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Your Atari 2600 Journey


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Atari Journey


This is my Atari 2600 journey. I am sorry if it is too long as a forum post but it links to my post on the games I owned as a kid. I cut it because it was too long already.


The first game machine I ever played was a home version of Pong on a black and white television. I also remember looking over the shoulder of friends playing Donkey Kong or Turtle Bridge on a Game and Watch where I rarely got to have a go. The only time Santa ever let me down was when he never brought me a Turtle Bridge Game and Watch. Otherwise, he was fairly spot on. I watched other people playing Galaga at the fish and chip shop as well, but only ever as a bystander who was longing to be involved in defending against the alien invasion. Sometimes I just pretended I was playing. With this in mind, it was with great excitement that we received an Atari 2600 one Christmas. I can't quite remember which Christmas. I thought it was Christmas 83' but apparently the Atari Jr didn't come out until later so maybe I am wrong. Ours was the one with the mini rainbow strip. Whichever the case, my days of watching video games over people's shoulder were now over.


The Atari lasted until 88' as our main source of gaming fun when it was replaced by a Commodore Amiga. I had wanted a Commodore 64 for a long time before that but now my C64 owning friends were suddenly envious of my brother and I because they wanted an Amiga. The Amiga was fantastic and I still love it today, with many great games that will never age and will always be fun. However, there were also a lot of games that seemed invented as graphics demonstrations and completely lacked engaging gameplay. I was guilty of being sucked into these games at the start. Some games were overhyped and the Amiga was also flooded with wannabe Mario platformers that were completely forgettable. As great as the Amiga was, it also meant I went through the early 90s never owning a NES, Super NES, Sega Megadrive or PC Engine. I will come back to these machines later.


I moved on to a PlayStation in 96' and at first it blew me away with the gaming experience that I thought would never be possible outside of an arcade. Wipeout looked amazing and Destruction Derby looked like Daytona to me. While there some more great games, it suffered the same as the Amiga where at times the focus was on graphics and sound rather than the all important gameplay. There were some truly awful games with FMV cut scenes. I then switched to a PS2 in 2002 which was backwards compatible with the PS1. Games were getting so complex at this point that they were like interactive movies with complicated control schemes and needed a lot of time invested in them. It is always a concern when the first 45 minutes is completing a tutorial on how to play the game. While the PS2 has fantastic games in its own right, it is also great for old arcade compilations which is mainly what I use it for today. Playing classics like Defender, Joust, Robotron 2084, Roadblasters, Zookeeper and even Dig Dug never gets old.


I moved on to a Nintendo Wii in 2010 and while I had as much fun as the next person with Wii Sports and the Wii really does have some great games if you look at the best games available, the Virtual Console cemented it as one of my favourite machines. It meant I could catch up on all the classic games that I had missed out on growing up that resided on the NES, PC Engine, Super NES and Megadrive.


I also purchased a Gameboy Advance with a full backlit screen in 2015 which I use for lots of retro games. This thing is amazing as I bought it online and it has the backlit screen but in the original casing rather than the SP. This was after I took a group of students to Japan on a cultural exchange tour and they bought me a Gameboy Colour as a thank you gift. I loved the games but the screen gave me a headache. I thoroughly recommend the Gameboy Advance for retro gaming.


In 2016 my Atari journey came full circle. Through people like Metal Jesus and Atari Leaf, I was recommended great games such as Hero, Spider Fighter, Solar Fox and Atari Circus. I managed to get hold of Stella and soon realised that I enjoyed the games so much I wanted to start collecting again. There were also some amazing homebrew games and hacks by people such as Darrell Spice Jr, Nukey Shay and Thomas Jentzsch which really honour the tradition of Atari 2600 games and come up with the goods when it comes to gameplay. I am a big fan of games such as Space Rocks, Medieval Mayhem, Ms Hack and Thrust. There have been some fantastic releases such as Halo, Pacman 4k and different versions of Donkey Kong. I even started running a retro game stall at a school fair to help get the next generation involved and the high school kids really enjoyed it. We also raised some money for charity. I was amazed to discover that the Atari 2600 holds up well even today in a world of Playstation 4 and Xbox One. It has a special magic that will never diminish and maybe is even building as the years go by.


You have to remember that I don't feel best qualified to talk about Atari from back in the early 80s as I didn't have many games and they weren’t the best games that were a true reflection of the capabilities of the machine. Although I loved some of the games I had and have fond memories, I never thought I would actually return to it. Some games came with catalogues inside them that were incredibly enticing with the famous Atari artwork and game descriptions. I really wanted River Raid and Pitfall as they looked good but for whatever reason it never happened. This was in the days before Game review magazines such as Zap, C&VG and Mean Machines. You often made a purchase based on limited knowledge. The games that I had I just didn’t have enough to them that I thought I would fire up the Atari again on a regular basis – how wrong I was!


It is pretty exciting to see something like the Atari 2600 that is 40 years old yet very much alive. With the recent release of Scramble and many other great projects on the go, I can’t wait to see what comes out next!

