Video Game Characters Go To the Right
It honestly never occurred to me before that all video game characters always head to the right. I am speaking, of course, of 2-D characters, from the 8-bit age — the age of real video-gaming, or, at least, the age when I actually played video games, which was 1985 or so. The 8-bit era was the era when we had these things called “arcades,” which were supposedly dens of iniquity, according to parents, though being a nerd, I never got in trouble in an arcade. Though you could probably buy drugs there, or something.
My memories of arcades involve blowing through my entire weekly allowance in a twenty-five minute period, followed by aimless hours of standing around. I’d get dropped off with a friend or two, and then inevitably be drawn to a game that I was terrible at, such as “Q*Bert,” “Tempest,” or “Double Dragon.” I could never stick to the games I was good at: a terrible mistake.
You got your quarters from the surly older dude who changed dollars into quarters. You maybe bought a piece of greasy pizza from the pizza parlor next door. And then you played. And you lost. The goal was to go to the right. To keep walking or running to the right, until your avatar rescued the princess or saved the President from drug lords or beat up the final space mutant or gangster or robot.
In the days before consoles, the goal of a game was to defeat you. Many games wouldn’t even let you “continue.” The goal was to block your quest to go to the right, over and over again. (It should be noted that there were a few exceptions to going to the right. In some space-based games, or army-based games, you wanted to go up. And in some very early games, such as “Breakout,” or “Centipede,” you went… nowhere at all.
I was trolling through YouTube the other day, when I found this shockingly good tribute to older games of the arcade, Atari, and Nintendo variety. It celebrates the struggle to head to the right. Yeah, it’s just pixelated characters, but this video might surprise you, with the unexpected pathos of it all. It might even make you a little weepy. Please to enjoy:
…What’s the meaning, what’s the moral here? “Go to the right.” The moral seems to be that persistence is crucial. Don’t procrastinate. Seek your bliss. Don’t be turned away from reaching your ultimate goal. That seems to be the moral here. And also: never go to the left — because that’s just stupid.
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