I LOVE puzzles and boardgames. And as far back as I can remember, we would always be playing something or other, whether it was checkers, snakes and ladders, blackjack, solitaire or Mastermind.
The most unique games/toys I remember getting was a Ding Bat, or paddle ball, in 1977 (which I cherished and played with all the time, hoping to be the next paddle ball champion), and an Etch A Sketch, a mechanical drawing toy.
It wasn’t till my sister got a “walking, talking doll” that we first realised that technology could take playtime to new heights. (She decided to bathe the doll, by the way, which led to our first brush with the despair one feels when a gadget is destroyed by accident! Aiks!)
The View-Master, I guess, was pretty much the first real gadget toy we owned – a stereoscope through which a whole new world opened up to you.
It came with a reel that held 14 film transparencies that were divided into seven pairs, one for each eye, and when viewed simultaneously through the View-Master, you get a 3D image.
In the early 1970s that was how we “virtually” visited North America. It’s almost funny to think of it now, but I do remember how thrilled and excited we were back then.
After that my world revolved around music and television and it wasn’t until the late 1980s that I began playing the arcade type video games.
By no means am I a gamer of any sort, yet gadgets have infiltrated my life surreptitiously. It’s only when I think about it that I realise I have come into contact with so many different gadgets and games.
When I was in my late 20s, I had a nephew and niece and it was pretty much having to keep up with them that got me playing games as well.
I don’t remember what the device was, probably some knock-off Atari box with a massive joystick, and we played titles like Tetris, racing games and Frogger (in which you helped frogs cross a busy road).
There was also the Game & Watch, of course. Although to be fair, I don’t remember any of the games I played on the Game & Watch other than Manhole.
Game & Watch was a series of handheld electronic games produced by Nintendo from 1980 to 1991, which featured a single game to be played on an LCD screen.
Interestingly, Wikipedia says that in 1979, game designer Gunpei Yokoi, travelling on a Shinkansen, saw a bored businessman playing with a calculator by pressing the buttons. Yokoi then thought of an idea for a watch that doubled as a miniature game machine for killing time. What a eureka moment.
Once computers came around, I was playing some MS-DOS version of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure, in which I could control Dr Jones and interact with various characters as well as visit areas from the film, solve puzzles, and ultimately find the secret of the Holy Grail.
It was horrible, my computer – which was a huge second-hand beige box – kept crashing and I don’t think I ever made it to the end. My nephew would play a black and white version of Prince Of Persia.
During my first pregnancy which was in 1994, I remember being completely obsessed with Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers, which I played on some knock-off 16 or 32-bit console which was attached to my TV, happily spending my pre- labour and confinement traipsing through the Mushroom Kingdom in search of coins and question-marked bricks.
At this time my nephews and nieces had progressed to some sort of Atari console, and had many cartridges with games like Sonic, Duke Nukem and Contra.
As my own kids then grew up, their lives were populated by Tamagotchis and Game Boys. The Tamagotchi digital pet was a hit with my daughter (not so much my son who preferred to kick a football in the park), and she would diligently take the egg-shaped gadget (with just three little buttons) to school and play with it, feed it and even clean up its “poop”. She confessed that she murdered a few too.
Tamagotchis were one of the biggest toy fads of the early 2000s, and as of 2017, according to Wikipedia, 18.2million have been sold worldwide!
My daughter also had Poo-Chi at one point. Poo-Chi was a first- generation robopet, manufactured by Sega Toys, in 2000. It was grey and had purple ears, four legs, could stand up and lie down.
It also had red LED eyes and could show emotion, as well as bark and growl. If memory serves right, it could also bark out songs.
My son wasn’t as impressed with the “pets” as he was with the Game Boy, on which he would play Pokemon, Spider-man and Fifa. A more major part of his gaming life, however, came about after the Xbox and PlayStation came into the picture. The PlayStation remains his best friend till today, I reckon (can you hear me sigh?).
A good 10 years ago when I landed in hospital for a small surgery, I was gifted a Nintendo 3DS so that I wouldn’t be bored. It was very cool indeed and I killed many hours solving puzzles with Professor Layton.
The handheld console is capable of displaying stereoscopic images without the use of 3D glasses or additional accessories, but it was the puzzles that I was into rather than the technological wizardry.
More recently I also began playing games on the PlayStation and Wii, and while I am just a novice, I do find it fascinating that there is so much to choose from to play with.
I still grapple with the controls, but it’s always a fun ride. Sadly, however, I spend most of my game time (way too much time if you ask me) playing ridiculous games like Word Blitz and Candy Crush on my smartphone.
It’s amazing to look back at the last four decades and ponder on the groundbreaking strides in technology and innovation, even for something like games. I’ve gone from playing with a paddle and rubber ball to electronic toys, handheld devices, computers, phones and game consoles.
Back then though, times were simpler, of course, and I didn’t have to share my damn scores on Facebook each time I wanted to invite someone to play with me!
What games did you grow up with? Write in to lifestyletech@the star.com.my and tell us about the gadgets and games that made life a little more fun.