When Games Didn't Blow; You Blew Into Them

A Nostalgigated look back at an Eighties baby love for his first console, the NES.

We all made promises of cleaning our rooms, taking out the trash, walking the dog and a host of other duties. Things that you've neglected to do start to get done in hopes that your parents might notice. Yes, even devoting your whole Saturday to replacing that C with an A in history class become part of the routine of (as my family called it) ‘sucking up’. This charade served one purpose and one purpose only; in hopes that you might find a long rectangle shaped box under your Christmas tree or in a stack of presents wedged between birthday cake and Aunt Rueda’s socks she knitted you every year.
Getting an NES as a Kid.

My experience was a bit different with my first ever console. It was mid-July in upstate NY. My brother and I (around the ages six are seven) were eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We heard the screen door creak open. My father stood in the entry way of our kitchen. In his large hands was a big black and gray box, "Action Set" in bold red letters across the top.  Above it was Nintendo Entertainment System. My brother and I were jumping around like crickets.

It is not much of a surprise that an NES would get two young boys to do cartwheels and somersaults in their Mother’s kitchen. Being so young, I cannot remember asking for the Nintendo but my brother and I probably hounded them for weeks.

The world I knew at seven was a different one from the one I live in today. The VCR just came out and the ability to record television shows to watch later was a phenomenon. A microwave made TV dinners and popcorn in an instant (a new and welcomed improvement in a busy household). CD’s were starting to replace records. Cellphones where the size of large bricks that where only owned my rich business men.

The fact that you can control a character on the screen was a big deal.

The  first night with the NES we all sat in front of the television set, a wooden framed square with big silver knobs. Mario and Luigi on the TV screen was very surreal. Seeing Mario smash blocks with his head and crush enemies with a stomp was a thrill. The fact that you can control a character on the screen was a big deal.

We heard of a bonus room, in one of the green pipes of Super Mario Brothers. All night we looked for the secrete room that had various pipes leading to other stages in the game. It was a thrill knowing you could warp to any level from that room. There were no achievements or points gained from finding it. The only thing to gain was bragging rights with your buddies and the personal satisfaction all us gamers seek.

There were no achievements or points gained from finding it. The only thing to gain was bragging rights with your buddies and the personal satisfaction all of us gamers seek.

Like many of you my first experience with a video game,is in my memory as a fun and happy time, a social time. My brother and I spent days taking turns trying to advance to the next stage. Sometimes unsuccessfully. When we finally beat a boss or cleared a level it was the biggest high. To this day him and I discuss the games we are playing and hints to get over challenging sections.

Games have changed in the years. They've gotten much more realistic and responsive. Online features make us more connected than ever before in sharing our favorite game moments as well as competing with each other in them.

Games like Shovel Knight are bring this old school experience to a new generation. Replicating the old graphic feel and taking inspiration from NES classics; The Super Mario Bros games, Metroid, Mega Man and Castlevania come to mind. Shovel Knight does more than take the visual style of these older games it replicates and improves the mechanics. Many reviewers have commented on this in their 'Lets Plays' of the game.

We spent many quarters trying to get that last ghost before he stopped flashing blue for a high score.

 

The predecessor, the arcade game, hardwired the addictive play aspect of gaming. Spent many quarters  trying to get that last ghost before he stopped flashing blue for a high score. With simplified assets and limited hardware of the time these game designers where masters at doing a lot with the little they had to work with. The thing they where able to do was make addictive gameplay and boy it worked. 

The title of this article is "When Games Didn't Blow; You Blowed Into Them." Games would freeze from time to time. You would pucker up your lips and blow into the open end of the cartridge to keep it from over heating. Releasing to some this might be an attack on games today with a title such as this article has. Let me assure you that I am as excited for the newest release as anyone else. Though with an over saturated market of games from anyone working in their basement to the biggest corporation hoping to turn out the next big hit it's nice to turn back on a time when the options where somewhat limited but the possibilities where unlimited.

Contributor

Bob is an Artist, Illustrator and Cartoonist with a Geek bent. He enjoys playing video games and writing and drawing about them.

Published Jul. 24th 2014

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