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6 comments on “30 Days of Video Games: Day 1, Very First Video Game

  1. I’m doing this, too! Reposting from my tumblr:

    Rootin’ Tootin’ on the Commodore 64. It was basically like Pac Man but with musical instruments. You had to control your little guy through the maze and pick up notes but avoid the evil instruments. I still remember how my sister and I would scream when PIANO MAN appeared. It’s not like the piano chased you faster or anything; he was just scary as hell.

    Plus we were like five xD

  2. Do you also remember the painful blister you got on the inside of your forefinger right next to your thumb because of the 2600’s joystick? Do you also remember how you kept playing even after it burst and began to throb more?

    I do.

  3. Kaboom. It was on a friend’s Coleco Vision. You had to catch bombs with a bucket of water. If you missed you exploded. Man I loved that game.

  4. Sonic 2, on the Sega Genesis. With my cousins, and playing it at family get-togethers remained somewhat of a tradition even when we were doing so on the Nintendo Gamecube’s “Sonic Mega-Collection” over a decade later 🙂

  5. This is a pretty awesome idea! Going to do my best to follow.

    First game I remember playing was Atari’s Tennis. It wasn’t much of a step beyond Pong, but at least the little sprites kinda looked like people. I can still hear the little blips the ball made as it was “lobbed” between players…

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