Midway Arcade Origins

midway arcade origins

Nostalgia can be extremely arresting.  Can a gamer ever return to the feeling experienced when first taking out the Death Star in Star Wars, smashing multiple baddies with a single rock in Dig-Dug, or playing a flawless board of Ms. Pac Man?

midway arcade origins

Gamer nostalgia is also conjured by environments and contexts.  I’m sure most middle aged gamers have swapped stories from their youth about visiting the local arcade (remember those?) to plunk some quarters in their favorite machines. In those golden years, we played for nothing but score and bragging rights, and we were fascinated by graphics that were so remarkable that they couldn’t yet be reproduced on our home systems or personal computers.  I used to beg my father to take me to the PX on base (military brat, represent) so that I could play one of my retro favorites—the cartoonish cop chase game A.P.B.  It was my fond memory of this 1987 relic that led me toward Midway Arcade Origins. I do not regret the purchase.  At the same time, some of the classic titles within this trove of 30+ games simply don’t reignite the longing to play arcade games that I fondly remember from my childhood.

midway arcade origins

The first problem with the compilation is that some of the classic control schemes just don’t translate to modern joypads.  720 is a prime example. In my youth, I would eagerly line my quarters on top of the black-and white-checkered plastic control panel assembly, but without the circle-locked joystick on the arcade cabinet, the game is almost unplayable.  Too much die, not enough skate.  The same unfortunately applies to A.P.B., a game that is dysfunctional sans its steering wheel and pedals.  Granted, you can still get some enjoyment out of the titles, but they just aren’t the same without the respective racing wheels and other cabinet specific peripherals.

midway arcade origins

Unfortunately, there is also a lot of useless filler in the compilation.  The less you remember about Pit-Fighter, Xenophobe, and arguably the worst sequel of all time, Spy Hunter 2, the better.   In light of these weak choices, I found myself wondering why Paperboy, NARC, and Roadblasters were left out.  All three were extremely popular Midway titles from my youth, and all three could have easily made the compilation exponentially better, especially since Paperboy is no longer available on Xbox Live Arcade.

midway arcade origins

Thankfully I was able to get a lot of enjoyment out a few of the included offerings.  Joust and Joust 2 hold up extremely well, as do Satan’s Hollow, Robotron 2084, Spy Hunter, Rampage, and both Gauntlet games (just don’t shoot the food!). Two titles I’d never played before, Wizard of Wor and Bubbles, ended up being my favorites.  Smash TV and its sequel Total Carnage also play well with a modern controller, and they still serve as a reminder that most of these games were simply designed to get one more quarter out of the pocket of your Kangaroos.  This is certainly a staunch contrast from the “save anywhere, unlimited lives” mentality that permeates game design today.

Leaderboards are also included so you can still appreciate how badly you perform compared to other hardcore retro gamers.  Further, multiplayer is offered on any title that traditionally supported it.   While the limitations of portable console gaming and the omission of certain titles does make the compilation feel a bit incomplete, the game isn’t a bad purchase if you are looking to scratch that retro itch. Just don’t expect most of the games to play like they did when you were waiting in line behind that skeevy dude in the Iron Maiden t-shirt to get one more crack at Sinistar.

The Classic Gaming Birthday Round Up

The Classic Gaming Birthday Round Up

Over the last two weeks a number of iconic classic games have had birthdays. The following is a grouping of those postings from Patrick Scott Patterson.

August 27

Super Mario Kart celebrates 20 year anniversary today

The original Super Mario Kart, perhapsNintendo‘s biggest 16-bit classic, turns 20 years old today.

The classic racer was first released in Japan on August 27, 1992 with a North American release just days later on September 1. Developed by game industry legend Shigeru Miyamoto and directors Hideki Konno and Tadashi Sugiyama, Super Mario Kart came about in an effort to create a multi-player racing game that improved upon the single player experience of Super Nintendo launch title F-Zero.

The game proved to be one of the strongest titles for the Super NES and Super Famicom, selling 8 million copies during it’s lifespan, a titanic number for that generation of gaming. Sequels and follow-up titles continue to this day, including Mario Kart Wii, the second best-selling game for the successful Wii game console with almost 32.5 million copies sold to date.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcTIk19Lcms[/youtube]

Many fans of the original still look back upon it today.

