Thursday, January 22, 2015

Living in a Geek's Paradise: The Early 80s have been alive in the early 80s. Okay, I was, being I was born in 1980, but by alive I mean having been old enough to have experienced and enjoyed it. Of course the 1980s had its own problems as any decade did. 

The American public was scammed with a bullshit trickle-down economics policy about giving free money to the excessively rich and it would supposedly trickle down to all classes. More honest economists would have called it the shit-down theory, based on an old philosophy/joke (the two terms are almost interchangeable) about three tiers of pigs with each successive level down living off the shit of the upper tier, or in this case the upper class.

Idealistically the middle tier/middle class of pigs would benefit the most as the upper tier would be the most wasteful. Well, that was the theory the public bought but the reality is the upper tier is the greediest and will find any way possible to keep resources flowing up, and this scam on America set in motion an increasing devide between the upper and middle class and paved the way for the eventual eroding away of the middle class putting us in the economic shithole we are trying to dig ourselves out of today.

The other side of that though, long term effects aside, is the American public who bought into the scam was throwing money away right and left in what became the decade of excess. If there was a way to repackage and sell it, it would be done. How many times can you play the same video game with the name and a few graphics changed before you realize it's the same thing? What about the same movie with a masked guy carrying a butcher knife while killing off half-naked young women and stupid jocks before you realize it's the same movie? Well the public was too busy being in the grips of this bullshit scam and didn't care if it was the same movie and the same video game because the slight differences and thinking they would always be able to afford it was just too much of a temptation, and too much fun to be had.

As a result of the excessive ways people lived and spent money the shelves at the stores were filled with video game systems, and shortly emptied, and hundreds of games to play on them. Slasher movies were all the rage and every holiday, special event, and weekend had a new one. VCRs were a status symbol and with so many making their way into American homes, it became a logical extension that those same homes would want to rent videos for them and video stores were popping up all over the place with some towns having one almost at every corner and in every shopping center.

With the epic movie having gone out by the 1960s and the 70s seeing the advent of the blockbuster movie with disaster and science fiction themes advertising various A-list stars with their pictures plastered all over the movie posters , the early 80s saw the beginning of mega-sequel franchise movies, obviously spurned on by the Airport movies of the 70s and fueled by Steven Spielberg in the 80s, and even bigger budget blockbusters, and even more low budget horror, comedy, and import movies.crowding theaters.

And what about computers? Home computers, far from what we know them as today, were flooding the market. Texas Instruments, Timex-Sinclair, Atari, Radio Shack, and of course the Commodore computers, especially the Commodore 64, among other computer companies including IBM and Apple were competing to see who would be the dominant company to get into homes. Even video game consoles were getting into the home computer game with Magnavox's Odyssey 2, Coleco Adam, and extensions for other game systems to give them some home computing capability.

Outside of technology was a true geek's passion...gaming! Dungeons & Dragons, Runequest, Call of Cthulhu, Traveller, these were just a few of the roleplaying games filling the shelves at the gameshop. It was the time, and last gasp of Metagaming and what was a fad in gaming known as minigames, microgames and pocketgames. Steve Jackson separated from Metagaming in the late 70s and started his own company, starting with games in that microgame format (Illuminat, Car Wars, Ogre) and eventually coming around to develop his own house roleplaying sytem, GURPS.

So what is this about a geek's paradise?

I have a habit, some would say a bad habit, of collecting things from the early 80s. I still have an older TV set with a picture tube and built in video cassette player. VHS tapes which were once all the rage can now be bought for a dollar or less. With multi-feature DVDs and few if any movies having been released on VHS for quite a few years now, for some it might seem pointless, but I also collect those old slasher movies from the 80s, some which have not made it to DVD yet, and still enjoy watching them.

And beyond those slasher movies, the 80s saw a lot of sleaze make its way through the video stores. Import and American independent movies from the 70s were being remarketed to a newer audience. Some of those VHS movies were put out in what was known as Big Box VHS, and talk about some sleazy cover art on those boxes. I saw a few of those boxes several years ago and got some, but they have been a rarity as of late.

Of course there are all kinds of computer games available with advanced graphics, and many even available online for free. There is a degree of fun though in playing an old Atari game on an old TV set...maybe for only a few of us. I do have one of these Atari Flashback systems that includes like 75 Atari games built-in and wireless controllers, plus it will also accept original Atari controllers. It's retro, yes, but fun, and it olny cost less than $40 which is nothing compared to what the basic system cost years ago. And I even have a Sinclair 1000 computer complete with a whopping built-in memory of 2K; though that's mostly just to have as it serves little purpose.

Games are fun, and especially when you can sit around a table to play them with friends. Those old roleplaying games from the 80s still have lots of life in them. I have several, and though there are newer roleplaying games out, why the hell would I want to spend $50-100 on a game? And why would I want to sit at home alone and play games with other people online? I'm not unsociable and it's a lot more fun, to me, to game in person.

It may have been a decade of excesses in the 80s, people falling for a bullshit scam to give money to the rich, but it did produce a lot of waste, and today that waste can be had for a fraction of the cost, even when adjusted for inflation, of what it was then, and a lot of it is still viable and fun. Hey, something good might as well have come out of that time.

Even today I am looking at more of those Flashback systems. Did you know they have them in ColecoVision and IntelliVision version? Not only that, but they also have a Sega Genesis version that not only has built-in games but can also takes the old Sega Genesis game carts, provided your old carts still work as old electronics do degrade. The Sega Genesis though is a bit recent for me as I'm into more of the early 80s arcade and console games.

Maybe I didn't experience the early 80s firsthand, but there was a lot of fun to be had. If you are a geek and enjoy retro stuff, the early 80s was a time of excess and waste and plenty of it is still available as original or even re-purposed today, amking for a retro themed geek's paradise to be had. I'm sure enjoying the leftovers today....even if it does seem weird to a few people. :p

Toxic Fletch

Relive or Experience the Geek Side of the 80s for the First Time

Check out the different Flashback Game Consoles with Atari GamesIntelliVisionColecoVision and Sega Genesis

Check out these former sleazy Big Box VHS classics now on DVD: Caged WomenFamous T & AWhite SlaveBlood of 1000 VirginsSS Hell Camp and Savage Island

Read about the home video games of the time in Classic Home Video Games 1972 to 1984

Play your DVDs and old VHS tapes on a Combo VHS/DVD Player

No comments:

Post a Comment