Defending the Galaxy: Reviewing the video game bible of 1981 Part I
As some of you will recall, I went to the Jacksonville Book Fair a while ago and found a bunch of really cool books, all for about 50 cents each. One of these finds was my favorite. it was a video game book from the early ’80s called Defending the Galaxy: The Complete Handbook of VideoGaming.
This book, according to the cover, lets the readers in on how to “blend in” and “look like” an elite video gamer. Seriously, it’s written with the assumption that the reader is not currently in the video game crowd, but let’s them in on the secrets of looking and acting like a top tier gamer. Needless to say, the book is funny. Ridiculously so. The book’s assumption that non-gamer folk even want to be “in” with the gamer folk is very presumptuous, but it leads to some really funny “tips and tricks”. What is a non-gamer supposed to do once they’ve assimilated themselves amongst the video game crowd? Study them? Learn their habits? Is this a National Geographic special? What if, while posing as a gamer, the non-gamer is asked to play a 2 player game of Defender? How do they fake their way through that? The answer is, there’s no faking your way through a game of Defender as it’s widely considered one of the hardest games ever created. You’ll have your backside handed to you by the real gamer and then be ostracized by the gaming community. So teaching you to look like a gamer when you aren’t is also teaching you to be a poseur. But, if you follow the instructions in this book, the road to becoming a poseur is awesome.
I was 8 when this book was released. At that time I was a huge video gamer and loved to go to the arcade and play whenever my parents would let me. Any trip to the local mall meant I got to play at Aladdin’s Castle. I could play Donkey Kong or Asteroids at Dino’s Hot Dogs. There was a stand alone video arcade named Wizard’s Palace that I rarely got to visit. We’d go to Six Flags on a family vacation and I’d want to spend a few hours in the video arcade instead of going on rides. My dad kept saying that he didn’t spend 40 bucks to get me in the park to play games I can find in the mall at home. That’s how much I loved video games. In my defense, there were several games in that Six Flags video arcade that I never saw at my local arcade including Super Punch Out!, Return of the Jedi and Mad Dog McCree.
In this series of articles I’ll take a look at some of the funnier chapters and tidbits of “inside info” the authors tell us so we can learn how to live amongst the video gamers. There’s a wealth of information in this book so this is going to have to be a multi-part article just to get everything in. So sit back, relax and let’s all learn how to look and act like a true video game champion.
For you beginners, the book starts off with a fairly good genealogy of video games (click image for a larger pic). It at least gives you an idea of where modern (=early ’80s) video games come from. It’s an interesting chart to place in a book for newbies because, other than Pac-Man, it’s possible you may not have ever heard of DeathRace or Space Wars which would make reading this seem like looking at a periodic chart of the elements. What’s the point? It’s pretty though, and by pretty I mean, “drawn by a blind second grader in the middle of a grand mal seizure”.
After the confusing family tree, the book discusses the curious phenomenon of video game virgins. These are people that have never played video games. Oh, and what dorks they are. What type of person has never played a game of Missile Command or Tempest in their life? They are lost souls, indeed. Lost. Souls.
Take a look at a before and after picture of two teens who go from video virgins, to video non-virgins (?).
“Haze of Obliviation”? Is obliviation even a word? It’s wasn’t in any English class I’ve ever taken. That aside, look at the difference between the before and after pics. Before they were weak and unsure of themselves. Their self-confidence at a minimum. After they started playing video games? Confidence is high, they are more well-groomed, sexier and ready to take on the world. Those two kids probably became so worked up after finally playing their first round of video games that they started making out right after this picture was taken. I know that’s what video games did for me in junior high. That’s why these people want to be in with the video game crowd. It does wonders for their self-image, reputation and attractiveness to the opposite sex. This is why you must listen to everything “the book” is telling you.
So, for the uninitiated, how do you get started playing games? Obviously, you start off by going to the video arcade. But before you go to the arcade, you need to know how to dress. You can’t just roll up to the arcade in your acid wash Jordache jeans and United Colors of Benetton sweatshirt. You’d be thrown out on your ass without so much as a “What a dork” thrown your way. You have to dress the part or you’ll be tagged as a newbie as soon as you darken the arcade doorway. Never fear, however, the book can show you the way. If you live in a warm climate, or it’s during the summer time, it’s important that you dress appropriately. Here is a clothing template from the book (click pic for a larger image).
Wow, this is quite a getup for a video gamer. I didn’t realize champion video gamers dressed like a high school football coach. Could the white socks be yanked any higher? Carry a frisbee for spontaneous games of ultimate frisbee? Are we going to a video arcade or a Grateful Dead concert? Are the Stevie Wonder glasses necessary in a dark video arcade? Yikes. No one I ever saw at an arcade ever wore anything close to this. Much less bring a cheap gymbag with a spare frisbee. Most of us arcade denizens in the ’80s barely went out into the light, much less played a sport (and I’d loosely categorize Ultimate Frisbee as a sport).
But what if you don’t live in California or on a beach? What if you live in one of the colder northern states? The book has you people covered as well. Check out their template for cold weather.
Yes, when going to an arcade during cold weather you have to dress like Johnny from the movie Better Off Dead. Are you going to a video arcade or the bunny slopes in Aspen? WTF?! I like the Back to the Future life vest. Once again, the arcades are pretty dark, you won’t need giant ski glasses to keep glare off your screen. Besides, light doesn’t work that way. When you get a giant glare on your TV screen or computer monitor, is your first inclination to grab a giant pair of sunglasses to reduce the glare? No, because that wouldn’t do anything but make you look stupid. And carrying an extra large white sweater your girlfriend made you? Is the book kidding? Girlfriend? Yeah, okay. Wow.
So, now you know how to dress. You’ve gone out and acquired the fly threads to make an appearance at the arcade. What do you do when you get there, you ask? Don’t worry, the book has all the answers. Here’s a “tech tip” they put in to get you started.
Yep, they tell you how to use the coins slots on a video game. You know, in case you’ve never used a pay phone or a vending machine before. “What? You put your quarter in the bright red, coin shaped slot that says 25 CENTS? Really? I never would have found that. Thank you, book, thank you for helping me to not look like an idiot.”
Now you are dressed appropriately and can place a quarter correctly in the video game machine, I think I’ll stop for now. Don’t want to move you too fast through the steps, you may get vertigo. There’s so much more to get to in this book. It’s going to blow your f’n mind.
Start practicing up on your video games and prepare for Part II of my review of Defending the Galaxy: The Complete Handbook to Video Gaming.