As I’ve mentioned before, my first memory of seeing a video game is when I saw Space Invaders in a Texas pizzeria. This may not actually be the case, but it’s the first memory I can recall. And that was a very long time ago. Since then, video games have been an integrated part of my life – just like baseball and football is to my dad.
The first computer I remember using was a Commodore PET in my middle school. Somehow I managed to wrangle time on it after school, playing with BASIC. Since then, computers have been an integrated part of my life.
As a child I had dreams of writing my own games. Games that I would want to play. I had dreams of being a kind of superstar.
The first computer I owned was a Commodore VIC-20. My mother, or grandmother, or both, bought it for me just before we started a long car trip from New Jersey to Louisiana. It sat in the trunk while I spent the trip reading the manual that came with it. I dreamed about being able to program the little fellow. And, I think, the first thing I did when I got it hooked up to the TV was to toss in Radar Rat Race and play away.
Not that I didn’t do some programming on the 3.5K, 20 column device; I did. I would enter programs from magazines (like Compute! and Creative Computing) and figure out how they worked. But I never really created anything of my own that was worth very much.
There was an awful lot of justifying going on: the display was too small, there wasn’t enough memory, the BASIC wasn’t good enough. Of course, those were all true and may have something to do with it, but the truth is that I would just lose interest after awhile. Or I would get stuck on a problem and not feel like figuring it out.
Eventually I received an Atari 400 for my birthday. It had better resolution, better sound, more memory (8K!), and a crappy keyboard (membrane!). My dreams of writing games came back and then, sadly, fell by the wayside again. I would rather play games than write them, once I started writing them.
By the time I got my Atari ST I figured the computers were too complicated for me to work with. A windowing operating system, no built-in BASIC. It just seemed too complicated to work with. With the advent of the PC and Windows I figured that was the end of that dream.
Last night, though, I went to Frys with my step-son. I was idly glancing at things when I noticed the HYDRA Game Development Kit by Parallax. I saw the 80’s era graphics on the box and instantly started thinking about how awesomely incredible it would be to have it and try writing games again on a system that, maybe, wasn’t as complicated as writing for a regular PC. I went to different sites reading about the Propeller processor and what people were doing with it and I was lost in dreams again.
This morning, however, those dreams are being dashed because of another realization.
I’m an intelligent guy. I’ve always been an intelligent guy. But, if I were to make an analogy I’d say I was a car with a lot of horsepower but very little torque. I’ve had a lot of teachers, friends, and co-workers tell me I’m smart but I always questioned it because I’ve never achieved what it was I wanted to achieve.
I’ve been told I’m a good writer. I think I’m a good writer. One thing I’ve noticed, though, since my school days is that while I’m fairly good at starting something I’m not very good at finishing it. I write a few sentences, maybe a paragraph, perhaps an entire chapter and then never get back to it. Even in this blog it can be seen by the amount of “Part 1’s” that never continue.
Could I have done better in school? Yes, I think so now. I just didn’t want to. Could I have gone to college and become somebody much more than I am? Yes, I think so.
Could I have written at least one stupid game? Yep.
Could I have finished one story, from start to finish? I’m sure.
But I never applied myself. I would hit a wall and instead of tearing it down, or climbing over it, I turned aside and let it beat me. I’ve done for just about everything I’ve ever done.
There are times when I wish that my adult mind would enter a time hole and settle into my younger self, so I could have a chance to change, to live life again without the same mistakes and sense of futility.
A few people who have known me thought that I had a fear of success. I laughed at them. I would think that I would like being rich, or famous, or at least be able to live day to day without an obscene amount of worry about what was going to happen the next day.
But maybe they were right. A fear of success that keeps me from achieving what I’m really capable of achieving. There’s no mental wormhole that will save me, only I can do that.
Maybe one day I will be able to write a game or finish a story. Or achieve a better position at work. Maybe.