James Bond 007
Atari 2600, 1983
Developer: Parker Brothers
Publisher: Parker Brothers
I believe that James Bond 007 for the Atari 2600/Atari VCS is the first video game I ever played. It’s certainly the first video game I REMEMBER playing. Either way, it’s a minor miracle that this game gave birth to a lifelong gaming obsession. Here’s the one image review.
It’s difficult to recommend that anybody below a certain age even attempt to play a 2600 game – they’re just so far removed from what the modern gamer considers even remotely enjoyable. But as a young kid in the ’80s, the novelty of simply moving an image on a screen was very much alive. That’s why one day back 1986 (maybe 1987?), when my Mom told me I could finally use the family Atari, I chose James Bond 007.
I don’t know when my family acquired an Atari 2600, but I believe it was some time after the video game crash of 1983. As a result, my older brothers had acquired a boatload of heavily discounted 2600 cartridges by the time my parents felt I was old enough to give the console a try. We had a lot of the classics – Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Defender – but to my 4 (maybe 5?) year old brain, James Bond 007 was the best looking of the bunch – that’s why I chose to play it.
My first experience with 007 – and video games as a whole – was short lived. Within minutes of starting the game, I exhausted all my lives. As I had seen my brother Dave do countless times before me, I flicked the reset button with my toe so I could get a fresh start. My Mom, who had been watching me like a hawk, was having none of this. “That’s not how we handle expensive electronics!” she yelled, banning me from playing video games for an entire MONTH. Despite my tearful protestations, the punishment stuck. It would be years before I de-powered a game console with my feet again.
I’ve often wondered whether that initial experience permanently scarred my brain and left me in a current state of wanting to play video games. Regardless, James Bond 007 made a lasting impression and left me wanting more. It’s almost ridiculous to look back at it now – the game bears only the slightest resemblance to its source material. All the player does is drive an amphibious car/boat left to right while shooting various disproportionately sized enemies with awkward square projectiles (purportedly, they represent depth charges and missiles). The manual goes a long way towards providing some context, but truthfully, this game could has just as easily been based on The Jetsons. Hell, anything featuring some kind of futuristic car, really.
But, in the mid-’80s, it didn’t look half bad. In the early ’80s, when it was released, it probably looked quite good. And, if you wanted to play a James Bond video game in the States, you really didn’t have many decent options – nor would you for some time.
If you’re old – or curious – enough to try to appreciate an Atari game in its historical context, I’d recommend giving this relic a shot. It clearly made some kind of impression on me.