Stella emulator is a very useful platform that provides me the chances to play Atari games on my laptop. Atari games are old games, which were invented 10 or even more years ago. They do not have fancy decorations, complicated plots or various characters. For example, In Donkey Kong, the only thing I need to do is to help Jumpman to save her girlfriend Pauline from the Donkey Kong. How? I simply just used the ‘up’, ‘down’, ‘left’ and ‘right’ to start from the bottom and climb to the top while avoiding the rollers that the Donkey Kong keep throwing at me. In this game, I do not need to consider the plot or analyse the characters to figure out what I am supposed to do next to kill the game. Compare to Donkey Kong, the games we have played so far are almost complicated: GONE HOME and Her Story both require me to pay full attention to finish the game. Even though I enjoy thinking throughout these games, I feel that I am doing an assignment to reach a certain goal through my efforts instead of playing a video game for fun. The format and the design of Donkey Kong and Space Invaders make me relaxed when I was playing. Thus, this is one reason that I like Atari games: simplicity.
In addition to simplicity, nostalgia also intrigues my interest in these two games. When I
opened Donkey Kong and press ‘space’, the game starts with a sound of ‘past’: a familiar sound back to my childhood. As I proceeded and died because of the rollers, another familiar sound appeared. I suddenly reminded myself of “Mario Bros”, which I played a lot with my friends in elementary school and brought me happiness after school. Then I researched Mario Bros and surprisingly found that it and Donkey Kong are both Atari games and the Jumpman in Donkey Kong is actually Mario. What a coincidence! Because Space Invaders is not compatible with my laptop, I can only play it online. Even though the online game has higher image quality, it still brought me of a sense of past and childhood. Similar to Donkey Kong, Space Invaders is also a game I played a lot in middle school and remind of lots of memories, even though I did not know its name is space invaders at that time. I really enjoy Atari games I played this week: they brought me to my childhood again.
Photo credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/cf/Mario_Bros._Gameplay.gif
To start off this post, I would like to say that I absolutely adore the old Atari/Nintendo/arcade games. Some of my favorites are Galaga, Pacman and Miss Pacman, and Super Mario Bros. As I was growing up, my dad introduced me to his old Nintendo Entertainment System and I was immediately put in a trance. We would play an hour or so a day almost every single day. It got to the point where I could almost play Super Mario Bros, Tetris, or even Kirby without a single death. So when I found out that we were playing an emulator on our laptops of some of my favorite games, its safe to say I was thrilled!
My first game that I played on the emulator was Frogger, and it was something. I have only played a more modern version of Frogger, so it was very difficult playing with the old graphics. I kept jumping when I thought I was in the clear, but it turned out that what I thought was a shadow of my character was actually just an attempt to make the characters and objects look three dimensional.
The second game I played was Pacman, and yet again I realized that I have only played a much more modern version of Pacman. The controls were difficult to use and the graphics were hard to see, if you can even call them graphics. Yet it was still a blast to play because it was so new to me.
The third game I played, and the game we were supposed to play for this blog post, was Space Invaders. At first I had many technical difficulties with the game, maybe not so much technical as personal lack of knowledge of technology. I couldn’t even move my character around. Then with a little bit of fumbling around with mashing buttons on my computer, I was able to change the controls so that I could move around and shoot. I had never played Space Invaders before that so it did not have the same levels of excitement for me, but it was still enjoyable. Although it felt a little slow to me, but maybe I did not put enough work into it to get to tougher levels. Also I did not understand the point to the game, unlike Galaga or Pacman, there was not enough of a reward of killing the flying monsters. Also the “graphics” were not up to speed to keep me invested in the game as far as aesthetics go.
No doubt, you have come across to play, or at least seen, the the 1978 classic Space Invaders game. If the name doesn’t ring any bells, then the picture below surely will.
If this looks familiar, but not quite 100% like you remember, that is because this is an alternative version to the original that I played on Stella – a computer emulator that lets you revisit classic games from the Atari 2600. Having grown up in a generation when video games become more sophisticated advanced, and the industry was starting to become more widespread and recognized, I was unsure as to how I would react to such a simple game as Space Invaders. After moving past my initial frustration of knowing how to start the game (*cough* *cough*- F2 key -*cough*), I went through the motions of shooting down aliens and dodging their lasers. Although my level of satisfaction was neutral at first, I started to become more and more attached to the concept of defending, what I assume to be, planet Earth. There are no visual cues on screen to suggest that in fact, I am defending Earth, or any sort of planet of base for that matter. There is simply a flat landscape of which you are the sole inhabitor of. I think there is something interesting to be said here.
Space Invaders sends this subliminal message that we MUST defend and fight any and all creatures which appear to “invade” our territory. One could argue that after waiting for some time, the invaders open fire on you, regardless if you shoot first or not, and therefore implies they are hostile. But what if the invaders never opened fire? What if they had no way to communicate with you? These questions change the narrative, purpose, and meanings behind Space Invaders and, more so, say something about our intuitive nature – shoot first, ask questions later.