“At the time of the games release, I was actually into go-kart racing,” said Mario Kart fan Josh Jones of Killeen, Texas. “This was a way for me to experience a whole new way of racing and battling at home. Nintendo did a supreme job incorporating it’s characters into a fun filled game which still has a fan base today.”

The multi-player aspect made an impact on the household of another fan of the game.

Super Mario Kart was the game that settled all the sibling disputes in my household,” said P.J. Stanton of Bordentown, New Jersey. “When my brother and I couldn’t agree on something the winner of argument was determined by a quick race or battle. Of course, by the time we finished playing we usually had forgotten what we were arguing about. My brother and I are estranged now, yet every so often we’ll talk on the phone and the conversation will always lead back to who was the better player.”

August 30th

Original Street Fighter arcade game turns 25

It has now been 25 years since the originalStreet Fighter arcade game first saw the light of day.

Capcom introduced this one-on-one fighter to arcades on August 30, 1987 in two different cabinet styles. The first featured two pressure sensitive “punch” pads while another marked what would be the first-ever six button layout on a fighting game.

While the original Street Fighter was only a modest success, the impact of the game on video game history cannot be fully stated in a short article. Street Fighter II, first introduced in 1991, became the biggest arcade hit since Pac-Man and spawned an entire generation of fighting games. Today, the Street Fighter franchise is one of the most competitive scenes in all of professional video gaming.

“I actually grew up with Street Fighter on arcade back in the day,” said fighting game fan Teri Otis Redding of Australia. “Loved every Street Fighter made pretty much. I think I’ll always remember the arcade experience I had when I was growing up.”

The continued success of the franchise seems pleasing to the maker of products for fighting games.

“Street Fighter has been almost a benchmark for standards on all upcoming games,” said Doug Johnson ofFoeHammer Custom Joysticks. “We love it when they launch a new one because the hype is tremendous.”

August 31st

Arcade classic BurgerTime turns 30 years old

Yet another household name in video game history is celebrating a major milestone this week as BurgerTime turns 30.

August 31, 1982 saw the first public appearance of the game, originally called Hamburger during it’s initial Japanese release. Created by Data East, the game made a big splash at the 1982 AMOA trade show where Data East showed off the title for it’s DECO Cassette System (an early interchangeable arcadesystem) as well as a licensed version from Bally Midway.

BurgerTime featured a chef named Peter Pepper, doing battle with living eggs, hot dogs and pickles who are trying to stop him from making the biggest hamburgers in the world in a multi-level platform. The game gained a loyal following in both coin-op form as well as home console versions from Mattel Electronics.

BurgerTime is one of the defining eighties games,” said Ohio’s J.D. Lowe, holder of the third highest BurgerTimescore ever with 6,109,500 points. “Easy to learn, hard to master, with music that sticks in your head and a design that is hard to replicate.”

Many of the remaining original BurgerTime arcade cabinets have landed in the hands of collectors, including Rhode Islands’ Brian Diamonti, who says he will hold on to his machine regardless of the offer.

“I had a buddy offer to trade me his Joust for myBurgerTime and I had to turn him down,” Diamonti said. “BurgerTime is too much of a staple in gaming roots to trade off and my girlfriend would be too pissed at me.”

BurgerTime made a national television appearance in early 1983 as one of the game titles used in a gauntlet on That’s Incredible. Players had to quickly reach a scoring threshold on the game to move advance to the next game. Texan Ben Gold, who won the televised contest, only had a short time to learn the game.

“I had three weeks to learn it and only one arcade to practice at,” Gold recalled. “Todd Walker was by far the best player on this game and the irony is that his mistake on it is what allowed me to beat him in the competition.”

Numerous sequels to BurgerTime have been released over the past 30 years, including last year’sBurgerTime World TourRay Almeda from MonkeyPaw Games, the company who released the 2011 follow-up, notes the unique concept of the game as a reason for it’s longevity.

“Anybody who plays BurgerTime instantly gets hungrier and hungrier the longer and longer they play,” Almeda said. “Even to this day, Peter Pepper still remains a lovable chef that builds the planet’s biggest burgers. Who would have thought you’d be running from food in a video game? It doesn’t get any more addicting and iconic than that, even after 30 years.”

