A Movie Blog by Craig Koban

 

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I'M MARRIED TO THE MOVIES, BUT I HAVE FREQUENT AFFAIRS WITH VIDEO GAMES

 

November 22, 2013

 

Movies are my livelong passion.  My work on this very site for nearly ten years is proof positive of that.  Alas, if I didnít write film reviews I probably would be fully invested in video game journalism, as I have been a livelong gamer.  My unbridled enthusiasm for gaming has certainly hit many peaks and valleys of interest throughout the course of my life, but now, more than at any other time, my love for it has hit a new upper echelon of worship, especially with the next-gen release of the Xbox One console. 

 

The Intellivision system.  Whoa!

My very first video game console was the Intellivsion, which, regrettably, ages me considerably.  My mother and father purchased one for my brother, sister, and I as a gift during the Christmas of 1980.  It cost an unfathomable-for-its-time $300 (keep in mind, the Xbox One costs $500 in todayís dollars, which makes complaints about its cost - relative to decades-old consoles - seem like a non-issue).  My parents were really sneaky with how they gave it to us.  My brother opened a small gift that was a video game for the system, and then my father told us that if we wanted the console that we would have to search for the gift throughout the house.  Nonetheless, we did indeed locate it, hooked it up to our 21-inch television, and proceeded to play Las Vegas Poker and Blackjack (the dealer's beady eyes still haunt me) and Major League Baseball into the wee hours of the morning, much to my motherís chagrin.  Hindsight, of course, reveals the Intellivision to be a laughably primitive video game system, but to the wide-eyed amazement of early 1980ís children like myself, I was in a state of euphoric awe.  I was never the same. 

My video game obsession segued into other consoles, most notably the Atari 2600, which was Intellivsionís biggest rival (I played Ms. Pac-Man for hours on end on it).  Then the video game industry bottomed out in the early 80ís and with it my interest in it also flatlined.  I had some minor flirtations with systems like the ColecoVision (which introduced me to Donkey Kong), but it never really lasted for me in any meaningful way.  When the first Nintendo console hit consumer shelves in 1985 it rejuvenated the slumping industry and my lost zeal for gaming.  Interestingly, I never owned one, but I had friends that did, and I can fondly recall playing Kung Fu Master until my fingers literally bled; it was as joygasmic of an experience as I can ever recall having on a video game console, seeing as I previously played the arcade version at the local 7/11 until I had no more quarters to spare (remember when convenience stores HAD arcade machines?).  

It really wasnít until the 16-bit era of gaming was unleashed in the late 80ís that I truly became fully immersed in gaming.  The very first console that I bought with my very own money (allowances that I saved up and counted on a daily basis like a salivating Scrooge McDuck) was the Sega Genesis.  My 14-year-old eyes had never seen graphics of such eye-popping awesomeness.  I was in a state of gamer Valhalla.  Then came the SNES system, and when Street Fighter II was unveiled for it I jumped up and down like a stark raving lunatic.  I cannot recall how many hours I played that game on the SNES, but it certainly was at a deep risk to my then budding social life.  Besides, who cared about girls anyway at this time?  I had Chun-Li's spinning bird kick to tantalize me.  So very, very effective.

 

Remember when these games launched, kids?  I sure do!  (Street Fighter II and Kung Fu Master)

The early 1990ís gave way to more personal responsibilities, like graduating from high school and going to University, and my video game lifestyle took a major hit due to scholastic endeavors.  I went several years without playing anything, which left me more than a bit melancholic.  I did, however, meet some new friends in my Art courses Ė friends that I still have to this day Ė that (wouldnít ya know it!) reintroduced me to the world of gaming.  My friend Jay bought the very first Playstation system and frequently invited me over to play, and Iíll never forget the experience of playing NHL 97 Ė with 3D engine graphics and motion captured players!  It was also the first sports game that I played that had actual commentary by real broadcasters!  How bloody cool was that!?  When Jay purchased the Playstation 2 it was yet another turning point for my fascination with gaming.  I never owned a system during this period, seeing as I could just fulfill my insatiable gaming needs via my friends and their consoles.  Remember, playing online with your BFFs was but a hopeless pipedream at this time, especially during those dark ages of dial-up Internet.  Oh, the...horror. 

Then came the Xbox. 

 

My current pride and joy, soon to be given a new baby brother on my shelf!

Ahhhhh...Xbox.  Sweet, sweet Xbox.  Purchasing it in 2002 had sentimental meaning for me, seeing as I bought it with some of the inheritance money that I received from my grandmother, who passed away during the autumn of that year.  It was during this period when the gaming bug that I experienced during those early years of my life grabbed a hold of me and never let go.  Four years later I purchased an Xbox 360, and even though I went through not one, but two systems with the infamous blinking red ring of death (I cry a little just recalling it), I still became a legitimately serious adult gamer with this system, which remains on my home theater shelf as I write this blog.  

This weekend I will have a new system in my home - you may have heard of it - in the Xbox One, marking three generations of consoles that I have steadfastly aligned myself to.  Launch week build-up towards it has made the 38-year-old adult in me feel like that 5-year-old child that breathlessly ran through his parentís home in his Batman pajamas during the Christmas of 1980 in search of his Intellivision console.  There are not many things in life that can take you back to an ethereal emotional state like that.   

As my friend Naomi Kyle recently stated on an episode of the Daily Fix, ďItís a great time to be a gamer.Ē  How Iím ever going to squeeze movie screenings in going forward may prove to be a Herculean task.

 

 

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