Friday, May 22, 2009

My Earliest Videogame Memory

The first arcade videogame I really remember playing (as in putting money into it and taking the controls) was a two-player biplane game. I was going into 5th grade at the time, which would mean it was the summer of 1977, and I encountered it on a boat somewhere during a family trip, possibly en route from Liverpool to the Isle of Man.

I don't recall the name of the game. It was in black-and-white, and as far as I recall did not have a player-vs.-CPU mode. You needed two people, one to pilot the black plane and one to pilot the white plane, and you flew in loops and shot bullets at each other until one player downed the other. The rules escape me now -- I don't know if it was timed or best-of-three or what. It was basically Combat in the air, nothing fancy but entertaining and novel at the time.

But it was the first time I was really engaged by a game. I had seen Pong and Breakout and Gun Fight floating around, but don't recall playing them myself, and Space Invaders wasn't out yet. This game with its tiny airplane silhouettes was the first one that I played more than once, as my brother and I had time to kill and some 10p coins to spare, courtesy of me old Dad.

I have not been able to track this game down to revisit it -- my wife and I visited the amazing Funspot in New Hampshire last summer, but it doesn't seem to have a copy, and the game pre-dates the CPU generation which means emulation isn't an option -- all circuitry and no ROM makes MAME a dull aunt. Unless someone decides to dig obsessively into the circuit design and try to simulate the analog timing and display system for this minor entry in the videogame history books, I don't expect to ever experience it again.

And that's okay. I love retro gaming, but sometimes it's nice to let a memory be a memory.

P.S.: Now that I have reminisced, it's time to check myself with a little Google investigation. Ahhhh, here it is! Head-slapping moment -- the name of the biplane game I can never remember is, in fact, Biplane! Good times.

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