Although we lived in the city, across the street from our newly built house was a vast forest of undeveloped area. It stretched at least a mile long and was a half-mile deep. At one end was a road that folks used to drive down and dump their bulk-trash at. Good for finding tires to bring home, odd appliances, great "boy" stuff.
"Mom. I'm going out into the woods."
"Be back in time for dinner. Watch for poison ivy!"
So off I would go, "cutting trails" though the underbrush. Collecting hardware to build an imaginary rocket-ship. At the far-back side one would come out to a super-sized drainage ditch.
I could disappear for hours in there, Lewis and Clark style.
Back then a kid could ride their bike forever and a parent wouldn't freak. I'd often ride miles away from home.
On these slow summer bike rides, I would keep an eye out for glass pop-bottles. The ditches were often full of them. Sometimes I would have to brave a fire-ant nest that had sprung up around them, but for a diligent kid, an hour's work would net a good haul. Next stop was the local grocery where I could turn them in and collect on the deposit stamped on the bottle.
That often gave me just enough spare change for a "splurge" at the adjacent mini-mart.
My friends would often head over to the video games and drop some quarters into the machines. I almost always had money to spend instead on the latest candy choices. Pop-Rocks weres big. You could still get candy cigarettes. Bit-O-Honey's were my favorites. Every now and then I would have enough to buy a new Delta kite and string (I always seemed to be loosing mine in the trees.) Or maybe one of those balsa wood rubber-band powered airplanes. Those were cool.
Anyway, I never really was a (quarter-eating) video game buff as a kid. I was good at Tempest. That was it. I could go through a roll of quarters on almost any other video game out there in record time. I was bad. Embarrassingly bad. Fortunately I recognized this fact and had a reasonable head on my shoulders to understand eating candy, drinking Frosty root-beers, and playing with flying toys was a much more entertaining waste of my time and money than obsessively/compulsively plunking quarters into video games.
Even to this day, while I still play some PS2 games with Alvis and enjoy a good "exploration/adventure/puzzle" style quest game, it still doesn't fully entertain me.
I recall these childhood memories because RetroThing had a recent post: Play Vintage Williams and Midway Games Online.
The screenshot was from Defender. I had a personal animosity towards that game in particular as a kid. It took too much of my root-beer money growing up. Finally Victory would be mine!
I hopped the link over to the Midway Arcade and a Shockwave update later was blasting away at human-snatching aliens in this classic side-scroller!
And in 10 seconds or less I was out a virtual quarter, having been destroyed way too quickly to even process. Now, however I could beat it!
Twenty minutes later, I had a realization that comes from age and maturity and time spent in the Information Technology trenches.
"Damn...I still suck at these games. Suck really, really badly."
Must be why I was never asked to become The Last Starfighter growing up.
Probably a good thing anyway, or humanity would have been exterminated...or something like that.