September 6th

Activision classic Pitfall! reaches 30 year anniversary

The iconic Pitfall! has now reached the 30 year mark.

Originally released on September 6, 1982, this early Activision title was designed byDavid Crane and became an instant best-seller. First released for the Atari Video Computer System (later known as the Atari 2600), Pitfall! sold 4 million copies, a huge number for a game at that time and held the top on best-seller charts for an incredible 64 weeks.

Perhaps the first hit game to popularize the side scrolling style that became a staple of gaming later in the decade, Pitfall! gave players a limited amount of time to overcome in-game obstacles such as pits, crocodiles and giant scorpions in an effort to reach the treasure at the end.

The popularity of the game transcended the title itself with the character of Pitfall Harry at the helm. Pitfall! was one of the video game titles featured in the first season of CBS Saturday morning cartoon series Saturday Supercade. A young Jack Black appears in one of the television commercials for the original game as well.

Pitfall! was our first chance to game as a proper adventurer,” said Jayce Stokes of England’s ConsoleNinjas podcast. “The way it combined maze elements in with the platform staples of timing your jumps and avoiding hazardous drops was unmatched back then.”

As an early example of a game with a finite ending point, completing Pitfall! proved to be a badge of honor among gamers, many of whom say they had a love/hate relationship with the cartridge.

“Who doesn’t love Pitfall!?” said Stockton, California’s John Lopez. “I played it until I thought I’d break my joystick as a kid. The gameplay was great; a running man grabbing the vines, swinging over the pits and quicksand, jumping logs, climbing into the underground caverns, jumping scorpions and collecting treasure. It was one of the coolest games.”

A new version of Pitfall! was recently released for iOS devices, while the original game designer recently opened up a Kickstarter project in an effort to launch a new jungle adventure.

Joust turns 30

Joust

Joust turns 30

The early 1980s marked a huge boom period for the video game industry. As a result, many of the iconic classics of that time seem to be reaching major anniversaries in rapid-fire succession.

The latest to reach the 30 year milestone is Joust, the unique 1982 title from former arcade powerhouse Williams Electronics. According to government trademark records the first appearance of the title was on July 16, 1982.

Created by John Newcomer, the game of Joust put the player in control of an ostrich-riding knight. The object of the game was the turn away the challenges of numerous enemy knights, also riding the odd birds through levels with several platforms. From time to time an almost unbeatable pterodactyl would join into the frantic pace of the game.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkxY9_dZFI8[/youtube]

The two-player feature helped Joust make an impact in the coin box at arcades across the country. While the ability for numerous players to play together has been a common feature in arcades for some time, in 1982 it was quite the novelty for two players to be able to play at the same time. Adding to the feature were offers of bonus points on certain levels, some of which encouraged teamwork and others that encouraged direct competition.

While the classic has been long removed from most surviving arcade locations today, Kansas City gamer Lonnie McDonald has been bouncing across the country for the past year in an effort to post a high score of 9,999,999 points on every surviving Joust machine he can find. So far on his tour he has hit over 60 different Joustmachines, including one in placed in the former location of a historic arcade just days before the 30th birthday date.

“I have met some cool folks along the way,” he said in a previous interview. “Played with current world champs; seen Joust machines in homes, bars, arcades and museums. I’m not as fast or as handsome or thin, but I am wiser and more strategic. On the other hand when you win 500 free guys you can play silly if you want to.”

Joust

I have a huge list of “favorite” arcade games from when I was a kid, and JOUST has to be near the top.

In 1982, Williams produced this hit with unique game play, and has been ported a number of times since, and most very well done.

You play as a knight who rides on a FLYING OSTRICH! It seems the regular horse-jousting games were sooooo 1981, they decided to pull that crazy idea out of their butts. Somehow, it worked.

joust-atari 7800- gameplay screenshot

The object of the game is to get through as many levels/points as you can, and like most arcade games, there is no true end. With one joystick to move your bird, and one button to flap the ostrich’s wings, you need to lance all of your other flying opponents. The faster you “flap”, the faster your knight will rise, then use gravity to lower yourself. Unlike most games, where you can start and stop on a dime, Joust tries to add a little realism….if you can just get past the original concept, of course. Wave after wave of knights appear, and you take them down by hitting them with your lance just a little higher than theirs. If vice-versa, you lose a life. After you hit them, they turn into a huge egg, which will bounce around the floating rock platforms, but eventually stop. Running over these eggs gives you bonus points and is essential, because eventually they will “hatch” new riders and remount.

