This blog gets viewers so rarely, I’m starting to think I may actually be writing an M. Night Shyamalan film. So whenever I have to switch to bi-monthly updates instead of weekly ones, I can’t help but think that will be the final nail in the coffin, the act that will dethrone me from my lavish lifestyle of fame, fortune, a diet consisting entirely of ramen and twinkies, and a driveway that turns into applesauce if it rained at all within the last decade. Unfortunately, since blogging wouldn’t pay the bills if the electric company issued me a refund for ten years of overcharging me, so I sometimes have to focus on other things, such as a horror novel that will probably get published as soon as the Republicans and Democrats finally agree on something (which with my luck, they’ll outlaw reading and writing), a comedic history of Duluth using sources with less historical continuity than the Star Wars prequels, not to mention I’m attempting to get licensed to teach public school, which involves less knowledge of the stuff you’re teaching and more learning how to avoid the temptation to go ballistic with a ruler when a classroom of 35 kids decides they’d rather re-enact the Iliad than read it. So here’s Galaga, the first of a series of games that I can play in an afternoon, write a few paragraphs about, then schedule it to post sometime in March.
It’s Space Invaders on steroids. There. Done. See you in two weeks!
Seriously, though. I just spent about a half hour after writing that last sentence trying to think of something else to say. This game clearly belongs in a 1981 arcade. It effectively holds my attention for about a quarter’s worth of my time (have you ever noticed there’s no symbol for cents on the keyboard? That’s pretty obnoxious), and that’s even taking inflation into account. I’m sure in 1981, the idea of sliding a pixelated spaceship back and forth at the bottom of the screen while spamming the attack button could have held me in rapt attention well beyond the 45 seconds it took for the game to reduce all three of my lives to shrapnel. With a pocket full of quarters and the technology for better games still years away, the game works like a Nigerian prince scam. You feel invested in the game, and that one time you blew up–that was just a stupid mistake. If you drop in another quarter, you’ll get much more play time on this next round.
Nowadays, a quarter isn’t so much an investment as a game of chance, “I think I can get in and out of the game store in twenty minutes if I only put one coin in the meter,” or even, “They quit enforcing the meters at 5:30. What are the chances I’ll get a ticket in the next thirty minutes?” Games are also generally better designed. Outer space has three whole dimensions, Galaga. Your ship moves on a line. That’s two dimensions you’re just refusing to use. “There’s an enemy approaching from the left. I have literally an infinite number of directions I can go to evade, most of which I could literally travel for eternity without hitting anything, but if I can’t go exactly 90 to my immediate right, life isn’t worth living.”
So…Galaga…worth playing? Maybe if your father contracted malaria from a mosquito and you have the overwhelming urge to seek revenge on giant space bugs. The enemies provide the only really interesting aspect to the game, swooping in like a flock of drunken geese with their bug-like wings flapping uselessly in the vacuum of space. But once you’ve seen that, you’re just playing Space Invaders, in color, without the shields. I rank it with Moby Dick as a timeless classic about an epic battle that also doubles as a sleep aid.