Monday, November 20, 2006

Marble Sadness

There are times in your life when you realize that it's nearly impossible to share some experiences of your youth with the next generation.

Those kids who saw the Star Wars movies starting with Episode I (instead of IV like the rest of us) will never be able to experience that shock of finally realizing, after all of the conflict, that Vader is actually Luke's father. You just can't un-see the new trilogy to experience the old trilogy with a clean slate.

Similarly, a couple of weeks ago I found (to my surprise) that most of my students had heard of Marble Madness, a wonderful arcade game first released around the time that today's college students were just being born. Why? Because the game has been ported to just about every console machine Atari could get its hands on. My students haven't seen an arcade model (many didn't even know it was an arcade game), but they've seen the NES version.

This is a shame, because there has never been (to my knowledge) a decent port of this game to a home system. The great thing about this game is its play control: you roll this heavy trackball and your marble on the screen moves in the same way. Converting it to a d-pad control simply doesn't work, because it removes that visceral rolling that forms the core of the game; it's like playing a dance/rhythm game with the sound turned off.

So, all of these kids today think of Marble Madness as this mediocre race game for console with lousy play control, not as a perfectly wonderful arcade game with the curse of never surviving a port intact. And that makes me sad.

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