The Games We Dig/Dug: First Video Game Experiences

Do you remember the first video game you played?

We all remember the first time we found love. For some of us, it was in the dark, fumbling around awkwardly in the back seat of our parents car with a non-backlit Gameboy. For others, it was an online experience with a group of strange people all at once. The Movie Sleuth writers have shared their intimate stories, and we invite you to do the same in the comments section below!
Tom McDaniel (gamer guy) - I became a video game addict in the summer of 1979, when I was on holiday with my parents in Holland Michigan. It was in a wooden shoe factory of all places. After enduring a tour of the place, my older brothers headed for the lobby to play pinball. I followed along, but before I even entered the room, my spine started tingling from the sound effects eminating from within.
Three was a deep, two-note cadance that caught my ear first, followed by a noise that I can only express using onomatopoeia: "TSHWEAH! TSHWEAH!" I entered the room and saw a tall cabinet with some menacing ape-like creatures holding onto poles drawn on the side of it.
It was Space Invaders. My heart started pounding. I had to see what this pizza faced teenager staring at the screen was getting so jazzed about. I could barely see the screen, but I was hypnotized by everything on it. I got my mom to spend a quarter to let me have a go at it, and I think I only shot down two or three enemies, but I was hooked for life. I'll never forget that moment or those sounds.

Michelle Kisner (gamer, cult classic, and movie gal) - My first memories of holding a controller were formed while perched precariously upon my father’s knee. I used to “help” him play games on his Atari 2600—by helping, I mean shouting “Watch out, Daddy!” when he was about to lose a life. His games of choice were Frogger and Q*bert and I watched him put many hours into these two games. He loved Frogger so much that he had a birthday cake decorated with it one year!

When I was around six or seven, I got the fabled Nintendo Entertainment System for my birthday and my life was forever changed. I had developed enough motor skills to actually play games by myself, and play them I did. I was obsessed with Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. Many hours were spent drawing intricate maps of levels on graph paper and I wrote enough passwords down to fill a novel. I practically slept with a controller gripped into my sweaty little fist. (Michelle's hands are much larger now - ed.)

Many fun times were had playing games with my Dad. Contra was our co-op game of choice (we always made sure to input the Konami code for 30 lives each). Dad enacted “Daddy Power” when he inevitably ran out of lives and would steal my extra ones. He also got all the Spread Guns too—it’s good to be the Daddy! He influenced me in so many ways and I owe most of my nerdy tendencies to his guiding force. Thanks Dad!

Jesse Barnes (gamer and movie guy) - What in the hell is this box that is literally the size of my whole body?! I think because it was so early in my life when I got the NES that I can't honestly tell you whether I actually asked for one for Christmas or not, but there it was under my tree--that epic bundle packaged with World Class Track Meet, Duck Hunt, and Super Mario Bros.

It was, like, 1986 or something, and my grandparents were loaded. I got straight S's on my report card. I was a baby genius, quiet, and spoiled. I'm not sure what my grandparents were thinking, but it changed me forever.

Two games in particular had the most profound impact on me: Mega Man 2 and Ninja Gaiden. I spent lunch hours hunched over the Mega Man manual drawing my favorite characters and humming the music for each villain. This very moment, I could break out into acappella with a friend of mine reciting the melodies encoded into our DNA. Ninja Gaiden, however, took it a step further with its haunting cinematic cut scenes that bridged the kinetic action and energizing tunes of each level. This game was coke for 6 year olds. My eyes bled and heart pumped watching eerie cinematics my unevolved brain didn't comprehend and demon-slicing bloodshed that got me juiced until the sun came up.

Milking a few colors, a couple of buttons, deceptively simple gameplay, and a handful of audio tones, these core NES qualities influenced all of the creative work I've ever done. I've since found immense adoration for the arts--writing, film, music, graphic design--that make the most out of so little. Developers for the NES had to do just the same and I've striven to accomplish similar feats in my outlets.

Blake O' Kleiner (Movie guy, video review guy) - I was 5. My mom and I were bus-bound for Maine, and wound up stuck at a bus stop in Buffalo, NY when our chariot suffered some engine trouble. Inside the station was the arcade version of "Double Dragon." I emptied our entire supply of quarters into that sucker. Kicking the living crap out of people who gut-punch your girlfriend is oh-so-satisfying.
Oh, and did I mention that after I was done playing the game, my mom and I found a dead body in the women's bathroom before we got back on the bus? Yeah. Good times.

Chris George (Head Honcho, Movie guy, sometimes gamer) - Being a child of the eighties, I got the arcade experience first hand. My dad would take my brother and I to the Galaxy arcade on Gratiot Avenue once a week and we’d have a blast playing games for hours on end. We never had an Atari system or any other archaic gaming platform in our house, so the weekly trip to the gaming mecca was something I’ll always remember. Having a dad that was into arcade games was really cool and probably one of the highlights of my childhood.

It’s a rather blurry time, but from what my brain tells me, there were two games that stick out as my first real gaming experience. Galaga and the original Star Wars arcade were the two games I would play non-stop. Plus, my dad was a powerhouse at Galaga, which made our adventures even more fun. He’d challenge anyone in the arcade to a two player match and would win every time while I was off somewhere in the distance destroying pesky Tie Fighters and trying to blow up the Death Star.

I still enjoy the original Galaga to this day, maybe more so out of nostalgia than anything else. But those were times when gaming was simple, fun, and something you could share with people. You didn’t lock yourself in a basement. You enjoyed the social aspect of the arcade while hoping they had the latest and greatest new game to try.

Brian Rohe (TV guy, New to Blu guy) - My father brought home an Atari 2600 when it came out in 77, when I was 5. I kind of grew up playing games. After the 2600 the next big thing was Colecovision. I loved Colecovision! the Super Action Controllers seemed so advanced at the time. I was obsessed with getting the Roller Controller add-on to play Slither, which was thier version of Atari's Centipede. Ahh... good times.

Andrew Kotwicki (Movie guy, video guy) - "Vanguard" and "Yars Revenge" got a lot of play from me on the 2600.
Andrew went on to ask "Where does the Atari jaguar fit into this article, if at all?" Note to readers: If your first video game experience was with the Atari Jaguar, there's a 95% chance you did not become a gamer.

- Article compiled by Tom McDaniel