As the 80’s kicked off, the hottest game to start the decade was the confounding Rubik’s Cube. This launched a whole new trend of puzzle games including a pyramid version of Rubik’s cube, a snake cube that was really just used for making cool shapes, and this little puzzle known as The Missing Link. The goal of this particular game was simply to end up with links of the same color on each of its sides by twisting it and sliding the pieces around. As puzzle games go, this one wasn’t terribly difficult, but I think that’s what made it fun. Rather than feeling like a complete idiot, you could at least enjoy the little triumph of completing it. I remember having an entire collection of little puzzles like these in the early ’80s but they all ended up in a box somewhere by the middle of the decade when the first Nintendo game system was released. Well, that and a shiny new driver’s license that meant I had officially become the most puzzling thing of all. A teenager in the ’80s.
I’d love to say here that I was one of the “popular kids” with the pink sweater around his neck, penny loafers, a swatch watch, and a closet full of Lacoste. But I can’t. We didn’t have the money for such luxuries, so the best I could muster were some secondhand white washed jeans and a Members Only jacket. Though I still wasn’t sure what club I was actually a member of while wearing it. I’m not sure in the end I developed much of a true ’80s fashion style, but when it came to fitting in anyway, I could usually make that work. Perhaps all those years of playing problem-solving puzzles helped shape my brain in a way that prepared me for attempting to pass myself off as someone who belonged in that decade. But I never really felt like I fit in. You had the popular guys, the jocks, skaters, losers, outcasts, and even rappers. I was a nerd who didn’t quite look the part and was left cast in the worst role an ’80s high school kid could be in – uncategorizable.
Rather than feeling too upset by the situation, I figured this must mean that I should have access to any and all cliques that existed. So you’d find me at a pool party one evening and the next, I might be watching my skater friend pull off road tricks. Then I’d join my best friend for a game of tennis before heading to get my geek on in the arcade. This all suited me perfectly as had I ever been classified, I would have had to commit to enjoying the same things all the time. And that sounded dreadfully dull. It wasn’t always easy and more times than not, I’d end up feeling a bit outside of the cliques that formed. Or sometimes, I might become the life of the party, the missing link, for a group that had grown tired of too many rules and needed somebody to shake things up a bit. Looking back, I’m not entirely sure what to think of those high school years. One thing, however, I can say with absolute certainty as I think back to those times is that the ’80s were just rather puzzling.