As a child, I was heavily influenced by the action stars I saw in movies and the animated heroes I watched on TV. I wanted nothing more than to be like them as their sense of justice and undying selflessness were traits I was attracted to, even at a young age. I knew one day a new generation would need to step up and continue the quest for justice that these individuals had started. I wanted to be the next line of defense but there was a slight problem; I didn’t know how to shoot a gun. Fortunately for me, I also discovered arcades around this time and with them, light gun games.
While I went to many an arcade during my youth, few of them had the impact on me that Rascal’s Fun Zone in Whiteland, IN had. Rascals wasn’t called Rascals at the time that my father brought my two brothers and me there, but it’s remained mostly unchanged since my youth. Originally, we went there to drive go-karts (driving fast, another skill that action heroes need) but one day we arrived and the lines were just too long. Not wanting to waste our trip, we decided to hang out in the arcade attached to the go-kart tracks and it was there that I discovered Area 51.
Not on my watch
For those of you that don’t know me, I don’t trust aliens. While this could be perceived as racism, I see it more as being wary about beings that have technology that far surpasses that of humanity. Anyway, the game Area 51 deals with an alien catastrophe centered around the mysterious military installation in New Mexico. You play a member of STAARS (coincidence Resident Evil fans? I think not) and must use your training to stop the aliens and mutants that have overrun the base. Like with all light gun games, you use a gun shaped peripheral to shoot at targets on screen, thus allowing a youngster to begin to build upon his alien shooting strategies at an early age.
While most kids played games to earn tickets for the exciting array of prizes made available, I was just honing my accuracy. They sneered at me and bragged about the stuffed unicorns and plastic snakes they earned through a long day of ski ball and shooting baskets. They thought that their investment was paying off while I was busy sacrificing quarter after quarter to a game that was pretty brutal in their young minds. I knew better. One of these days aliens would indeed attack our world and they’d be stuck defending themselves with terry cloth animals, unless their dogs had already gotten to them first.
Have you never seen a true hero before?
Wanting to prove to my peers that my efforts weren’t being wasted, I decided to take the next step in my gaming and inserted a quarter into both the player 1 and player 2 slots. Seeing an intense 11 year-old with two light guns in his hand has a way of attracting a crowd and I found myself surrounded by onlookers. I was going to have to make this look good.
Being socially inept at the time and not fully understanding how silly I looked, I stared down at the ground with both guns held up to my head. I slowly brought my eyes level with the game screen, flicking both light guns to the sides to reload the weapons (though I didn’t really have to) and then began my assault against the invaders. Things went well in the beginning and in my mind, a secret government recruiter was taking notes behind me, hoping to offer me a spot on a covert team of extraterrestrial eradicators.
This didn’t last long, however, as the player 2 side eventually took too much damage and would need some quarters in order for me to continue with the dual wielding strategy (I didn’t think to preload it, stupid). I laid the gun on the arcade cabinet and bent down to put a quarter in while I continued to shoot with the other gun (unsuccessfully I might add). By the time I’d given myself more credits on the player 2 side, the player 1 side needed some, resulting in an embarrassing loop of failure. The crowd began to get restless and I could hear some laughter in the background.
As an adult, I’ve grown accustomed to inadequacy, but youthful Ethan had yet to taste that level of shame outside of the multiple times he’d peed my pants in elementary school because he thought he saw a goblin in the restroom. I had to prove myself and decided to load up the game once more, this time ditching the dual wielding strategy I’d been implementing. I was about ready to begin when my dad showed up and told me it was time to go. I begged him for a few extra minutes to redeem myself, but he and my brothers were hungry and were ready to head across the street to the pizza place that served drinks to you on trains. While I’ve always been a fan of locomotive drink service, I had to save Area 51 from aliens and was willing to go hungry to do so.
Alas, my family’s hunger came before my playtime and so I left my freshly purchased game session while we walked away. I’d like to think that a fresh faced youngster achieved victory on my quarter, but I turned around to see a small child flailing helplessly as the damage began to wrack up. It’s safe to say that I pouted for the rest of the day.
Just 5 More Minutes – Anecdotes and memories of when we didn’t want to put a specific game down.