Holiday Memories…

It is that time of year… where we start to reflect on where we are and how we got there. I’d like to share a very important Xmas for me. I’m not real sure of the year but it was just as the Gaming Crash was starting in the late 70s.

We were fairly well off, better than most, as my step-dad was an officer in the Air Force, but things weren’t perfect and they divorced just after that Christmas. So, from riches to rags.

We really struggled to make ends meet through that year and as Christmas rolled around again we had no money for gifts. We had a small plastic tree, a few decorations and no lights. So on Christmas Eve, Mom and I went to the grocery store to pick up a couple of TV dinners for Christmas day. The glut of bad games caused the retailers to have a huge over stock of games that no one wanted and the market crashed. Games that were very expensive were now being sold for a third of their original price. The store just happened to be having a blow out sale of Atari carts on Xmas eve. Everything was $5.00. I knew things were tight so I just looked while she shopped. Being Christmas Eve, people were grabbing games faster than you would believe, I watched them all fly by. I noticed a Miner 2049’er that people just passed up and I really wanted it. We just didn’t have the money. We left and headed home.

About an hour later she told me to get my coat on we forgot something at the store. You can guess the rest; mom had taken me back to get a game. Miner 2049’er was not there. Instead I got Fathom by Imagic and I played that game for days on end. I don’t know exactly what it was about that game, but it was a turning point in my life. It led to computers (apple ][, then TI99/4a), the games there and many steps later to a career with computers and an amazing job in the gaming industry. Rob Fulop, the designer of the game, didn’t care for Fathom. He just wasn’t satisfied with it, but for me that one $5 game made a significant impact on me.. enough of an effect, to point a child in the direction of his future.

So Santa, my first holiday wish is for a mint, sealed Fathom, which I hope to have signed by Rob Fullop. I refuse to buy a loose Fathom cart, till I get one…

And my second, is that people will see that even the smallest gift… even one seemingly insignificant… can be life changing for the person receiving the gift.

You can play the game that changed my life. The emulator is here: Stella and the rom you need is here: Fathom. The instructions are pretty simple; you start out as a dolphin, swim down to get the sea horses and collect the stars. Once you collect enough sea horses a seagull Icon will appear below the timer. Once you have that head back up to the surface and push up to jump out of the water to become the seagull. Head left or right and fly up off the screen and collect the pick clouds again collecting the stars. Once you have a full trident, go back to the dolphin push down on your stick to return to that form and swim down to free the mermaid. Each level adds to the depth of the sea, the height and width of the air. Stars won’t always appear when you collect all of the objects on the screen and you are always under a countdown timer. I managed to complete it once when I was younger.. I think there is a cheat map out there but I encourage you to try it without it.

If you want to try any of the other games, you can download them here: 2600 Roms. For old games there are some surprisingly good ones. "Pitfall2", "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Adventure" with the world’s first Easter Egg.



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