Guinness record kindles memories of Batman

A Dec. 26 news story reports that a Buffalo man has set a Guinness world record for owning the largest collection of video games – 11,000.
   Michael Thomasson was 12 years old in 1995 when he got his first game, "Cosmic Avenger," for Christmas.
   Video games are so entrenched in modern culture that many can't fathom what kids did before the advent of Mario Brothers, let alone earlier games like Pong and Asteroids.
   Kids whose parents lament the time spent on video games rather than school work might wonder, didn't mom and dad ever do anything for fun?
   Of course they did. Before video games, kids caught flak simply for watching too much TV. In those pre-cable days, three or four network stations (plus a PBS channel) were the distraction, snared via rabbit ears or a rooftop antenna.
   My own evil diversion (according to mom) was comic books. I got hooked on Superman at age 7, then quickly adopted Batman as my favorite action hero.
   Those early-1960s comics cost a dime, soon increasing to 12 cents. An "80-page Giant" cost a quarter. I'd buy them with my allowance, or I'd scrounge around ditches alongside roads for pop bottles that I'd cash in at the grocery for 3 cents or a nickel each.
   By fourth grade I'd bought subscriptions to D.C. comics that came to my mailbox each month in a brown paper wrapper: Action, Detective, World's Finest, The Flash, Justice League of America, and Superboy, on top of my Superman and Batman subscriptions.
   Comics so engrossed my attention that on Christmas Eve 1963, when mom asked my sister and I to pose under the tree with a favorite gift, I grabbed my new edition of Batman.
   My dad in particular worried that comics corroded my mind with empty babble, though I insisted that comics bolstered my vocabulary.
   So, years later, when my own son took a liking to Nintendo and eventually Age of Empires, I cut him slack. In fact I believe it was video games that honed his hand-eye coordination far beyond my own ability.
   I never did beat all levels of Super Mario Brothers, and it was humbling to be trounced by a gloating 1st-grader.

by  Jon Osterberg

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