Star Wars

Star Wars
The Force is Strong in This One

Russ Pitts | 1 Jul 2008 13:03
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If Saturday night was for D&D, Saturday belonged to the bowling alley. Wake up, watch cartoons, eat a Pop-Tart, get dressed and head to the Bowl-o-Rama. The place was like toyland for nerds. We walked into the joint like we owned the place, ordered a plate of nachos and set to work. We won some, we lost some, but for me, the bowling was just a ruse. I was there for the games. The bowling alley had an arcade, and aside from the machine that washed balls for $1.50, the Star Wars cabinet was the coolest thing there.

"Red Five standing by," it said, begging you to drop in a couple of quarters. Begging you to become Red Five, run the trench, shoot a torpedo into the thermal exhaust port and blow up the Death Star. It didn't take much begging. Call it a simulator, a space shooter, whatever. That game was Star Wars, pure and simple.

Sitting down in the Star Wars cabinet felt like sitting in the cockpit of an X-Wing fighter, for real. Or as real as that sort of thing can ever feel. The sound came from behind you, the seat almost shook. Red Leader spoke in your ear, telling you to stay on target, telling you there were fighters on your tail. And then they came. Five minutes or an hour, as long as you had the quarters to feed the meter, the time passed like Kool-Aid through a 5-year-old. It was just one of those games.

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Star Wars was the game that taught me the power of the imagination. Don't believe in game addiction? Then you haven't played the right games. Either that or you have no soul. Star Wars was nerd crack, there's no two ways about it. A decade later, I spent all my quarters (this time, a lot of them) on the next generation: a PC, a flight stick and Star Wars: TIE Fighter.

TIE Fighter, because my PC was a piece of crap, taught me the joys of writing DOS boot disks and .BAT files. Without tricking the PC into booting up with only the bare minimum operating system, the damn game wouldn't even run. So I became a whiz at writing .BAT files. I eventually had .BAT files for all of my games, and sometimes more than one. It became a sort of hobby unto itself. I suppose if I'd ever considered a computer anything other than a machine for playing games, I would have used this hard-won knowledge as a jumping-off point to a career as a computer programmer, but that seemed too much like work. Besides, beyond the games, what was there, really? I didn't want to make the damn things. Playing them was enough.

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