Welcome to the highly anticipated Part II. If you missed Part I, it’s right here. Quick recap: during the golden era of video games (1980-1982), I moved around a bit. My parents bribed me to move to northeast Arkansas with a twinbill of prized possessions that might’ve been delivered straight from heaven: a Murray moped and a TI-99/4A computer.
Moped jokes abound, but mine was frickin awesome, and it had nothing in common with a fat chick. My moped could also be pedaled if necessary, making it a real moped. See? ”Ped” is right there in the title. Run out of gas in a Vespa, and you’re pushing it. Anyway, lets just say I had a lot going for me those days (except for the requisite hand/eye coordination to play Stargate). Shit, I almost forgot this is supposed to be about video games, not mopeds. Anyhoo, this is where the list gets a little ladylike…and if this was my NCAA bracket I would definitely be picking all four #1 seeds to go to the Final Four.
Apologies in advance to Gyruss, Popeye, Kangaroo, Time Pilot, Kageki, R-Type, Q-Bert, Burgertime, Pengo and a bunch of other deserving candidates. But we are dealing with royalty here.
My Ten Favorite Video Games of All Time: Part II
Description: Ingeniously simple concept: you were a knight, mounted on an ostrich, who must battle other knights, who were mounted on buzzards. You didn’t win the joust by delivering your lance to their throats, you just had to be slightly higher than they were to kill the other guy. First game that I can really recall where momentum/gravity played a key part (“flutflutflut”). And there was a pterodactyl that came after you if you fucked around too long on any level – that one you did have to ram down the throat (“GWARWR”). Oh, and eggs, too – no fruits in this game.
Personal History: Joust was pretty much everywhere, but it happened to also be available at the bait shop/convenience store near my “house” (duplex) in BFA. Note: I’d recommend staying away from the food offerings at any convenience stores that you come across that are well known for their bait.
Anything Else Interesting? This game holds up well today, and was one of the few Williams offerings that girls played as well (not too many chicks dug Defender). The game offered simultaneous play which was also pretty cutting edge – you could screw your friends over while pretending that it was a flap error. I was decent at Joust, I want to say that I got to the 12-15th or so levels. Simplicity of the controls, you see. Left/Right, Flap button. Done.
Distance traveled and transportation method: That malodorous bait shop was only about 5 blocks from home. Sometimes I’d walk, sometimes I’d fire up the Murray. By far my easiest trek to play a classic game.
4. Dig Dug / Mr. Do!
Description: These games were somewhat similar, in that you were digging through dirt and shooting stuff and dropping stuff onto your enemies. In Dig Dug you killed Pookas (the round ones) and Fygars (the fire breathing ones) by inflating them until they burst (complete with non-gory body explosion) or by dropping rocks on their asses. Rocks I can understand, but inflating something to death? Mr. Do! was similar, substitute rocks for apples and dinosaurs instead of Pookas and Fygars. Mr. Do! had some magical ball or something or other, too, but I forget the details. Hmmm…I wonder if it’s available on PS3 somewhere? Hold on…
Personal History: I was pretty solid at both these games, I believe at my absolute peak I could get to like the 20th screen or so on Dig Dug. I kicked the shit out of Mr. Do!, but it was also at the aforementioned bait shop and I don’t have a strong recollection of my performances as a lot of my mental energy was expended controlling my gag reflex (“I’ll have three donuts, a coffee, four pounds of nightcrawlers, and 15 dead frogs. Napkin? Naah, I don’t need one.”)
Anything Else Interesting? Dig Dug was kind of like Pac-Man in that patterns were the key – you ideally wanted to get all the P/Fs trailing you as you dug straight up and then smash every fucking one of them with a rock. Hmmm, I’ll be back in a moment, need to check something….apparently a swell version of Dig Dug is available for mobile phones, just not the sweet G1 I’m rockin. Great.
Oh yeah, I believe Dig Dug was the first game to offer eggplant as a bonus fruit. Doesn’t make that freakishly purple crap more palatable, though.
Description: These are your big boys. I purposely avoided looking at other “Top Video Game” lists, but my final three are probably close to consensus. I’m fucking lame, I guess – or else these games are bad-ass and enduring. No matter when you were born, whether you’re a boy or a girl, I’m betting you’ve played Galaga at least once in your life. Ostensibly a sequel to the seminal Galaxian, Galaga amped up the gameplay by adding the tractor beam situation, challenging stages, multiple shots, etc. They even busted out some stats so real nerds could run home and analyze their performance a la Bill James.
Personal History: Galaga was ubiquitous (and frankly, is still available all over the place today – there’s a Galaga / Ms. Pac-Man game in the middle of the American Airlines terminal at JFK). My relationship with Galaga was similar to Forest Gump/Jenny – it was on-again/off-again, always emotional, and rarely ended well. I think this was partially because the game was always so popular you were hard-pressed to play for too long as someone else was always stacking quarter’s in the universally accepted symbol for “next.” I needed to get my reps. I think at my peak I got to maybe the 16th or 17th stage or so – I’m pretty sure my boy JG could roll the machine, so clearly I’m not attesting to anything truly manly.
Anything Else Interesting? I think I went overboard in the paragraph above, but I’m not gonna take the time to split that into two distinct paragraphs.
