Donkey Kong (1981)
I’m not destined to be a great Donkey Kong player. In fact I’m probably a bit of a disgrace to the name of Donkey Kong. My first bad high score came when I was playing through Donkey Kong 64 and it became apparent that in order to beat the game, I’d have to beat an arcade perfect Donkey Kong conversion. Not only that, but I’d actually have to beat it twice, with one life each time, and it was harder the second time round. This is where I recorded my second bad high score, and my third, all the way through to my seven hundred and fifth, after which I burst into tears of failure. And I honestly can’t remember any other game ever making me do that.
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Ice Climber (1986)
It’s enough to make any man self-conscious. After weeks of pestering and creepy-crawliness, you’ve finally secured a date with that girl and she hasn’t yet deigned to ghost you or cancel right at the last minute with no mention of a reschedule. You’ll now be relying on two things to help make the date go well – firstly, you’ll need to have good patter, otherwise that crucial ‘spark’ will not be there and you’ll be out of pocket forty nicker. Secondly, you need to make sure that you’ve got a good plan as to what you’re both going to do, because you better believe she won’t be making any suggestions. Get this wrong, and you’ll be agonising over it for a very long time once she gives you the bad news a few days later.
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The 2018 World Cup is long over now, and it was really a terrific tournament, despite all of my initial fears and misgivings. Firstly, it was hosted in Russia, which always quickens the old pulse and gets the fear receptors running red-hot, and secondly FIFA decided to roll out the Video Assistant Referee or VAR for a major tournament.
Both the Soviet hosting and the video doo-hickery worked out great even though football is long dead and has had its soul unceremoniously stripped. In the aftermath of this hugely successful competition, in which the limited Ireland team were probably lucky not to feature, I had football withdrawals to deal with. That all changed when I discovered the bluntly titled Soccer for NES.
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Most males get made to feel inadequate a lot of times in our lives. We all clamber to try and be alpha, of course, but there are those occasions where you’re comprehensively made to look absolutely feeble. Puny. It can happen to us from a young age too – while all the other young boys my age marvelled at how Arnold Schwarzenegger resembled a condom stuffed with conkers, I looked at this Austrian adonis and thought, “Christ, I’m gonna have a job looking like that when puberty hits”.
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Dragon’s Lair (1992)
It’s a terrible truth that applies to us all: everything in life is disappointing. Everything. It’s typical cynicism from me, I know, but you’ve got to be aware, and you’ve got to be prepared. I bet you’ve been disappointed by friends and family countless times. Your exam results probably fell way short of your expectations. Or if they didn’t, you picked a heartbreaking thing to do with them, like law or medicine or lion-taming. It’ll lash rain on your wedding day. And your children will be disappointments too, even down to their gender and unashamedly ginger hair.
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Mega Man 2 (1990)
Let me tell you something for nothing, something that may very possibly render any future “insight” I offer absolutely worthless: getting into game collecting is probably the worst thing I have ever done in my stinking little life. I’m telling you, hard drugs would be far cheaper a habit to maintain. I’d probably get much more long-term enjoyment out of a hefty supply of beak as well.
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Kid Icarus (1987)
Look, we’re all man or woman enough to admit it: when we were daydreamers, back in idyllic times and long before any ambition or aspirations we may have had were crushed beneath the indiscriminate gold-tasseled boot of the bourgeoisie, we wanted to make our own games. It seemed like it’d be the best gig ever, the absolute dream job. Our wish to be the one to actually create Super Mario Bros. 9 and soak up all the plaudits was a wish that took real pride of place in our list of unlikely careers, alongside astronaut… rock star… Hollywood actor or actress… or in my own tragic case, hand-model with some fast-food tasting on the side for extra shekels.
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Marble Madness (1989)
I’m not exactly sure when those stubborn little roundy things called marbles were at the height of their popularity, but as ever, the Wikipedia page on the subject throws up a huge amount of information. Did you know that over 12 million of the little fellas are produced daily? Call me cynical, but I’m sure that even with an automated process, we could put that manpower and raw material into some other, far more worthy venture. Like perhaps the materials involved in making marbles could be used to put a big roof on those sly Icelandic volcanoes. Or maybe they could be used in creating power suits for when those same robots follow Skynet’s example and turn bad – they’re tough enough little objects, after all. Another repository of marble info and goodness, landofmarbles.com, tells us of various “fun” marble games that deprived children can play. The site, well worth checking out for its wonderful GeoCities throwback design, shows us via crude 1980s schoolbook diagrams how to play Puggy, Skelly, Bunhole, and my personal favourite based on its name, Boss-Out.
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Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (1988)
I’ll tell you a scene that struck a chord with me in a film, shall I? It was when I first watched Saturday Night Fever (1977, disco, Bee Gees, Travolta throwing shapes, you can’t not know it). I’m sure I was like many in assuming that the vast majority of the film was basically a disco-themed musical with a rudimentary love story bolted onto the front for wider appeal. You could more or less relay a synopsis of it to people using just the songs on the seminal soundtrack, I thought.
So when I watched the film and saw John frustrated with his dead end job, frustrated with his father and frustrated with the girls that attach themselves to his group – so much so that he tells us that they all must make the decision to become “nice girls or c**ts” at an early age, well, I was amazed and pleasantly surprised. This was quite a bit grittier and downbeat then I’d have ever imagined. How the director (Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird’s brother no less) managed to make a thought-provoking, sometimes grim movie with Night Fever and You Should Be Dancing playing in the background, I’ll never know, but he managed it.
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The Legend of Zelda (1987)
You may one day be flicking through your TV guide (on your television’s internal EPG of course – what use is a TV guide magazine in this day and age?) and see an episode of a programme you like about to come on. But the episode synopsis seems rather unfamiliar, and when it comes on you’re wondering why Kramer is being called Kessler or why Smithers is black with blue hair.
What you’ve done is stumbled on a very old episode, perhaps the first ever – and it looks remarkably different to what you’re used to. Everything looks weird, and it’s pretty jarring. This isn’t the show I fell in love with, think to yourself, with the occasional mewl of protest at the television to show your disapproval. You pick up on every single detail and say to yourself “yeah, I see, so that’s where that came from, but… I don’t know, it’s a little weird”.
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