My first exposure to video games was through the Atari 2600. I was probably around five or six years old when I started playing Berzerk and Asteroids. It was before I learned that these games were ports from the original arcade versions which talked to you or used vector graphics. I still have the Atari and most of the games. Lock ‘n’ Chase stands out in my mind.
If you haven’t heard of this game, think of Pac-man, only instead of ghosts there are police officers, and instead of a yellow circle, you play as a thief. The dots are gold bricks. You can close and lock up to two of the many doors in the maze to hinder the officers chasing you. The doors reopen after a short time. Collect all of the treasure, and you unlock the door to the next level. Rinse, and repeat.
It was not unusual to narrowly avoid capture by a police officer. I’ve been chased without a pixel of difference between me and my pursuer and waiting for a door to open back up so I can lock another one. I’ve laughed when the thief’s hat looked like it was being worn by an officer who was a little too close for comfort. In either case, locking a door was a great way to get the officer off of my tail. Since the officers were always moving, locking yourself between two doors was a good way to delay until the officers chasing you moved safely away again.
One day I discovered a new trick. It was probably one of the first times I had learned a new way to play a game. I was being chased, and I closed a door to avoid the first officer. A second officer turned a corner and I disappeared down a teleporter. Well, the officer turned toward the door I just closed, so I went back through the teleporter. It thought that it was a risky maneuver for me to try, but I chased the officer and placed a wall on the other side of him.
And I did it! I trapped an officer between two walls! I either yelled “Whoa!”, “Cooool!”, or “Awesome!”, but I don’t remember. I received bonus money for doing it, and the game sang out in that always-different-yet-always-satisfying Bonus Noise.
I didn’t even know it was possible to do it, and I played this game a lot. All of a sudden, there was a entirely new way to play the game. Instead of just collecting money and avoiding the Law, I could try to trap the officers. Can I trap two? How about all four? Is there anything else I can discover?
Maybe it was in the manual for the game. Maybe it was on the side of an arcade cabinet somewhere. But I was a child, and all I had at the time was the game. I felt amazing for discovering something cool on my own. It was a great gaming moment for me.