Long long ago, in a strip mall far far away, nerdy teenagers used to hang out in now almost mythical places known as video arcades.
For a quarter, you could zap space invaders, blow up asteroids, or play the part of some Italian plumber named Mario.
I know all this, you see, because I lived it. Yes, I was a first generation gamer, tokens in pocket, hanging out with my fellow freaks and geeks in the backroom of Baker Street Books – yes, believe it or not, the local bookstore had a game room – to see who could get high score on Gorf.
In an age of Xboxs, 60 inch flat panel monitors, and online gaming, I suppose all that sounds pretty quaint. But this was the golden age of the video arcade, and we had a blast.
One of the most popular games from this period was Missile Command. The goal of the player was to protect his cities from being nuked by using anti-ballistic missiles to shoot down the enemy’s incoming ICBMs. If you lost your cities, it was, in classic video game lingo, GAME OVER.
In retrospect, I suppose a game like that, inspired by the Cold War as it was, served to add a bit a levity to what was the deadly serious, ever present threat of nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union.
And speaking of the Cold War, all the headlines about North Korea and nuclear bombs this past week brought back memories of those bad old days when we were regularly treated to newscasts featuring stony faced Leonid Brezhnev, massive eyebrows and all, watching columns of Red Army soldiers, tanks and missiles pass before his reviewing stand in the Kremlin.
Those same headlines also got me to thinking about the foolishness of America’s interventionist foreign policy, and how intervention, once the decision is made to start it, can take on a life of its own.