There was a time when patches were only things sewn onto the worn elbows of your jackets, and us “gamers” definitely weren’t waiting around for them. Let me take you back to a time when floppy discs were king, joysticks were modeled after the Atari, and when I wanted to throw my damn Commodore 128 out the window…
My grandmother was one of the most technological people that I knew and, as a Christmas gift, had purchased the family a Commodore 128. I remember it took my parents several nights to set up and to figure out how to even turn the thing on. But aside from a few novel game cartridges like Frogger and Toy Bizzarre, the Commodore didn’t really garner much attention from me.
That is, until a chance encounter at the software isle at K-Mart revealed a new treasure: the Ghostbusters game for the Commodore.
I’m pretty sure that I begged and pleaded and all but promised to complete chores until the day I died for free to get that game. In fact, now that I think about it, I probably am still indebted for all the promises I made there in Isle 5. Finally, my parents relented, and it was in the shopping cart. I was transfixed for the duration of our shopping stay at the department store – unable to take my eyes off the screenshots on the back of the box which promised Ghostbusting adventures to come.
And then, as often happened when we departed a store with a toy that I couldn’t wait to tear open, we left the store and my parents stopped for us all to get dinner. Torturous is the time that you have to sit as a kid waiting to get home, and I knew that the Ghostbusters game was out there in the car taunting me. It was one of the longest dinners of all-time.
When we finally made it home, I couldn’t get upstairs to where the Commodore was housed fast enough. In went the five and a quarter inch disk. I typed in the command to run the program per the beautiful black, white, and red instruction pamphlet (which to this day still has some of my favorite line art of Slimer ever rendered)…
The game load screen game up – a multi-colored text card with Activision’s 8-bit rendered logo and credits for Ray Parker Jr.’s now infamous title song. The anticipation was killing me during the five to ten minutes the disk drive was working overtime, sounding like a pencil sharpener with every click and hum…
…the drive noises stopped. This was it, this was definitely it!
…and the game did nothing.
It just sat. On the load screen. Nothing. I waited for ten minutes, which became a half hour. A half hour became two full. Finally my parents came upstairs telling me that it was time for bed and I couldn’t believe it. After all the hype, after all the expectations, THIS was the reward? A title screen that did nothing and the parents calling for bedtime?!?
I was pissed. I was cursing David Crane, Activision, and anyone else’s name that was on that initial loading screen including Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio Music. How dare they tease me like this? I was hurt, offended, and whatever other range of emotion a five-year old kid could truly convey at that point.
Subsequent days, I tried and tried the game again. Nothing. Nothing. More nothing. We even returned to K-Mart to exchange the copy of the game for another. And after another tortuous dinner following and a journey back out to the middle of nowhere Colorado, it didn’t work again.
Eventually I gave up, and the Ghostbusters game sat in the desk drawer collecting dust. In the pre-internet days, there wasn’t a whole lot that you could do for support. I had even written a letter to the Activision address on the packaging, hoping for some sort of reply (which I still wait for to this day). I thought that I was cursed by the video game gods, and would never get to play it… that was, until one faithful day when I realized that my Commodore 128 strangely had this “Go 64” command.
Wow, I typed in the command and everything turned blue. What a strange and different world this was from the usual green-bordered screen that I was accustomed to. I don’t know what prompted or inspired it, but I decided to try loading the Ghostbusters game one last time. Maybe this blue screen made things different.
Load “*” ,8…
An error message.
But that’s what the instructions in the beautiful booklet told me to type! But wait, one of my other video games that worked always required you to add the number 1 to the end of that command…
Load “*” ,8,1…
The game started to load… the load screen came up… the disk drive sounded like it was about to die again… then… the disk drive noises stopped. Seemingly nothing happened, and my heart sunk again. I looked away for a split second…
“GHOSTBUSTERS! BWAA HA HA HA HA HA HA!” Yelled a strange and robotic voice from my Commodore as the no-ghost logo appeared and an unforgettable 8-bit rendition of the theme song began to thrum.
I hooted so loudly that you’d have thought the astronauts had landed on the moon for the first time again. The bouncing ball appeared. The lyrics to the song presented themselves. Every time I hit the space bar, the computer shouted “Ghostbusters!” It was like Christmas morning to me.
To this day, the Commodore 64 version of the Ghostbusters game remains one of my favorites. The emulations don’t seem to capture the graphics quite the same and building up the ridiculous amount of account money that I still think I have to code for remains one of the fondest memories of being a child fan of Ghostbusters that I continue to hold on to. Maybe it was because there was also a certain feeling of accomplishment that came with finally getting to play the game, because I had to deduce how to actually make it work in the first place on my own. Maybe the time spent without getting to play it made it that much sweeter.
But there’s one thing that I know for sure, when I hear folks still complaining about a lack of a patch that allows them to get one of seven hundred trophies on the new (and so fantastic that I can NOT stop singing its praises) Ghostbusters: The Video Game, I can’t help but smile.
What would those people have done back in 1985 when faced with the challenge of busting ghosts in a totally different age?
Thanks as always for your feedback on the articles, everyone. The response to last week’s “What’s the Criteria” was fantastic and you should expect a follow-up soon. I also received a great response to the upcoming article about the female demographic in the fan community, so look forward to reading about them in the near future as well. Have a question, or hope that I’d talk about a certain topic? The email is always open for you and for all of the spam bots that rampage within it! Drop me a line at email@example.com and say hi!
[The Private Sector is a weekly syndicated column written by Troy Benjamin presented every Wednesday on GB Fans, Proton Charging, and Ghostbusters.net as an op-ed look at the goings on in the world of the Ghostbusters franchise. Learn more about Troy at www.troybenjamin.com]
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