So, uh, yeah. I took a little time off. But I have a very good excuse. You see, I was playing Asteroids 2600.
I got rid of my Atari 2600 a long, long time ago, but fortunately for me, Xbox 360 has a game called Game Room, where you can download classic games from the Atari 2600, Intellevision, and Konami. Of course, the first two games I bought were Combat and River Raid, but as soon as it was released I snapped up Asteroids 2600.
I always liked the original Asteroids arcade game (though if truth be told, I always preferred Asteroids Deluxe), but I quite frankly suck at it (I also own it on Xbox, though not through Game Room). But if there’s one thing I know about 2600 games, it’s that once you figure out the pattern you can pretty much play them forever. I started a game of Pac-Man 2600 in 1983 that I’m still playing.
I didn’t own Asteroids 2600 when I had an Atari, but I played it plenty. For those unfamiliar, the concept isn’t difficult to grasp. You’re a space ship trap in some sort of never-ending asteroid field and the only way to survive is to blow the asteroids to bits. The asteroids start out big. One shot and they break into two medium-sized chunks. Those medium-sized asteroids break into two small asteroids once you shoot them. Then you just have to shoot the small asteroids until you clear the screen. Then you start all over.
While sometimes you get in hairy situations with the asteroids, you’re far more likely to die by enemy fire. For the first 8,000 points, you get a fairly steady stream of large UFOs that are surprisingly accurate with the laser fire. After you break the 8 grand mark, things gets crazier with small, insanely accurate UFOs. These are going to be responsible for roughly 90% of your deaths in the game. The good news is that you get an extra guy every 5,000 points, up to 9 guys (there are other settings, where you can choose no extra guys or longer intervals for extra guys, but I just play on the first setting. It seems the most pure).
So it was, with that knowledge in hand, that I sat down to test my mettle against my fellow Xbox Game Room players. My first try I broke into the top 200. It was more fun than it has any right to be, given the repetitive nature of the game (once you hit 100,000 points, it starts over from screen zero, but your points keep adding up). It wasn’t long before I was determined to beat my own score.
And play I did. And play and play and play. It took me 3 hours and 30 minutes to achieve the #7 rank IN THE WORLD. And then, tragedy struck. Some complete loser with way too much time on his hands took over the #1 spot, plummeting me to #8 in the worldwide rankings.
I’ve played a few times since that historic day, but I haven’t really had the urge to put in the four hours it would take to get my old #7 spot back. And I certainly don’t have the gumption to put in the forty hours it would take to take the number one spot (though I’m absolutely positive I could do it if I really wanted to — trust me).
Was it all worth it? In a word, yes. But now it’s time to put the controller down for a while and do something a little more worthwhile. Like re-read The Invisibles. And eat some Spam Sliders. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.