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I like that Buck Rogers game a lot, even now. I like flying through stuff, and I like it better than the new Polybius game on PS4!


I don't remember much, but I did enjoy it back then.


Very cool that we got not only Star Wars & Star Trek on 2600, but Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, as well. Too bad about Planet of the Apes. :(

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Whoa, this looked like it would have been good. I didn't know anything about this!




I learned of it years ago, being a huge POTA fan. Apparently the prototype was originally thought to be 'Alligator People', if I've got the story straight. (?)


Go Ape!



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Awesome! Those guys are the big 8" Mego figures, right? I was a bit young for Star Trek and Planet of the Apes, but I had lots of super heroes from that line. Check this out.


And, obligatory


Yep, my original Megos, all except for one - brown shirt, no pants, extra stoned expression - he's actually an AHI ape. (Azrak Hamway....Mego actually sued them and won.)




Love that Simpsons/Troy McClure bit, lol. We used to reference it often in college. ;)

"I want a second opinion!" "You're also LAZY!"

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I was born in 1991, the year before the 2600 was discontinued. The first console I was given by Santa was the PlayStation 1, in something like '96 or '97. To be honest I hated the PlayStation because all the games were too difficult. The games I had were Crash Bandicoot 2, and a few others which my Dad played which scared me too much. Abe's Odyssey was particularly horrifying. You were alien workers who were being literally turned into dog food. It took until I was about 15 or 16 in 2006, 2007 until I was finally able to master all my PS1 games.


My brother and I were bought an N64 when I was about eight or nine, and I enjoyed that console much more. Crash Bandicoot wasn't a real 3D game, but Mario 64 and Rayman 2 (?) were. You had a camera you could rotate, and while the games were difficult eventually, there was a better difficulty curve to them. I wasn't stuck in the first level of the castle like I was for about 5 years with Crash Bandicoot 2. I can't explain to you the hatred I had of video games because of Crash Bandicoot 2 and games that my uncle had on his SNES. Super Mario World is altogether a completely impossible game for pre-teens. I thought I was some sort of idiot who couldn't use their brain and hands properly. I did really well in school but I could never time jumps and attacks properly. N64 games seemed to make more sense.


I remember when I was shown an Atari 2600 at the age of about nine. I was incensed. Finally a system that made sense. I absolutely loved Berzerk. I played it non-stop for about 2 hours, and then I have never played one since. Honest. I loved Adventure, Berzerk, and a few others, but I have never played a 2600 in person since. I have only played on emulators. 2600 games are easy to understand and play, but difficult to master, whereas games these these days are incredibly difficult just to understand and play normally.


I'm only 26, but I really hate modern games. There's so much cheating and impossible amounts of effort being put into all the big games online now. There are people who have played thousands of hours of games which I will never be able to commit that much to. By contrast cheating on the 2600 is pointless. Who cares? Everyone can tell when you've cheated and you're pointed out as an idiot.


I love the mythology of the Atari 2600 as well. The video games industry was more of a wild west, and it didn't require enormous amounts of money to get involved in. I will probably never be able to get into AAA video game development and become respected. But here with 2600 homebrew I think I might have a chance.


The 2600 comes from an era of technology that I really love. It's less alienating technology. One person can make a game and understand completely how it works. I'm finishing up my PhD, and it's really opened my eyes to how terrible current digital internet technology is. You no longer sit next to the person you play games with anymore. I personally believe that you should only really be using technology which is easy to repair and simple to understand and master. The Atari 2600 fits that bill. Look at all the wonderful batari BASIC games being created.


Another amazing thing about the 2600 is the really long and vibrant community which has existed around it for so long. I am currently performing a Dig of the Stella Mailing List, and it is amazing to see the incredible amount of effort people have spent working on this console, trying to understand it and really pushing themselves to make it even better.

Edited by vidak
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Well, I was born in Atlantis, but the Gorgons came with deathrays. They attacked pretty hard, and we fought back to defend ourselves, but alas, it was a forlorn hope, and ultimately the city fell, but we planned for that, and I left with many others in a big craft of our own design, the Cosmic Ark. Eventually we ended up in the Alpha Rho Solar System, and realizing its Sun was about to go Super Nova, we decided we had to act, and went to as many planets as we could, gathering as many of the skittish beasties as we could with our shuttle, avoiding meteors and the planet's own defense systems. Eventually our good deed got the better of us though, and we ended up losing the Ark, but the shuttle escaped. We crash landed in a garbage dump on Earth, and have been here ever since.


Oh, not what you meant?

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Born in 1985, first "game platform" was an ancient Commodore 64 that my dad got from a guy at work when I was 4 or 5, with a couple of games. Somewhere around that time I vaguely remember going into Sears with my mom at the mall and seeing a stack of what I think were Atari 2600jr. systems (small silver boxes that said "Atari" on them in big red letters). That might have been my first exposure.

I got a Nintendo when I was in first grade (1991 now), and some neighborhood kid compared it to "the Atari" that I guess his parents or older sibling or somebody had. I seem to recall him saying it was like Nintendo but in black and white, or something to that effect--I went home later, fired up the Nintendo, and turned the color adjustment on the TV all the way down so the picture was in B/W, and I imagined it was like playing Atari.

