Stuff your dad likes: retro gaming

Jacob Zinn can’t give you fatherly advice, but he can drink Schlitz and tell you to quit blocking the TV.

By Jacob Zinn

Kids, start playing with your joysticks!

Back in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, the joystick was the controller of choice before Nintendo introduced the directional pad with A and B buttons. It’s what your dad used to play, and if he still has any classic consoles kicking around, it’s what you might have used to play too.

Jacob Zinn / The Runner

You and your dad may both like retro gaming, but that depends on your definition of retro.

You fondly remember Mario Kart 64. Your dad fondly remembers Pong.

Your dad may have been a teenager when gaming was getting its start in arcades, playing Pac-Man 25 cents at a time. Or maybe he preferred intergalactic games like Space Invaders or Asteroids on a wood-panel analog TV that got nine channels (and six of them were static).

My dad and my uncle had an Atari 2600, back when it was bleeding edge technology. (The iPhone 4S has four million times more RAM than the 2600.)

My uncle got more use out of it than my dad, but that doesn’t mean your dad wasn’t pwning n00bs before you were born.

Case in point: the 2007 documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. The film focused on Steve Wiebe, a Redmond, WA father of two after the button-mashing glory of holding the world-record high score for Donkey Kong.

Sitting in his garage at an original, authentic Donkey Kong arcade cabinet, Wiebe wasted hours jumping over barrels and racking points until he reached the inevitable “kill screen” (a stage in which the game crashes due to a programming error in the hardware because it wasn’t designed to remember such a high score).

Advancements in technology over the last four decades have made access to retro titles as easy as Contra with the Konami Code.

Emulators and ROMs are all you need to play a 16-bit Super Nintendo games on your 1080p high-definition monitor that cost more than your car.

But maybe this year’s the year to dig out your dad’s ColecoVision or Magnavox Odyssey and experience gaming from five console generations ago. Authentic, Soviet Russian Tetris anyone?