When I was 13 years old, my friends and I used to ride our bikes up to a place called Zips, a build-your-own–ice-cream-sundae shop located about a mile from our housing development. It was 1980, and for me, a mile was a long way to ride without supervision, especially if it meant traveling outside the safe confines of our middle-class, stucco-on-stucco subdivision.
We rode without helmets on a pot-hole-pocked bike path, our pockets filled with a few one dollar bills and a few more jingling quarters. Our goal: Gorge ourselves on ice cream (they had these kick-ass baseball helmet bowls; we used to get our favorite teams) and play video games till we ran out of money. On a good day, we could play for an hour, maybe two, on just a handful of quarters. Some of the games sucked, though we didn’t know it then. The 8-bit format was all we had, and it was freaking amazing. The fact that I was so far away from home, on my own, spending the few dollars that I actually earned myself, was such a mindblower that we could have been dropping coins into an empty wishing well and I would have been ecstatic.
But it was so much better than that. ‘Cause I got to play the greatest of all video games ever invented in the entire world – ever: Space Invaders.
Yeah, Space Invaders. The simplest of all space games, with its lines of descending creatures, its falling missiles, its three protective barriers behind which a player could briefly take refuge. Oh, and that plodding “soundtrack,” repeating at ever-quickening intervals as you picked off the invaders, signaling their ever-quickening descent. And, oh god how frustrating, the fact that you couldn’t fire another shot until the previous one either connected with and destroyed an alien or traversed the entire screen to the top.
Memories always tend toward exaggeration, and this recollection is probably no exception, but I can tell you that when my daughter and I recently played Space Invaders together — on one of those self-contained gaming units filled with five or six classic 8-bit games from the late-‘70s and early-‘80s – I found myself just as excited as I was way back when.
So you can imagine my excitement when I saw this most awesome Kids Lab Pixel Alien throw rug. Though it is not “technically” a Space Invader (licensing laws can be a bitch), it so closely resembles one that I got a little giddy looking at it. Though I would have to work very hard to convince my wife that this belongs on our bedroom floor, it would be very easy to get my daughter to agree to add it to her bedroom ensemble.
Reminiscent of the actual Tomohiro Nishikado-created aliens, the creature on this rug is full-on 8-bit-style, its pixels crying, “Hell yes, I am a product of the ‘80s!” Even cooler, for me (and soon for my kid, too, because we will watch the show together), is that the Adult Swim cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force paid tribute to my invading heroes on several episodes, lampooning not only the pixelated nature of the classic games, but the slowness with which every event occurred.
I love sharing my childhood with my daughter. I also love drawing modern parallels to my past, connecting it with what is sure to be a technologically mind-blowing future for my 6-year-old. She’s already wise to the ways of most modern computers and gaming consoles, although that is balanced by lots of parent-mandated outside time and hands-on play. The truth is, Dad never even graduated to the Atari 5200. I was 2600 all the way. And I still love it.
While my friends, embarrassingly suffering their mid-life crises in front of their children and everyone else, are buying high-tech games and staying up all night playing global first-person zombie shooters, I am still content to sit for a few moments with my kid, blasting chunky, goofball aliens from the pixelated heavens.
You can purchase the Kids Lab Pixel Alien throw rug at Wayfair.com.