Other enemies include the pterodactyl, who will show up if you take too long to complete a wave. It’s very quick and relentless, chasing you around the screen with an unbelievably annoying battle cry. It can be killed, if hit just right, but only the advanced players are able to do this, me not being one of those. I prefer to avoid.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1itbuQM3oug[/youtube]

At the bottom left and right corners are lava pits, which will swallow bouncing eggs and if you get too close, a FREAKING HAND reaches out and grabs you!

The difficulty ramps quickly, and if I get to 40,000+ points I figure I had a nice game. Visually, it’s as fantastic a game as you’ll find for that era.

Another bit I wanted to add is this is a very fun game either solo or with 2-players. In 2-player mode, you can work as a team, or “accidentally”(hehhehheh) knock out your buddy.

I’ve never been able to figure out where this crazy place is supposed to exist, not Arthurian for sure. It really seems like the developers just threw a bunch of crap together to see what would happen, but it turned out to be a masterpiece.

Overall, 10/10

Totally Tiny Arcade

totally tiny arcade

Totally Tiny Arcade is based on the rather brilliant idea of combining WarioWare styled mini-games with a classic arcade aesthetic. Or is that the idea of revisiting Lazy Jones while liberally remaking some of the best known arcade cabinets ever? Well, we’ll never really know I suppose, but what actually matters is the simple fact that Totally Tiny Arcade is, despite its flaws, a truly great offering for us ageing retro gamers.

Set in a visually pleasing and distinctly 80s arcade, the game has players rush through more than a dozen imaginatively remade classics chasing after a nefarious virus and trying to beat a pretty strict time-limit. Beating the game, leads you to a brilliant boss stage -played in front of a most obtrusive audience- that will in turn unlock a short and lovely finale and -happily- a new arcade venue to tackle. Do this another couple of times and the game is pretty much over and a few extra modes become available.

totally tiny arcade defender

The main attractions of Totally Tiny Arcade are of course the arcade remakes themselves. Impressively, there are more than 20 of them available, each sporting excellent, chunky, retrotastic graphics and some equally impressive sounds, with each game spanning four levels. The games are inspired from an impressive variety of titles including Space Invaders, Spy Hunter, Pac-Man, Joust, Frogger and even the Atari 2600 version of E.T., though -unfortunately- not all of them are equally good. For every two or three excellent remakes there’s a dull or even a completely unsuccessful one, but admittedly the brilliant and imaginative games far outnumber them mediocre offerings. After all, not all arcade games were that good, even back in the day.

You can grab Totally Tiny Arcade (or of course try the hefty demo) via its very own, very retro official site. Oh, and here is the trailer, that will hopefully clear things up.

Verdict: Retro and indie gamers will love it. The rest should first give it a try. Gnomes should indeed instantly buy the thing.

Commercial Wars: Atari in the 80’s

Commercial Wars: Atari in the 80’s

You did not have to be born in the 80’s to appreciate some of the insane commercials that were produced and released during that time.  In the 80’s we had a mix of commercials still influenced by the 70’s combined with the emerging technology of the 80’s with directors and writers trying everything to get you to buy their products.

Atari-Computer-System

Since console gaming was brand new and even arcade gaming itself was not wide spread to the TV watching audience the challenge was presenting their ad in a way that would interest the consumer. In addition, since the graphics of the day were not that exciting the fear was showing simpler graphics on a television screen where you can watch shows that have a higher production value could turn parents off to buying their kids the system. As a result the creativity level for the commercials was, unique.

Joust

My question is why would you want to highlight a home being destroyed over playing a video game? See, the bird knew what was coming and the kid just stood back and watched it happen. What was that thing at the end with him turning into a bird? Oh, I forgot, LSD was still popular back then.

Dig Dug

Know I understand how the war in Iraq came about it was Dig Dug. I really hope our department of defense is not this stupid. However, I think I discovered how Independence Day was made, with the cuts to different locations including “lovers lane” and the dirt moving from under peoples feet. Perhaps it was more like the movie, Tremors.  We jump into crises mode at the White House while dancers shake their butts on screen. You have to love the 80’s.

