With all the quality reviews, delightful columns, and hard-hitting game journalism you can find here at GameCola, it’s sometimes hard to believe that the site’s written by regular people like you and me, and not a race of evolutionarily advanced superhumans. To help bridge this divide between staff and reader, we’ve set up this column so you can get a look at our staff’s personal opinions on serious issues. Serious issues like the following:
This month’s question was submitted by Matt Jonas, and it is:
What is the first videogame you ever played?
Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt/World Class Track Meet
Oh, man. I had to think back pretty far to remember this one. I would have been about three years old. I remember my family driving to Buffalo to buy an NES, which came packed with the Power Pad and Zapper. My first videogame, as such, was the combo cartridge of Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, and World Class Track Meet. My favorite was World Class Track Meet, especially stepping off the Power Pad to cheat at the jumping parts. I may have mashed buttons on an Atari or Intellivision before this, but I can’t confirm that and I don’t know that you could consider mashing the buttons to be “playing” either way. This memory would be my first confirmed instance of “playing a videogame.” How exciting!
(Jeddy is the host of The GameCola Podcast.)
I can’t tell you for certain what my very first videogame was, but then again, I can’t tell you for certain what I ate for breakfast the other morning. Most likely, the answer to both is Frogger. Though videogames were a prominent part of my playdates as a youngster, I suspect my first exposure to the only subject I would talk about for the next ten years was at my grandparents’ house with an Atari 2600. This was back in the day when Haunted House was even more terrifying than Teddy Ruxpin, and we played E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial because we simply didn’t know any better. I have many fond memories of being run over by trucks, but it’s hard to say whether they came before or after my memories of being eaten by snakes in Raiders of the Lost Ark or dooming my entire race to annihilation in Yars’ Revenge. Either way, Frogger makes me sound way more hip than, say, Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros.
Did anyone else pick this? I bet I’m the first. I’ve been playing games since I was very little, so real specific memories elude me, but there is one thing I remember about the game that started it all (for me):
“Daddy, will you play for me?”
Now, the reason I remember this is because my dad likes to bring it up at every possible opportunity (particularly when I’m beating him at Mario Kart—”maybe you’re winning now, son, but don’t forget…”), but I think some part of me still remembers sitting in front of our boxy old TV, an NES controller in my hands, staring up at the screen and having absolutely no idea what the hell was going on. So much animation, so many pixels; I’m not sure my tiny Paul brain could even tell which character was mine. “Daddy, will you play for me?” I’d pass the controller over, and he’d dash through the stages and crush Bowser like it was nothing. Like it was nothing. I can’t even do that now.
I bet a lot of 80s kids didn’t have parents who gamed with them. My dad battled with me through all three NES Marios, through Mario World, though Super Bomberman and I think even Faceball 2000, all the way up through New Super Mario Bros. on the Wii just a couple of years ago. If Daddy hadn’t played for me all those years ago, you wouldn’t be reading this website now.
(Paul is GameCola’s Editor-in-Chief as well as occasional news blogger.)
Cosmic Ark is an odd game—it’s basically the opposite of every videogame convention from back in the day. You’re not fighting alien spacecrafts; you’re the alien spacecraft, and you’re not saving people; you’re the one abducting indigenous creatures into a terrifying flying saucer above the planet’s surface.
But anyway, the title of the game sounded pretty much like an alien version of Noah’s Ark, so it wasn’t hard to figure out that we were abducting two species of every kind for a greater cause.
Many years later I learned that Cosmic Ark is actually the sequel of the game Atlantis (and possibly the first console game sequel ever made). Also, the last game’s “ending” was probably announcing another sequel! (If Duke Nukem Forever got released, now everything’s possible, right?)
(Daniel is the author of “Don’t Be That Guy.”)
Super Mario Bros. 2
I’m told that the first game I played was the original Super Mario Bros., but what really sticks out in my mind as my first major videogame experience was playing Super Mario Bros. 2 on a brisk Hanukkah morning. As you probably know, SMB2 was the adopted child of the Mario series. I remember my brother and I trying to figure out how to make it out of the first area where you need to fall for a few screens. The concept of falling down to move forward in a game just blew our minds! We thought for sure we would die. Then, at the bottom, a mysterious red door presented itself. It took us a few minutes to figure out how to get through the thing, despite the NES only having a couple of buttons. Still, at the time, the use of the Up button was pretty limited. We finally got through the door and opened it up to a great land of mystery, wonder, and turnips.
