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My Tribute to GALAGA (Written By A Total Non-Gamer)

Photo: arcadeartlibrary.com

My all-time favorite video game in the whole wide world is GALAGA!

Thank you Namco for making the only video game that I can half-ass play!

I first discovered Galaga at the bowling alley just minutes from my house. I would follow my asbestos friend on her newspaper route. At the end of it, we would stop at the bowling alley and she would make the owner turn on the video games so we could play them. (She was always a bad influence on me, from day one!)  She would spend her paper route money there. As I had no paper route (and received no cut for assisting with hers), I would rape my piggy bank of quarters. I once shattered an adorable ceramic elephant bank in my haste to feed my video game needs.

Granted, this was a very short phase in my life. Having never had a gaming console in my house until I met my husband, I am not a huge video game fan (player, whatever). But the arcade games at the bowling alley were a nice dip into that world. There was Gauntlet, Centipede, and Donkey Kong, which I sucked at. I could play Pole Position (who couldn’t?), but I rarely ever qualified for the actual race. There was a karate game I could sort of play, where if you won a little girl would come out and kiss you. I dabbled with Pac-Man, but those ghosts are not nice.

While they occasionally rotated the games in and out, Galaga seemed to always be there. And that was good, because I could actually play it for a few minutes on the same quarter. I could routinely make it through the first two stages of play and the Challenging Stage (bonus round), before being completely killed. IT WAS AWESOME!

A totally uninteresting factoid: Galaga is the first (and one of very few) video games my mom has ever played.

One time when I was in middle school, my Grandma had flown down to visit my Uncle Jim in Florida.  My mom and I were supposed to pick her up from the airport when she came back.  But Grandma called and said her flight was delayed.  We really had no idea when it would arrive, so we went to the airport prepared to kill some time.

I got very excited when we got there and they had a Galaga machine. My mom let me play, and then I tried to help her play. After that, we checked out the (very small) airport some more, then we went to the restroom. As I was heading out the door of the restroom, I slammed right into someone hurriedly coming in. We collided so hard, that my hat fell off my head. Turned out, it was my Grandma (I don’t think she used the bathrooms on the airplane and with the delay and all, well….).

Photo: technabob.com

The next time I can remember encountering Galaga is when I was in college. As a Communications major with an emphasis in TV and Radio Broadcasting, I had to make a lot of media projects. Many of them required sound effects. The Communications department at my college did have a collection of very sad and badly worn sound effects CDs. But often someone else was using the one you wanted, or it was too scratched to work any longer.

I think when I complained about such things to my best friend, she though I was crazy (she was studying Art and Elementary Education). But, thank God, she was thoughtful enough to buy me my very own sound effect CD for my birthday. Then, all I had to do was base each project around the sound effects that I owned myself.

One of the categories on the CD was “video game”. Are you with me? Have you guessed? I found the sound effects on the CD very familiar. Then one day, I placed it as all the sound effects from my most favorite video game, Galaga! What are the chances?

Since then, I have owned Galaga in many different incarnations. Orginally, I played it as an arcade game. This is the absolute best because a shot is fired EVERY TIME you hit the button. If you can hit the button 180 times per minute, then you can shoot 180 shots! (In almost all other versions, this is a major handicap!) Of course, your arm will fall off afterwards. The joy stick makes it very easy to move your ship very fluidly, as if it is an extension of your own hand. And, this is where you can end up with “the claw” (As illustrated by Chandler Bing on Friends).

Click to play on YouTube.com

Click to play on YouTube.com

My husband bought me a Namco Museum disc for the PlayStation One. But then he took the PlayStation One apart and never put it back together again. This disc would of course also play on the PlayStation Two. But that was harder to get the game started on for someone not used to it. And these days, the PlayStation Two is almost never hooked up. I am pretty sure this disc gave you the ability to adjust how many lives you got and when you could obtain more. I am fairly sure this is the version I got my all-time high score on: 141,140.

Photo: melarky.com

At one point, I bought one of those joysticks with the game built right in, that you plug directly into your TV. But it proved to have poor picture quality. (I can’t imagine why.)