Come on! Do the Dig Dug Dance!

Asteroids

You know alien’s visited our planet back in the day. What you did not know was they were looking for video games. These people look like a mix between the Andorians from Star Trek and Night Elves from World of Warcraft. The main person looks like Data and they talk like Mork from Mork and Mindy. The good news is they will be too busy playing to enslave us. The bad news is they have the technology to travel to earth, but think Atari graphics are awesome.

Berzerk

So we start off here with an old lady almost nailing a kid in the balls. Old people, they think you can only play Berzerk in the arcades, but now you can play it at home. I think there were millions of bands back in the 80’s whose sole purpose was to sing jingles for commercials. At least we got the “Have you played your Atari today” line.

Solar Fox

This was before Wing Commander and women’s lib, we have the dashing and bored Soul Fox and the bubbling blond eating popcorn while their spaceship flies toward what looks like a 3D chess board. Poor Soul Fox is so annoyed that his busty companion wants to navigate his loins and he only wants to navigate the space field. I know the feeling, wait, no I don’t.

One thing of note, I did not even know of CBS Electronics.

Back to the Future

There you have it, five commercials from Atari made in the 80’s in a style only Puff the Magic Dragon could understand. Now you vote, which was the best.

Smashing Ideas: Gamer Profile

Smashing Ideas logo

Name:Victor Allen

Company: Smashing Ideas

Profession: Associate Technical Director

“It’s hard to choose:”

Favorite Classic Game: Tempest

Quote: “Avoid Spikes”


Favorite Classic Game: Joust

Quote: “Flap flap flap flap flap flap flap flap flap flap flap flap flap flap flap flap flap flap flap bonk”

Favorite Classic Game: Sinistar

Quote: “Beware, I live. Run Coward! ReeeeeeeeeAAAAAAAAaaaargh!!!!”


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Name: Steve Markey

Company: Smashing Ideas Inc.

Profession: Games Producer

Favorite Classic Game: The Legend of Zelda:  a Link to the Past


Quote: Probably the best incarnation of “classic Zelda.”  The balance of exploration, story and ability progression just pushed all my buttons the right way (I still giggle at the thought of firing a hookshot).   It  actually made me call that old “Nintendo Help Line”.  For hours I couldn’t find a dungeon area.   The phone “helper” casually tossed off  “Okay, push the block off the ledge, then go straight, then left, then right, then…”

“Wait! Stop. Go back.  I can… push blocks?”

“Um, yeah. You can.” *Facepalm*

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Name: Avi Mizrahi

Company: Smashing Ideas

Profession: Associate Producer

Favorite Classic Game: The Secret of Monkey Island


Quote: This was one of the first games I played where you were given the freedom to experiment with your surroundings and think ‘outside of the box’. These actions often lead to humorous outcomes and commentary from the game’s characters, and LucasArts ability to poke fun at themselves never got old. Plus, how can you go wrong with a game that consists of both Pirates AND Monkeys!

Favorite Game Dialogue:

Guybrush: At least I’ve learnt something from all of this.

Elaine: What’s that?

Guybrush: Never pay more than 20 bucks for a computer game.

Elaine: A what?

Guybrush: I don’t know. I have no idea why I said that.

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Name: Carrie Peters

Company: Smashing Ideas

Profession: Director of PR & Marketing

Favorite Classic Game: Centipede


Quote: Great game, fun to play and reminds me hanging out in the roller rink in the 80’s when life was simpler!

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Name: Dimitri Sevenster

Company: Smashing Ideas

Profession: Director of Finance

Favorite Classic Game: Mike Tyson’s Punch Out – Original NES


Quote: My favorite thing was the many different fictional characters/boxers from around the globe and their unique qualities that added spiritm humor and challenge to the game.

Quote of the Game: “Those are the fastest fingers I have ever seen.”   …..Mike Tyson’s standard comment when beaten.

Key Cheat Code: 007-373-5963 to skip all and go straight to Mike Tyson.  Code still seared into my memory 23 years later.   🙂

Gamer Profile: Alex Aguila

Alex Aguila

There are those who play video games, those who immerse themselves in the video game culture and then those for who gaming is really a part of them. There are millions of fans, but when you truly have a love for all things gaming it sets us apart from the rest. I was honored to spend a few hours with one such person for whom gaming had touched at an early age and stayed with him throughout his life.

