Nothing like an arcade emulator and the re-discovery of a favorite video game to make one feel young again. Cheaper than plastic surgery, too.
I know that many of youâ€”though not that many perhaps (which must say something about who my friends are)â€”will think me a touch mad for rediscovering in recent days an old arcade game called “Galaxians” and seeing this as a kind of right of passage into adulthood. (Of course at age 29 it’s about time for adulthood, isn’t it?)
In straight gaming terms, Galaxians is nothing more than a type of souped up Space Invaders. You control a ship at the bottom of the screen and wave after wave of aliens kamakazi their way toward you as each side tries to shoot down the other. Finish off one wave, start the next. There’s some nifty sound effects to heighten the tension, but at its heart, it’s a very basic game.
So I can only conclude that it’s the memories I’ve subconsciously attached to this thing which make it such a powerful draw. I remember vacations at the Oregon resort of Black Butte with my friend Dave and his family, where Dave and I would hang out at the arcade and pop quarters into the Galaxians machine the way some people go through sunflower seeds. I wasn’t a great player by any stretch (was I? Dave, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong), but I sure recall my Black Butte experiences as wonderful times.
I remember saving my allowance for a battery-operated hand-held version of the game. It was something like $45 at the time I bought it, which was, for a young kid in the early ’80s, an incredible extravagance. I played it for weeks, but ultimately the sad reality was that it just wasn’t nearly as good as the arcade original.
Time marched on, and not only was Galaxians replaced by Midway Manufacturing with the inferior Galaga, but I went off to college and lost a lot of the youthful enthusiasm I’d had for arcade games in general. I got busy studying important academic trivia, the vast majority of which I will never use or need in my life, and what little additional spare time I had was used up by other noble pursuits, which is to say partying and girls.
After college I played my share of computer-based video gamesâ€”not well, but that’s another storyâ€”but for the most part, I left the arcade machines alone. I just didn’t have the time or money to spend, I told myself. But the closer to the truth may have been that I didn’t know if I could find the same level of joy that I once did in the arcade machines, and arcade games, I thought, were for kids, not adults like me.
So it was with at least some degree of apprehension that I downloaded the freeware program MacMAME, an arcade game emulator, and the Galaxian arcade game ROM from the Internet a few weeks ago. (By the way, the list of available free arcade game ROMs reads like a all-star roster from the early ’80s: Asteroids, Ms. Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Tempest, Burger Time, Spy Hunter, Tron, etc.)
I booted up Galaxians and switched over to 2×2 video mode (aka full-screen), dropped in a pseudo-coin and pressed for one player. And it was as fun as it has ever been.
Maybe the transition to adulthood is finally complete when we begin yearning to recapture our childhood. I can’t help but think that this yearning is a kind of societal norm (since, like everyone else I know, I take my own experiences and wildly extrapolate that to the universe). If that’s true, then I guess you can finally welcome me to the land of grown-ups as I blast another attack wave. My newly re-found joy of Galaxians is here to stay, and I’m not afraid to say so.