Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I am the Q-bert Master

We watched the movie “Twilight” last night. I’m sure we were the last two people on the planet who had not seen it. Now, we’ve seen it.

My generation’s big vampire movie was “The Lost Boys.” I rate it a tad more exciting than Twilight. I was tempted to doze off on more than one occasion last night, and I don’t recall ever falling asleep or even considering closing my eyes during any viewing of The Lost Boys, which I’ve seen probably 10,000 times.

I was impressed, however, with the “innocence” of the Twilight movie – no sex, no cursing, no nudity. This is good considering every teenager in the world has seen this flick. I expected blood and gore and lots of immorality but got none of it.

The Lost Boys, I have to admit, contained all the elements our parents did not want us watching in high school. It was the ‘80s, and “Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll” was our motto.

How did we ever survive the ‘80s?

I’m sure every generation asks the same question, but they didn’t have Brett Michaels screaming “Talk Dirty to Me!” on MTV.

MTV in the 1980s was what MTV was meant to be – music television. One could turn to the station and actually see music in action instead of intoxicated bikini-clad college students and reality shows like we see now. (I guess. I admit I haven’t flipped to MTV in at least 12 years.)

I remember the first video I ever saw on MTV, though. It was Bryan Adams’ “Run to You.” I can still see him dancing around in the leaves playing his guitar, and I remember thinking that video was the coolest thing I had ever seen. Music videos defined the latest in technology back then. Well, music videos, Atari and push button phones defined technology back then.

Our household was never ahead of the technology curve when I was growing up. In fact, I generally was one of the last people in my class to get anything the other kids already had. I love that fact now but hated it back then.

We didn’t get MTV at our house until it was offered with the basic cable package. We never had HBO. To this day, I have never seen the original “Porky’s” movie. That is a good thing, but I sure was jealous of my friends in junior high who had seen it and who had unlimited access to HBO and movies like Weird Science, Nightmare on Elm Street and anything with Christian Slater in it.
Most of my friends also had their own video games. While they were swinging on vines over the quicksand of Pitfall!, jumping over barrels in Donkey Kong and dodging vehicles in Frogger, I was challenging my sister to a riveting game of Pong we played on a machine mom picked up at a garage sale.

By the time Atari was getting old, I finally managed to save up enough money to buy my own, probably my first big purchase. I bought the console, which came with the game Combat, and my own Pitfall! game. I played that thing day and night – or until my mother told me to stop playing it.

After Pitfall! became old hat – and I realized the pattern ran on a continuous loop – I saved up for my next conquest, a game none of my friends had. That game was Q-bert.
If you don’t remember Q-bert, it featured a funny-looking little circle guy who bounced around on colored squares on a pyramid. The object of the game was to turn all the squares a different color before getting splatted by the bad guys who chased Q-bert around during his conquests.

I paid $42 for it, and I spent so much time playing it, none of my friends could hold a candle to my expertise.

I figured out all the patterns and advanced to levels probably unknown to even the makers of the video. I was the Q-bert Master.

I scored so high, I was eligible to join some sort of “Q-bert Club.” I don’t remember all the specifics, but I remember I had to take a photo of my high score on the television, fill out a form which came with the game and send everything in to qualify as a “Q-bert Expert” or some illustrious title.

If you remember the days before digital photography, this wasn’t an easy task, especially in grade school.

First, I had to convince my mother to let me borrow her camera. We didn’t have a Polaroid, so getting a photo instantaneously was not a possibility. Getting a photo the same day wasn’t even a possibility. In 1983, there was no such thing as a one-hour photo, and even if there had been, it would not have existed in Cherokee, Oklahoma. We were lucky to get photos back within two weeks.

My mother had a Kodak 110, which generally contained a roll of film with 24 to 36 exposures – another drawback. I only needed one picture, and I didn’t dare ask my mother to waste an entire roll of film just so I could go down in history with my fellow Q-bert pros.

Being an expert back then meant waiting, patiently. I have little to no patience, so waiting feels like excruciating torture to me.

I remember the day my mother brought home the photo of my Q-bert score; I believe my score was 185,000 or something like that. Mom bought double exposures, so I had one picture to keep and one to send in to the company, which meant packaging everything up and depending on snail mail to get it there – no e-mail, just an envelope, a stamp and a mail carrier.

I don’t know if I ever received any confirmation that my score was even acknowledged by the Q-bert powers that be (or were), and I have no idea where my extra photo is today.

I also don’t know how I started talking about the movie Twilight and ended on the game of Q-bert. Maybe I could apply the six degrees of separation rule. Good thing it’s not 12 degrees of separation or I might write a book including Laverne and Shirley, TRS-80 computers and the game of Zork.

This morning I read:

Matthew 9:14-26
Acts 13:26-52
Psalm 22:1-11
Genesis 48

I thought this might make a good youth group lesson.

Acts 13: 49-52
49The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. 52And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.


  1. I never played Q-bert, but I sure do love those old Atari games! And Nintendo! Sure wish I had time to sit and play for hours like that... We had no idea how good we had it!

    P.S. Thanks for being my virtual lunch buddy! Your posts always make me smile :)