After we got a Wii, my husband was kind enough to purchase Galaga from the Nintendo online game store thingy. So, this is the easiest way for me to play it in this day and age. But, as I have mentioned before, it has a tick where it will not fire as often as you hit the button.

As you may have guessed, my hit/miss ratio, while displayed at the conclusion of your game, means nothing to me. I want to shoot-shoot-shoot, baby! Like a blind man at a shooting range! Like a man on Viagra at a sperm bank! Like a photographer at a triplets’ wedding!

Photo: www5.pcmag.com

I love this game because all you do is move your fighter left or right, and shoot. You don’t fly through space or have bombs come at you. They drop at you! Straight down! This game isn’t 3D. It is barely 2D. It is like a one dimensional game!

I love that the “alien ships” look like bugs. Bees, scorpions, dragonflies, etc. It makes me want to shoot and kill them sooo much more! The bees are the worst. They are the only ships that once they fly off the bottom of the screen, will circle back up and kill you from the bee-hind! In later levels, they also turn into scorpions that move quickly and have the same ability. I have a new technique I am applying–kill all the bees first! (It seems to be working quite well.)

If your white ship gets sucked up by the blue ship guy in his tractor beam, you can get it back if you are very careful. You can shoot the blue guy as he attacks you with your other ship. Then your ship will come back to you, and you will have a Double Fighter. (My husband finds this awesome.)

The Double Fighter is great to rack up bonus points during the Challenging Stages, because you are double-wide with more shooting width. But, the Double Fighter make you a double-wide target for the bombs and bugs during regular play. The Double Fighter is a dangerous scheme to play, losing more often than winning (like Double-Down in Blackjack).

As often as a bee comes up & “stings” you from behind or an arrow you never saw blows you up, there are the wonderful “bad programming” saves. At least once a game, a ship that should totally have killed you totally flies right through you and keeps going. When that happens, it is GREAT!

Photo: fc02.deviantart.net

As Galaga is a very old, classic arcade game, it has that charming, yet frustrating programming where the levels as you advance do not look all that different. The levels do, indeed, speed up on you. This is usually not a big problem for me, as I rarely advance that far. My husband finds it rather frustrating though.

And speaking of my husband and frustrating, when I play, he always wants to also. I get it, it is his game system, etc. But if we take turns, he plays for twice, sometimes three times as long as I do. This is because he is a better player than me and lives longer. Should I be penalized with limited playing time just because I don’t have the years of video game practice and eye/screen-hand/controller coordination that he has acquired? And how will I ever improve if I always have less game time? (Sorry, pet-peeve of mine.)

Galaga permeates in our modern culture. It was regularly seen in the background of the student lounge on The O.C. I was delighted to see it used in the credits for the movie Grandma’s Boy. Galaga was name-dropped on the TV series Lost.  I believe someone uses it as a TV production logo (vanity plate).  It continues to be available through the years on almost every gaming system.

Photo: brookstone.com

I would love to get a T-shirt or baseball hat with the Galaga logo, to “represent”. Someday, when I win the lottery (WAIT! Make that TOMORROW when I win the lottery…), I am going to buy the upright arcade version. Brookstone sells a version for a mere $3,000. *sigh*

And after over 20 years of playing Galaga, what do I have to show for it? I can routinely make it through the first two stages of play and the challenging stage, and occasionally make it to the second challenging stage as well, before being completely killed;)

Alex: I’m not any of those guys, I’m just a kid from a trailer park…
Centauri: If that’s what you think, then that’s all you’ll ever be!

–The Last Starfighter (1984)

4 responses »

  1. I have a sudden urge to go to the bowling alley….

    Reply
  2. Wow, you are very passionate about this video game! I’m not much of a gamer myself and cant really say I have a favorite, although Galaga was the easiest of the arcade style for me to play too. This post was the 2nd time today that I saw Galaga mentioned on fb, btw. I find that very interesting. And I love you metaphors for how much you like to shoot! Lol

    Reply
  3. Galaga also showed up in Joss Whedon’s Marvel Studios movie The Avengers. The tribute continues, apparently ;-)

    Reply

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