Never Played The 2600 Before Discovering Emulators?


Still Fresh
Jul 9, 2010
Dallas, TX
This is from a discussion on the AtariAge website, but I thought it would be helpful for Caanoo or Wiz users who weren't familiar with the 2600. Unfortunately, you won't really be able to take much advantage of multiplayer games on the Wiz, but you can still do high score battles if you want . . .


Personally, I don't think that its really possible to appreciate the Atari 2600 without understanding and having some appreciation for the arcade phenomenon that was going on during its heyday. The 2600 and its games were often direct ports of arcade games, but even those that weren't had the same qualities as the great arcade titles.

For example,
-In most arcade games the point of the game is to achieve the highest score possible
-The player will almost always die or fail at some point in the game which ends the game
-Gameplay was made more difficult by requiring more fast twitch response from the player as levels increased
-Players weren't rewarded in game by animations, instead you were rewarded outside of the game by your friends and peers in the arcade

The 2600 wanted to bring the above arcade experience into the home. Atari had great success with this in the form of Pong, so they wanted to expand on that. This worked great on the 2600 from about 1978 to 1982 (what would be considered a long time for most consoles). Atari became the fastest growing company in history, but during that time, the differences between console gaming and arcade gaming started to become obvious. The absence of the arcade atmosphere removed some of the enjoyment of achieving high scores (that could never be saved), and players wanted a deeper single player experience. Toward the end of the life of the console you see games that reward exploration and let you achieve goals much like a NES side scroller would, but in the heyday of the console what pushed gameplay was high score.

So with that being said, you need to set yourself up to succeed. Try to enjoy some of the top 100 with another player. Encourage yourself to enjoy mastering the game in order to compete with someone else. In this era of gaming, graphics and sound effects were often overlooked if you had a score rivalry with a close friend.

Don't give up! Difficulty can be punishing on some of these, but thats simply because the games are small. To keep a player interested, the game had to be difficult. Try to learn some tricks to help you succeed "If I position the ship here at the beginning of the level I can shoot 3 right away"

Change the difficulty settings and play the different game variations to try and keep the game fresh. Compared to modern games there really isn't much in these. If you are lucky there is more than one static screen, so you should use the game variations and varying difficulty options to change things up. Read the manuals so that you know what the variations are. You can find most of the manuals on AtariAge.

IMO: games that really did a good job with the arcade experience were:
Space Invaders <- you must try the 2 player simultaneous variation
Warlords <- gotta try to get 3 others to play this with you
Asteroids <- If you've got a friend go with a high score competition on this one
Combat <- Try with 2 players - there are a ton of game variations

Activision games that you should try
Kaboom! <- Paddle-tastic
Chopper Command <- Keep the difficulty switch on easy
River Raid <- Lemme try once more to get farther
Pitfall <- Explore the area with a friend taking turns playing. You go one way, he/she goes the other. When you've explored enough, see who can last the longest and get the most points, then compare your 'route'

Games that started the progression to the next era
Pitfall II (and Pitfall)
Montezuma's Revenge
Stargate (because of the controls)

When I'm playing older games with a younger player, I like to stagger the gameplay where one of us plays 2x, then the next player gets 2 chances to beat his high score. If he does then player 1 gets one more chance to improve and after that, player 2 gets a final chance to win the high score duel. Once each of you has played up to 3 times, you move on to a new game. This adds some 'meta' gaming to the mix and gives you a time when you are expecting to stop playing a given game. That way if one of you really doesn't like it then you know its going to end soon.