Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Driving An Airplane Drunk.

In the summer of 1985 my father attempted to finish a video game that appeared to have no apparent ending. The game was River Raid and the video game system was the Atari 5200. My mother and he had divorced a few years before and he had been subsequently banished to the land where most divorced 1970's fathers dwelled; a place where father's who only saw
their children every other weekend spent their downtime consuming copius amounts of cheap beer, bad television, and deep regret. In retrospect it appears that maybe the original demographic for the home video game market included these men. That's me reaching a little. This was a time in home video gaming where cheats weren't readily available on the internet; being that there was no internet in 1985...well, at least not the internet we've become accustomed to. So, you had to earn your accomplishments the old-fashioned way through sweat and frustration. The early days of video-gaming likening themselves to the Cro-Magnon man trapping wild boar or making fire.
River Raid! The concept was simple enough: you were the captain of a pixelated aircraft, set forth, for reasons unknown to you to destroy whatever got in your way. Easy enough. The real challenge was presented when the playable area progressively got smaller as you careened through the levels. Of course adding in the variables of crappy controllers and escalating drunkenness-not to mention 70's dad frustration and anger-made for a game that seemed not only to challenge your hand-eye dexterity but the very core of your patience, eventually leaving you to contemplate (as many games did and often do) the very meaning of life itself! What are we here for? This?! To control a mish-mash of pixelated trickery? To consume alcohol and Winston 100's while piloting a plane on a hellbound suicide mission?
The story goes that my Dad never finished the game but I like to imagine that he did. I'll set the scene: He turns out the lights leaving only the glow of the old television going, he turns the mini fan on and positions it to direct it's cooling powers on the game console. He pops open his ninth Busch beer of the night and lights his Winston. He flexes his hand a little, puts on his gargantuan headphones pumping Led Zep 1 at full volume and whispers to himself: "Tonight is the night. I'm flying you home old girl."
Yeah, I like to believe that my dad drove that airplane drunk; and eventually landed it.

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