The first game I remember playing was Paperboy on the Commodore 64 sometime in 1987. From what I remember, playing Paperboy was a highly addictive experience in which you were in control of a cute, freckly boy who delivers papers in an idyllic neighbourhood, whilst at the same time being careful to avoid running over small children on tricycles.
Alas, it appears my teenage appreciation of all things herbal must have done more damage to my brain than I originally thought, because last year I had the chance to play it again on an arcade cabinet in a truly terrible dive-bar, and it turns out that Paperboy is, in fact, a game that actively encourages vandalism, drinking and violence. I completely forgot that when you pass a house that doesn’t subscribe to your newspaper, you gain points for throwing newspapers through their window. I was also reminded of some of the less charming obstacles in my path, such as two grown men having a full-on brawl in the street and a drunk man wandering aimlessly around someone’s front garden. I’m surprised there isn’t a bonus level in which you have to escape from the bony grasp of a salivating paedophile and his disabled dog.
So it is for all these reasons that I loved, and still love, Paperboy. I also believe that I wouldn’t be the accomplished swearer I am today if it wasn’t for the sheer frustration that this game invokes, and for that alone I will be eternally fucking grateful.
(Jillian is a staff reviewer.)
Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt
Yes, that’s right. Nothing particularly special, just the classic Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt cartridge that everyone on Earth has 17 copies of now. I remember the whole family pulled up a couch (yes, we moved the entire couch) closer to the TV so we could bask in our first videogame system’s sweet goodness. And then, the iconic title screen rose from the inner workings of that Nintendo Entertainment System. Mario began to move, and it was enticing. We died at that first Goomba, but it was okay. Duck Hunt was interesting, too, once we realized we could just hold the Zapper Gun right up to the screen. Wasn’t that just a generic romp through Nostalgia World?
(Jeff is the author of “Gamera Obscura.”)
The year was 1984. I was three years old and just started going to preschool. Home computers cost about as much as a three-bedroom condo on Nantucket would cost now, so the electronics in my home didn’t include much more than a TV and an old top-loading VCR. My preschool had a TI-99/4a computer in the back corner, where it collected dust because three and four year olds don’t care about computers when you have a room full of finger paint, kitchen playsets, and Roller Racers, and the teachers didn’t care because computers were such a new thing they really didn’t understand them. Nobody cared but me. I planted myself in front of that machine and taught myself how to run it. They had a handful of games, but I only really remember playing Number Magic, a game where you pretty much just solve math problems.
In the early days of animation, just watching a barnyard animal stand up on two legs and dance the Charleston was enough to wow the audience, because animation was an amazing new novelty. Similarly, in the early days of videogames and computers, just sitting there and solving math problems while a bunny hops around was an amazing videogame, because anybody can do math on paper, but doing math problems on a TV? That’s the kind of shit only wizards do! So I played that amazing math problem videogame for the better part of two years because it fascinated me and because every time I’d try to go do a puzzle with the other kids, that stupid jerk Cameron would run it over with a toy shopping cart and I’d have to start over.
Fuck you, Cameron. I hope your parents got into a fiery car wreck soon after that and the rest of your life was spent being passed around to foster families that didn’t love you.
Super Mario Bros.
My first game was probably the NES Super Mario Bros. Ahh, good old 8-bit times.
(Kate is the author and illustrator of “The Gates of Life.”)
Thomas the Tank Engine 2
I’m very sure that this is the first game I ever played, or at least that I played consciously. I cannot remember much about it, but I do remember that it was really bloody hard. The story insists that the portly train controller (whatever your region calls him) is sick of hearing his trains bicker about who’s fastest. I’d be more worried about the trains being able to talk, obviously.
It’s basically an exercise in pulling out of dangerous spaces. You keep making choices, but they’re consistently bad ones that lead you to dead-ends or into the faces of your other strange train buddies. The game was one of memorisation, but good job remembering anything in this game—especially considering that it didn’t matter how good you were. The obstacles make a conscious decision to crash into you just to spoil your fun.
Beating the computer was a challenge in itself, but trying to defeat my father was even harder. He says he doesn’t play videogames. Maybe he kept defeating me because I was only three years old. Oh well, in two decades he’s gone from winning against me in Thomas the Tank Engine 2 to driving the wrong way in Mario Kart. I win some kind of moral victory, or something.
Have a question you’d like answered in a future Q&AmeCola? Ask below in the comments, and your question just might make the next edition.