I'd read the name "Atari" in old computer books in the school library and even in magazines like GamePro and EGM, especially when the Jaguar was coming out. I remember one article or review of Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure and it talked a little bit about the Atari 2600 original (which IIRC was unlockable in the game) and showed a little screenshot of it, and it mesmerized me for reasons that, to this day, I'm not sure I fully understand. A lot of probably had to do with the fact that we were at the height of the Bit Wars by now, and all I'd ever known, console-wise, was Nintendo or Sega. Anything that was neither was fascinating almost by default. Anyway, I wanted to learn more, but this was pre-AOL, and info was scarce. I'd ask kids at school if they knew anything about "Atari" or if they knew anybody who did. One kid told me he saw "Galaga for Atari" at Target once.

Around 1995 (so, I'm 10), my family took a trip to Florida to visit family. There was a used bookshop at one of the airports we went through on the way down and there was an old book about video games that described systems like the Atari and Odyssey (actually Odyssey 2; I distinctly remember the hand-drawn rendering of the console and description of the keyboard). I don't remember why I didn't get it. I got The Ultimate Guide To Nintendo Games Vol 2 (or whatever) instead. I think the book may have been the Ken Uston book but I can't remember.

I friend from school gave me the Feb. '97 issue of EGM for my birthday and it had an article about retro systems, and gave brief overviews of the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 7800 (listed as "7200"), Odyssey 2, Odyssey 300, Odyssey 500, Coleco (although it actually pictured a DINA system), and Intellivision (showing an Intellivision II). Often with blatantly wrong or made-up information ("Like the 2600, there were several versions of the 5200, not all were huge;" "Since the [Odyssey] 500 was more of a family machine, the three dials instead of one made sense"). But it was my first exposure to most of those systems, and first time I was made aware there was more than one Atari system. And the first time I knew I had to have a 2600.

That summer I was at a Goodwill with my mom and I saw a bin full of 2600 and what I later learned were Intellivision carts. It was glorious. I want to say they were, like, 49 cents each. Didn't get any, though. Don't remember why. I think my mom even asked me if wanted any of them, but I demurred. For some reason I was really shy about my interest.

The first time I ever actually saw a real 2600 was at my aunt and uncle's house later that year, around Christmas, collecting dust under the TV in the basement in one of those Hartzell game organizers (says "video game organizer" on the front). I asked about it, but she said it didn't work.

Meanwhile, another friend from school saw the Odyssey systems in my EGM magazine (which was practically my bible by now) and realized he actually had a couple at his house. For some reason I thought he meant the Odyssey 300--which would still have been cool--but we walk over to his house after school one day and he pulls an Odyssey 2 out of a closet, along with The Voice and a couple dozen games. He actually had two of them; one belonged to him and his brother, and the other came from a relative who had it and gave it to them. After we figured out how to hook it up (those old switchboxes were a foreign concept to us, being raised on Nintendo and Sega coax auto-RF switches and composite video), we played the Odyssey for hours. It was my first first-hand taste of real retro console games (as opposed to retro compilations or Activision Classics discs or whatnot), and I was hooked. While I really wanted an Atari 2600, I nevertheless convinced him, without much arm-twisting, to trade me one of the Odysseys and a gaggle of cartridges for some of my PlayStation titles. Thus began my retro game collecting hobby. I was 13.

A little over a year and an Intellvision later (a boxed Sylvania with a bunch of CIB games I got from one of my brother's friends), I somehow started IMing (yes, we have AOL now!) with a kid named Dade, who was also a budding retrogamer. We IMed for a couple months and I eventually bought a 4-switch woodgrain Atari 2600 from him, which arrived just in time for the new millenium a couple weeks before Christmas in 1999. I finally had an Atari 2600! With one joystick and no games or power supply, which I had to scrounge up at Radio Shack. My Boy Scout troop had a thing at my house a few days later and one of the kids brought over some games and paddles that were wasting away in a closet at his house. The kid I got my Odyssey from was in my troop and was there too, and had fun comparing the Odyssey and Atari. We all played the shit out of Pac-Man, Combat, Super Breakout, Chopper Command, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Warlords, MASH, and Breakout, even though we were all kids who had PlayStations, N64s, and I think one kid even had a Dreamcast. (BTW I insisted Combat would be the first cart we booted up, since that was the pack-in and I wanted to try to have as authentic a first Atari experience as possible. :-D)

From there, I guess it's history! The first games I picked up in the wild were Missile Command, Grand Prix, and Football. After that, it's kind of a blur, since A) I was in high school with a job, and therefore disposable income, and B) retrogaming stuff was both plentiful and cheap. I'd go to thrift stores and game shops, find dozens of games, controllers, and whatnot, and clean them out. Not just 2600, but also Intellivision, Atari 5200 (which I got a year or two later), NES, and occasionally Odyssey 2. My collection exploded between 2000-2005.

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