2. Donkey Kong / Donkey Kong Jr.
Description: A gorilla (donkey not included) has captured the Lady, and Mario (who goes on to greater fame and fortune) has to rescue her by dodging barrels, fireballs, bouncing spring thingees, pies (?)…this is one of the first multi-stage platform games. And it is fucking awesome. Still. If you were at a bar, and and there was a working Donkey Kong game, would that catapult said bar up your bar rankings ladder (no pun intended)? Yeah, it would. Also, DK is pretty damn hard – though it looks childish, it can administer the beatdowns.
Donkey Kong Jr. was the sequel (and the only time Mario was the antagonist in the series) and it had similarly challenging gameplay. I never realized how much pleasure I would take in dropping some mangos on a anthropomorphic bear trap. This game also taught me how much more quickly you can scale ropes by grabbing two individual ropes with one hand each, rather than the traditional hand-over-hand, one rope method. Fun game.
Personal History: Sadly, as a youth, my greatest access to DK was at the Food-4-Less for a few months. Then they traded it out for the Donkey Kong Jr. machine – which was the kickassness in its own right. After that I had to play it whenever I could sneak into the Chuck E. Cheese next door. Fuckers. There were a ton of games in there, so I spent less time playing the original Donkey Kong than was been optimal as a youth. I did play quite a bit of DK Jr. though at the awesome F4L vestibule, until they put something even more impressive in there.
I was no master of DK or DKJ (especially after watching the movies below); I think I made it past the second elevators a time or two in DK and I sadly can’t recall the equivalent on DKJ. If only somehow you could actually play exact replicas of these games on, say, a PS3?
Anything Else Interesting? I highly recommend the documentary The King of Kong if you haven’t seen it. Even if you could give two shits about video games, it’s interesting (and insane) to read about how the Twin Galaxies guys track the high scores of every fucking game, ever.
Also, what’s Donkey Kong doing running a pie factory? I get the barrels and girders, but he’s also an entrepreneur?
Distance traveled and transportation method: F4L/CEC – so I think about 18 miles or so by bicycle. If I had had the sweet Murray moped then I could’ve probably made it there in under two hours – unfortunately that was not the case. I have also made a handful of trips to Dave & Busters here in NYC to get my Kong on. Sadly the machine is gone now. (If you find yourself at D&B’s, try the Philly Cheesteak Egg Rolls – it’s unlikely that you’ll encounter anything worse for you, ever. Don’t forget to dunk them in the cheese sauce!)
Current pop culture relevance: Popular slang saying “It’s on like Donkey Kong.”
1. Pac-Man / Ms. Pac-Man
Description: Dots. Ghosts. Bows. Power pills. Tunnels. Maze. Fruits. Those are your basic ingredients. Everyone knows friggin Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man. Chances are, you”ve probably played Ms. Pac-Man in the last three years. If you haven’t, you should.
Personal History: The problem with this list is that the narrative arc is a little Mementoish. I’m jumping around in time too much. I’m sure most readers are asking “Why doesn’t he just go pick up some chicks on his sweet Murray moped?” I’ll tell you why: because I was eleven. When these classics were at the fore, I was still in Tulsa, chopping around on a Schwin-knockoff called a Schwarz. Pac-Man got me, like every other kid in the country, into video games in the first place. I can still recall where it was located in the Quarterhorse arcade. It was a bit far, so had to be driven there by the ‘rents. My Pac-Man access therefore sucked, but I could get all the Ms. Pac-Man (why is she such a feminist? Don’t they have several kids?) that I could afford. Sometimes I would ride the 23 miles on my bike with one measly quarter in hand. Good times.
My love for Pac-Man was so deep that I sought out one of the foremost authorities on the topic to improve my game. That’s right, Ken Uston. Author of the best-selling tome, Mastering Pac-Man. Ken really offered some keen insights, including providing detailed, incomprehensible patterns that were extremely helpful if you happened to have a full-sized arcade game in your room. I did not. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of taking my tattered copy of Mastering Pac-Man to school one time too many. Some fuckers in gym class took it out of my locker, tore it apart, and threw the pages into the urinals. There was no attempted rescue.
I was decent at Pac-Man, I think getting up to the key (with Ken U’s help). But unaided by Mr. Uston (an interesting guy) or any other training aid, I could pretty well crush the Ms. I recall having gotten through all four different mazes and then returning back to the third. Yes, I’ve seen the stork – who hasn’t?
Anything Else Interesting? Not really Pac-Man specific, but I also recommend another documentary, Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade. Shows how big video games were back then, these kids were on the cover of Life magazine, a magazine so large that it needed a rack twice as big as either (the old) Rolling Stone or ESPN: The Magazine. (Life magazine no longer available)
Distance traveled and transportation method: Quarterhorse arcade (via parent’s 1976 baby blue Ford Fairmont) – 85 miles. Food-4-Less (via bike) – 31 miles.
Current pop culture relevance: Adult contemporary hit and karaoke classic “Pac-Man Fever” still gets regular airplay and is an iTunes hit. Buckner & Garcia, living large on the residuals from their smash single, just bought Gretzky’s old place from Lenny Dykstra for $8 million. (Lenny took a $10 million loss on the place – fascinating that Gretzky sold for $18 million and then bought an $875k house. His housing market anticipation was right up there with his [put in appropriate hockey term - blue lining?].
COMING LATER THIS WEEK: A MAJOR WASTEDPOTENTIALZ.COM ANNOUNCEMENT!
Chilly17, who still has a little wasted potential