I’ve been playing video games since the early ’80s, ever since I got my very first Colecovision system. Since then, I have owned countless consoles along with a plethora of games. Thinking back to the good ol’ gaming days of yore reminds me of all the things younger kids today will never know about. From getting your NES cartridge to play just right, to waiting for the next issue of Nintendo Power, gamers of this generation can’t begin to fathom what we put up with in the early days. Here are a few of the things from back in the day that the youngins of today will never know the pleasure (or displeasure) of.
In no particular order:
- Blowing in the NES cartridge to get it working – We ALL had our own system getting an aging NES game to work. For me, I first had to blow in it, then, I had a specific way of inserting the cartridge that I knew would get the games working every time. Who can say if this actually increased the chances of success, and yet to this day, we all still blow in the cartridge with the hopes that our 30-year-old carts will light up screens once more. There was something special about the way we got our NES games to work over the years, even if it was all for nothing.
- Cleaning kits – Continuing with the NES, who out there remembers that acidic cleaning solution you were supposed to rub on the actual chip of the cart? NES carts could get dusty if stored wrong, causing the game to load improperly. Several cleaning kits were on the market back in the day, but I‘m pretty sure they were doing more harm than good. The one I remember having, consisted of some kind of mystery solution and a flat cotton applicator. You simply soaked the cotton with the mystery solution and wiped it back and forth on the circuit board. Thinking back on it now, that sounds insane. This black gunk would always come off, but I just know I was wiping off something important. To this day, I can’t believe I put some weird chemical on my precious games, even if it got the Nintendo Seal of Approval. That was a thing, look it up!
- Throwing controllers in a fit of rage – Say what you want about ’80s and early ’90s tech, but that stuff was built to last. I can’t tell you how many times I threw my controllers in a fit of rage. Those little plastic enablers bore the brunt of my wrath as I attempted some of the most infuriatingly hard games ever. If I saw someone doing that today, I think I would have an aneurysm on the spot. It costs $70 plus tax for a Switch Pro Controller, so you can better believe that thing is never leaving my hand with any measurable velocity. Come to think of it, it’s a shame, because I always found controller throwing to be rather therapeutic.
- Wired Controllers – Let’s stay on controllers for a moment shall we? Back in my youth, controllers required a wire that connected them to their respective consoles. Cords were never long enough; they significantly hampered the distance we could sit from the television. Wireless adapters eventually came to market, but they were never commonplace, and I’m sure they cost a hefty buck or two. Gamers today have no idea how good they have it with the freedom of movement cutting the cord has wrought. I was actually stunned when I saw third party manufacturers offering up a cheaper, wired pro-controllers for the Switch. I know it’s significantly less money, but I just can’t see myself buying one. Once you’ve tasted the delight of wireless gaming, it’s exceptionally difficult to ever be tethered again.
- The Anticipation of my next issue of Nintendo Power Magazine – Nintendo Power ceased publication a short while ago, but its legacy will last a forever. I adored that magazine and the heavenly content contained within. The covers were beautiful, sometimes containing live action pictures of our favourite animated characters. I think my favourite was this Zelda II cover (shocker), which looked like a modern day cosplayer keeping watch over a sleeping Princess Zelda. This was where we got all our news, tips, tricks, and previews for everything coming out in the near future. I can’t remember when I stopped my subscription (decades ago), but even I was teary eyed when they announced the end of publication back in 2012. It was certainly the end of an era, and gamers who never grew up with it are definitely missing out on a piece of gaming history.
- Crazy peripherals – There’s one thing you can’t deny about the early days of video gaming: companies had no idea what consumers wanted. There were so many different kinds of accessories and peripherals to get people lured in. Nintendo, always the innovator, offered up some choice accessories of their own. Let’s name a few: Zapper, R.O.B, NES Advantage, Power Pad, Game Genie, Super Scope 6, Power Glove, LaserScope, NES Max, and the Joycard Sansui SSS are just a couple of examples of what the Big N released. There are dozens more to choose from, most of which, didn’t really aid in increasing the gaming experience. Sure, we have accessories and peripherals today, but none as whacked out as some of the offerings from over two decades ago.
- Batteries, Batteries, Batteries – Today’s portable devices use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Once the charge is gone, simply plug in your device (or battery pack) into the wall, and boom, you have a fully charged machine in no time. This, as we all know, wasn’t always the case. If I am not mistaken, the original Game Boy needed four batteries, while the Game Gear tipped the scales at a whopping six. I can’t imagine having to keep a healthy stock of double and triple A batteries just to play my favorite games on the go. The bulk of handhelds back then were already oppressive, but with the added weight of a billion batteries, they became more cumbersome than I feel they were worth.
- LAN parties! – Playing your friends online these days is as simple as turning on, logging in, and press start. As long as you pay the monthly PS Plus or Xbox Live subscriptions, you can play people all over the world in an instant, for as long as your bladder will allow. If you wanted to play your friends back in the early ’90s, however, you had to have a LAN party. For those youngsters who have no idea what that is, please allow me to explain. The internet was a fledgeling thing back then, and most companies didn’t have dedicated serves for gamers to use. Instead, if we wanted to play one another, we had to tote our computers to a friend’s house and wire them all up together. Once linked together, we could go to town on some awesome Duke Nukem 3D. I feel it’s important to mention that flat screen monitors weren’t a thing yet, so along with our heavy PC towers, we also had to lug very large and heavy monitors. LAN parties were annoying, frustrating, time-consuming, and tedious, but damn, were they fun as all can be. I love the fact that I can play anyone, at any time, and in any place in today’s gaming world, but I’ll go on record, as saying there was nothing more fun than a whole bunch of my friends coming together and playing some awesome ’90s PC greatness.
There you have it fellow gaming enthusiasts, just a few items and experiences that this generation missed out on. Wired controllers and buckets of batteries are things I can definitely do without, but sometimes I just want to sit down, play a NES game, and throw the controller while reading a Nintendo Power as I slip on a Power Glove surrounded by my friends at a LAN party nerd-fest galore. I miss those days!