Friday night, I took my wife out for beers and video games. It seemed like a perfect way to end a not-so-perfect week.
We started with Ms. Pac-Man. I love Ms. Pac-Man, because the very first time I played it, I got to the pretzel level. About ten years ago, I played the hyper-speed version of it at a campground in San Diego, where I'd gone on vacation with my family and a few friends. Though I was 25 -- wait. I can't possibly have been 25, because I didn't know Anne, yet. That means that this actually happened over ten years ago, maybe when I was 22. This thought is simultaneously awesome (I've known my wife for over a decade) and tragic (goddamn am I getting old.)
So I was 22, and we were playing a "winner stays, loser pays" as-hoc tourney. I took down every single opponent -- child or adult -- who challenged me. The only serious competition I got was from a 14 or 15 year-old girl, who was quite skilled at a game that was older than her than I was. I recall edging her out by a few thousand points, mostly because I got lucky and nailed a pear on my last man.
My most recent game, however, was a disaster for me. I didn't even break 3000 points, while Anne cleared the first three boards on her first man, on her way to a 17000 point score. It turns out that Guinness, while certainly delicious and filled with the cure for what ails you, slows down your reaction time.
After Ms. Pac-Man, we moved over to Centipede, which is one of my all-time favorite games. If I compiled a top ten list, it would be on the first cut, though I'm not sure if it would make the final one. I resist making this list because it's like trying to choose which child you love the most.
I destroyed Anne on Centipede, which throws into question my earlier statement that Guinness slows down reaction times. Centipede is significantly faster and more harried than Ms. Pac-Man, but I fell into a zone the moment the game started, and my wife just couldn't catch up. I may have distracted her while she played, though, by telling her the story of the time I was 10 or 11 and a couple in their mid-20s let me finish out their game on the cocktail machine at Shakeys, because their pizza and mojos were ready before they were done. I loved that Shakeys in the early 80s, because in addition to Centipede, it had Vanguard, Asteroids, Battlezone, a submarine game whose name I can't recall, Mr. Do! and usually one good pinball machine.
Our last game was Donkey Kong Junior. I played it like crazy at my Aunt Val's house when it first came out, because my cousin had a Nintendo machine and a few ROM sets he could swap out, for most of the first generation Nintendo games. We played them all, but Donkey Kong Junior was my favorite. Popeye had a great story but was way too hard, Mario Brothers was really only fun with two players, and Punch Out!! required some sort of feat I never purchased when I was a low-level Human Geekling. This leaves Donkey Kong, of course, which I'll forever associate with the bowling alley where I first played it. It was fun, to be sure, but even today I can rarely make it to the cement factory level.
Donkey Kong Junior, though, had fantastic sound, beautiful graphics, and the added fun of turning the tables on the protagonist we all knew and loved when he went by the nom-de-jeu "Jumpman." The sound of the little monkey's feet when he walked, the music, and the colors all came together in a perfect storm of awesome, and though I've been playing that game for a quarter of a century, it still fills me with joy to drop in a quarter and see if I can rescue my papa.
My wife, though? Not so much. For reasons she refuses to divulge, she never played it, and has no desire to learn from the likes of me. So I played Donkey Kong Junior, alone, while she watched and pretended to be impressed. Hey, I waited 25 years to impress a girl with my DKJ skills, so I'll take it, even if she was faking it.
There's a lesson there, ladies: we don't care if you're faking it or not, even when we're playing video games.