Alex Aguila’s love of all things electronic gaming led him to co-founding Alienware, but his love of gaming began long before.  From a very early age he became fascinated with video games, so much so, that after seeing the Atari 2600 in action he saved up money  From there he began collecting games from Colecovision to the Commodore 64. Even before the success of Alienware, Alex had an impressive gaming collection that has continued to grow over the years.

I was able to personally view his collection and it was awe inspiring. It was much more than the sheer volume, but the care he took in preserving them and the joy he had in talking about them. Many older games were still wrapped in their original plastic. Others though opened were in pristine condition and we talked about how classic games had a collectors feel long before expensive over bloated collectors’ editions of games became the norm.

What made me smile like a child in Electronics Boutique was that I could hear in his voice that he truly cared about the gaming industry. There was excitement in his voice when we talked about the past and how in the 90’s a golden age of gaming began when there was so much choice in gaming in arcades, home console systems and the emerging PC gaming market.

Simply put when you convert a shower into a display case for your collection of console systems you know you have a true gamer before you. Besides the normal Sega Genesis and Nintendo Entertainment System, Alex also had systems I was not aware of like the Vectrex which is an all in one video game system that used vector graphics. Alex then showed me an Atari that was unopened and joked about how he posted on Atari Age that he was considering opening it so he could play. He told me many people offered to send him opened Atari systems just so he would keep his sealed.

In addition to console systems Alex also had an impressive collection of handheld videos games. Long before the Gameboy, these simple but addictive games ruled the market. Then I took a look at his clone’s collection. Clones are systems made by third parties that can play games from systems such as the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Some, like the FC twin allow you to play both Super and classic Nintendo games on the game console. Another cool device was the Retro Mini portable, a device that used the original NES cartridges, but allows you to take it on the go.

Alex is a complete fan of all things electronic gaming meaning that he can enjoy playing the original Atari 2600 using the original cartridge as well as utilizing modern equipment and technology such as emulators. He stressed the importance of those in the community who work to not only preserve classic gaming, but allow new fans to enjoy games of the past. Using programs such as DOSBox allows many gamers to play classic PC games that just won’t run correctly on today’s operating systems.

When I walked into Alex’s arcade room I almost fainted. It was like something out of my childhood dreams except for the large Dallas Cowboys star on the wall. Right away what caught my eye was the M.A.M.E. arcade cabinet next to the air hockey machine. However, something else that caught my eye was the collection of pinball machines. Unfortunately, there seems to be a disconnect between pinball fans and video game fans and it was good to see that Alex enjoyed both.

On the back wall were several classic arcade cabinets including Defender, Joust and Robotron. The systems were all from Retrocade and Alex explained that originally he wanted to keep the classic original cabinets, but it is truly a lot of work dangerous even to care and maintain due to the circuit boards and electronics used in those older systems.

Alienware-Logo-Wallpaper

After my tour I sat down with Alex and we talked about his own gaming history from his first console to meeting game designers and developers with Michael Dell. I was even able to instigate a challenge between Alex and Arthur Lewis, Alienware’s general manager.

This began during my coverage at E3 where I was able to talk to Arthur over at the Alienware booth. In addition to telling me about his own love of gaming he mentioned getting together with Alex to play Tecmo Bowl and that they were scheduled to have a game soon.

Arthur Lewis @ E3

Alex tells a story about a classic gaming of Tecmo Bowl against Arthur where the loser would have to walk around the hotel halls in their underwear. Alex lost and believed the underwear thing was just a joke, unfortunately it was not. Alex said that it has been a while since they had played and that if a rematch did come about Arthur would find himself on the losing end. Of course, I plan to press this to see if a rematch will happen though I doubt the loser will have to do anything too embarrassing.

Alex Aguila Interview

PlayPlay

Saying goodbye I felt slightly sad to be honest. Being there and seeing someone love video gaming as much as I do reminded me of my summer days of spending hours doing nothing but gaming. On the other hand it is truly nice to find people who continue doing something they love even as they mature and their lives change. My day with a true gamer, Alex Aguila is not one I will soon forget.