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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Player of Games, #50: Frogger

The Atari 2600 came into our house in 1981 or 1982, when I was six or seven years old and my brother eight or nine. We were excited, thinking this was a new toy for us. And eventually, it was. But looking back, I realize that our father was maybe thirty-four or thirty-five, almost fifteen years younger than I am now, and it dawns on me that it's not only possible but likely that the old man used his sons as a front to get the thing in the house so he could play with it. I mean, that's how we get the new PlayStation when it comes's for the kids!

Anyway, that Atari got hooked up to the ancient black and white TV that had been relegated to the room where my brother and I had bunkbeds. We'd play on it (Missile Command, Breakout, Space Invaders - the usual suspects) and then we'd go to bed. Dad was a police officer at the time, and was often working nights. I have this indelible recollection of waking up in the wee small hours, as kids do, and seeing a muted glow in our room. It could have been eleven or one or three, I don't know. But there was Dad, sitting on the floor in his uniform pants, barefoot, white t-shirt, battling with Frogger. He was a young father in his mid-thirties, working a tough, thankless job, and he was unwinding at the end of his day by doing his utmost to get that pixelated little amphibian past the zooming traffic and the sinking turtles and the ravenous alligators to his safe houses. Maybe get him fed or laid along the way. Man, if that doesn't sum up modern manhood, I don't know what does.

As time went on, the Atari, the Commodore and later systems like the NES or the PlayStation became our sole provinces, and Dad lost interest in the increasingly complicated games. I get that - the games my kids play largely bewilder me. I think that night was the first time I saw his not just as our dad but as a man. One who liked - needed - to have some escape and some fun. Of all the games that are on this list because I enjoy playing them myself, Frogger is included because of how much I cherish that memory of our father having a game that helped him survive this life. It reminds me of a simpler, easier time. Well, easier for everyone but the frog.

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