Baseball is the American sport, many changes over the years, many heroes, and many memories. Nothing used to bring us closer to the game than a ticket to the ballpark. Within the past decade, another way was invented to bring us to the game. I received my first “ticket” on Christmas of ’88. Boy, was I ecstatic when I opened my present and found “Tandy Color Baseball.” I remember many times sticking my color Baseball game cartridge into my old Tandy and turning it on. The last few measures of the American national anthem were played and then little blue stick figures ran onto the field. After they took their positions, a little red stick figure moved to the plate. There were only two pitches to chose from: “strike” and “ball.”
The players and teams had no names, but if you felt compelled to, you could enter your players’ names before the game. Every game that is, we didn’t have a saving feature back in my days. If you hit a home run, random digital static symbolizing the crowd was heard. Now, ten years later, I’ve upgraded from my 1 MHZ Tandy and have a 200 MHZ with MMX. (I myself don’t know exactly what MMX does, but supposedly it enhances multimedia programs, such as flight simulators, sport games, action games, and Fuzzy Bear’s 1-2-3 Adventure.) I can choose which of the thirty major league parks I want to play in, which of the thirty teams I want to play, whom of the current 1998 players I want on my roster, and which pitch I want to throw.
The current technology goes further than that. The crowd actually chants, vendors are heard, an organist plays, and announcers comment on the game. It is more or less like watching television, except you are in control. You can replace the pitcher who just allowed six runs in the second inning. You can make the double play. You can hit the grand slam. You are in the game with 3-D graphics and each player’s particular batting style, strengths, and weaknesses. The only thing you don’t have is the peanuts and Cracker Jack.
Baseball is not the only game, of course. There is golf, football, flight simulators, and, adventure games. All have 3-D graphics and most now have surround sound. Whatever happened to Pac-Man, Dig Dug, and Frogger? The answers: Blinky, buried, and splat respectively. Some of the old Atari systems are still in use by college kids who stay up late playing Bubble Boggle. I never had an Atari or Nintendo when I was a kid, but I had arcades and my Tandy computer. My favorites were Color Baseball, Stellar Lifeline, Dig Dug, and Pac-Man. I had friends who were able to expose me to Pole Position, Missile Command, Bizzerk, Mario Brothers, and Duck Hunt though.
I was the favorite person to play against because I had no experience with these games. In Mario Brothers, I was left to sit and watch as the other player made it past the first five hundred levels. When it was my turn, I got up to the first duck/turtle thing and quickly died, allowing the other player to begin level 532 again. I was not a nuisance. The average playing time for a two-player game was the same as an experienced one-player game. They play for an hour, die. I play for a second, die, and they were up again. I, however, was not of much value when the experienced player needed a bathroom break.
Of course there is one thing the games of the ’80s did not have that today is found everywhere. There are “Children,” “Teen,” “Kids to Adults,” “Mature,” and a few others. The gore is more, limbs fly, blood splatters, you know, the normal everyday thing. Maybe the classics were good because they were for all ages. When you blew up the enemy, a point or token was displayed. Society now has exchanged reward for serious gore. The games were simpler, you did not get dizzy by watching the virtual reality scenes. The characters were oversized pixels and the sounds were just simple beeps. Simplicity is a good virtue to have. Today the players of the cartridges are either simple people or simple minded.
I am still exposed to those games of the ’80s by my simple friends who say, “Gimme that ‘ol 8-bit cartridge,” and I am left to wonder, Why would you play an 8-bit game on a 200 MHZ computer? Crazily enough, an underground industry of bootlegging has made it possible to play these games of yesterday today. Anyone without an old system is able to go to an Internet site, download an emulator (a basic program that allows you to play other programs), and then the program that they want to play. (Spy vs. Spy, Pong, Nexis, whatever.) I don’t know, I’m pretty complex. Gimme that new virtual reality if you want to play with me.