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my video game family tree by holly chisholm


timeline 1972






64 Bits of History



Clear blue and beautiful, my Nintendo 64 was perfection. Its see-through plastic shell, and fitting purple controller were all I could ask for. The real magic was loading in the grey cartridge with a resounding click and waiting with anticipation as the screen loaded and Mario’s handsome mug would appear on the screen. Countless hours of my childhood were spent collecting stars, beating my friends in Super Smash Bros, and taking pictures of Pokémon. I view these artifacts as key pieces of my childhood, and will always look back on them with nostalgia of a fun and exciting time. I still consider Super Mario 64 as one of the primary influences on how I view the world and what i expect from video games.

However, my experiences are not unique. I often stumble upon people reminiscing about video games of old, and nowadays owning a N64 is the sign of being a “true” 90’s kid. My generation has been shaped and changed by video games. Mine is one of the first generations raised on video games. Before the 1970’s, there was no Angry Birds, no Zelda, no Gameboys, and no console wars. Still, from the instant they appeared in to social consciousness, video games completely revolutionized the way people began to spend their free time. I was able to talk to 3 generations of gamers and see which ones were most significant to them.


Nintendo 64 (1996)


Meet Ms. Pac Man

(she’s in blue)


Getting my Grandma to go on Skype is a bit of a challenge.


We all grow up with half-remembered legends about our grandparents. My grandma (lovingly referred to as Grandma C) has quite a few impressive ones. Her cooking is mythical, she was born in Ethiopia, and apparently, she was one killer Pac-Man player. My father would often tell me that she was the best player he had ever seen, and that she had most of the levels memorized to a t. I managed to get her on a Skype call because my dad was visiting their house in College Station, TX for Thanksgiving. She is infamous in her dislike of computers. This is due in part to her addiction to Pac-Man, a game that she originally played n the Atari gaming system. “I would forget that people were coming home for lunch! I was so obsessed with playing Pac-Man, that about five minutes before lunch it would suddenly dawn on me that I needed to fix something for lunch because it was a hypnotic game to me. I would sit there and play that thing all the time.” I knew of her addiction. We tried to buy her an Ipad for Christmas a few years ago, but she refused it. Our reasoning was that it would be much easier for her to email us so we could stay in contact. She was afraid that her “addiction” would relapse. Apparently many people of her generation have gotten into gaming in the past few years. “I have too many friends that will tell me the same thing, and I’m talking about old people. All they will do is sit there and play games.” I thought about my countless invites to play Farmville from my aunts and various older

Ms. Pac-Man 1982

relatives. It would be interesting to do a study to see is older people are becoming casual gamers, and perhaps see how much time is being spent by older demographics. Perhaps Grandma C was onto something with her strict video game sobriety. Grandma C wasn’t only “addicted” to Pac-man. Apparently she also played Mystery House which was the first computer game with graphics. She said she would play it on their “Fake apple” which was really the Apple II plus. To her quitting video games was a matter of survival, and when asked if she would ever want to try playing again she replied “No I don’t because I would spend to much time doing them [video games]. I wouldn’t get anything accomplished. We wouldn’t even eat!” The TV behind her drones on as it always does when I come to visit. My grandpa Allen sits on the couch beside her. I ask him if he plays any video games to which he replies, “No.” I guess Solitaire for Windows 98 isn’t really entertaining enough to be considered a game, so I don’t question his logic.

Mystery House 1980

Super 70’s Bros.


the year my uncle and Pong were both born.


Castle Wolfienstein 1981

My father, Robert, was born in 1962, and his brother, Carl, was born a decade later in ’72. They were the ones who orchestrated the Skype call to Grandma C. Every year my dad manages to bring at least himself and my little brother, Luke, to College Station for Thanksgiving. My grandparent’s house is always a place of refuge in my mind, and seeing my Uncle Carl in front of the wood paneled walls with the camel paintings brings me straight there. It’s as if nothing changes in that house. But I know things have changed, especially for video games in the past 40 years. “The one I remember is Tetris because everyone was obsessed with it in 1985, but we didn’t have computers growing up. We were too poor.” My dad has very specific catchphrases. One of his favorites is letting me know how much stuff he didn’t have growing up. 6

Apparently they did get a computer eventually because Carl reminded him of Castle Wolfeinstein. The game came out originally in 1981, and made its way onto the family’s Apple II. My dad consented, ”I played that one a little bit. Your goal was to capture the war plans and to escape the castle with the war plans, to defeat the Nazis. The graphics were really crude, like stick figures.” Carl chimed in again at this point, off-screen. “Pac man was really big because there actually a song that went with the game. It was called Pac-Man fever.” Indeed, the single made it to Billboard’s 9th spot on the top 100 list in 1982. Pac-Man is also the highest grossing game of all time, generating over $2.5 billion mostly in quarters. I was waiting for them to mention Pong. It didn’t take long. My dad paused for a bit before saying, “Pong was the one I remember was

the big deal. It came out in 75 or 76. It was like the first thing that wasn’t a pinball machine. It was a video display. It was this table thing and a person sat on either side of the table, and you twisted the knobs on either side, while you looked down at the screen.” I remember playing a similar version of Centipede at a Mexican restaurant once. The screen was covered in glass, and was flat like a table. I remember loving that you could compete with the person across from you, and that you looked down rather than up while you played. To me this table format seemed much more approachable, and almost like a social activity. It’s no wonder that my parents don’t really understand how my brother can stay in his room for hours, gaming in what seems like absolute solitude.


here he is on thanksgiving, learning to drive


I sent my brother, Luke, a text. He was very quick to respond. This was his reply.


They grow up so fast...

I can’t say I know what will happen in the future of gaming but if you ask me, PokÊmon Snap is still the best //

My Video Game Family Tree  

A brief recount of which video games made the biggest impact on my relative's memories.

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