Sand on My Back, Joystick In My HandS

Growing up in the 70s in Maryland, there was nothing more rewarding than a trip to the beach. But it wasn't the sun, sand or the surf that attracted me, it was the boardwalk.

This week's celebration of the summer of gaming here on Kotaku reminds me of those trips.

Each summer, Ocean City Maryland's beach front was packed with sweaty shoulder-to-shoulder tourists jostling down the tarred, plank wood of the city's boardwalk. But the mingling smells of coconut oil and peanut oil, the calls of hawkers and screams of children were all lost on me.

My summers in Ocean City were really just about one thing: Marty's Playland. Open 364 days a year since the 1930s, the dated facade of the beach arcade is a landmark to anyone who visits the town.

When you step from the boards to the arcade's worn carpet you pass through a virtual wall of air conditioning and into a cavernous room of blinking lights and blaring sound.

I spent countless hours, quarters, days in the arcade rubbing the sand from my back and calves as I played the likes of Dragon's Lair, Street Fighter and Spy Hunter. It was at Marty's that I discovered my love of Tekken. Marty's introduced me to my first hydraulic-powered racing game.

I would spend most of my time at the beach dropping quarter after quarter into the machine, playing until it was dark out and the fireworks pulled those less dedicated gamers away from their machines.

Sand on My Back, Joystick In My HandS

Finally, as the day wrapped up and the long drive home loomed I would search my pockets for spare change and drop it in the nearest mini-crane, skeeball or bowlingo, typically earning enough to win a pair of wax lips or Chinese Finger trap: A toy that was both memento and diversion.

For most of us, I suspect, playing video games isn't just about the moment. It's also about the memories. The memories of your first video game, of your first console, maybe the memories of long summer days spent scratching sand and slapping joysticks feet from the roaring surf.

Where are your gaming memories rooted?