GETTING MORE TALE #562: Adventure!
I was at a funeral recently, for an old family friend. Sandor was a neighbor since I was little. I grew up playing with his three kids: Rob, Michelle and Steven. It was sad but nice to see them again. We chatted about games we used to play as kids. Atari 2600, Lego, the Game of Life. The best games we played were the ones we made up ourselves.
One game that I invented with my best buddy Bob was called “Double Bounce Volleyball”. It was just a good way to play with a volleyball on the street with no net. I wrote up some rules on WordPerfect. What I wouldn’t give to see those again! What was not in the rules, but happened frequently anyway, was me throwing down some street moves. I tried to do the spinny-spinny-jump dance that Paul Stanley used to do in the “Thrills in the Night” music video. I could do it, but it didn’t look right anyway without the tassels on the pants! Personal acrobatics aside, it was a great game because all you needed was two people, a street, and a volleyball.
Another game we invented was a live action version of the 1979 Atari classic game, Adventure. Due to its poor graphics, it was once considered one of the worst video games on the market. Since then it has somehow become a cult classic, despite the fact that your little “man” was just a square floating around. You had explore mazes and three castles, and eventually bring a chalice back to the yellow castle. The random setting for the game placed objects everywhere on the field so no two games were the same.
Atari Adventure man with sword and yellow key
The main objects in the game were three keys (one for each of three castles), a sword, a magnet (useful for grasping objects out of reach) and a bridge (pretty useless). There were also some creatures to avoid: three dragons, and a bat who would steal whatever you are carrying, and sometimes replace it with something less useful. For example, the bat can and will steal your sword and replace it with a dragon!
A group of kids would gather together in somebody’s back yard. Depending on how many kids there were that day, we might have used multiple back yards. Someone would hide the chalice (a drinking glass) and other objects. I had a neat classic U-shaped magnet that was perfect to fill that role. We’d usually use clothespins for the keys. A plastic lightsaber was our sword. Then we’d all become adventurers, dragons or the bat! We’d run around the yard finding objects and generally having a blast for the whole afternoon.
I think our live action game was better than the real Adventure!
One afternoon, another kid from another neighborhood joined us. I don’t know why Allan Runstedtler was wearing a cape, but it suited! Another time, we couldn’t remember where my magnet was hidden, and I really wanted it back! We eventually found it and decided not to hide actual valuable objects again.
Do kids even go outside and play anymore? Almost everything we did was improvised. A badminton racquet wasn’t just a badminton racquet. It was also a guitar for “air bands”. Bob turned a neck brace into a Texas Chainsaw Massacre mask. We also did a live action version of the video game Berzerk. We were all very lucky to grow up in a tightly knit and safe little neighborhood. Everybody’s parents knew everybody else’s. We played video games (everybody on the street had either an Atari 2600, or a Commodore Vic 20), but then we went outside when that got boring. It wasn’t just a neighborhood with families. It was an extended family of families that we were fortunate to experience. And a hell of a lot of fun.