The time was 1977, an important year - the Apple II went on sale in June, the Atari home game system came out in October, and of course even before those, Star Wars was released in May and changed everything.
I had just turned eight a few months before, and had heard about computers and video games, but hadn't seen one. My dad and I walked the boardwalk that evening - a sunny, salty day fading to twilight - and strolled into PlayLand, a corner arcade in the small amusement park at the end of Rehoboth Beach. Now, my dad was later known to play a mean game of Space Invaders, but he's never been a big fan of noise or crowds, so he stepped out into the evening breeze before I exited. I don't recall how long I stayed inside. The machines would have been primitive in those days - black-and-white space and shooting games, some with plastic overlays on the screen to give the impression of color; electromechanical pinballs clicking and ringing - but the moment clearly made an impression on me - I will let Dad set the scene:
You were totally enthralled, as if you had just stumbled into Wonderland.
I remember how loud and clangy it was, and the blinking lights. I probably stepped out for a smoke, but really, the audio-visual stimulation was at blast level. The smells... sweaty, salty, sweet.
I watched you play a couple different games from the boardwalk, and smiled at how you approached each one somewhat gingerly before you engage with reckless abandon and total absoprbtion. When you emerged, you were hot and flushed, your face a splotchy red.
I think you were speechless; I don't remember that you said anything.And that my friends, just about says it all - a lifetime love of games begun in a single memorable moment.
See at left a photo from about the same era (but not from the beach) with the principals of this story pictured (top left and bottom right).