30VGC: Day 1 – Very first video game

To know me is to know that I love my yearly series, and here’s a new a one! This year I’m taking on the 30-Day Video Game Challenge (30VGC). Though, actually, it’s going to be more like the 26-Week Video Game Challenge, since I’ll only be covering two or three topics from the challenge each month. You can check out my intended schedule in this post. With that, it’s game on!


My very first video game was the Donkey Kong Jr. Game & Watch.

Or rather, it’s my first actual gaming memory. All things considered, it’s kind of a late one at that.

Unlike the throngs of most of today’s players, I didn’t grow up with a joystick in hand. While it’s possible that I played Atari games at a friend’s house before an Atari 7800 arrived in my own house, I don’t recall being a babe in diapers playing Pong or Space Invaders. If childhood pictures might serve as proof, well…they can’t, because there aren’t any. In fact, of all the old pictures I remember seeing stash away in albums and boxes, I can’t think of a single one that showed me and my siblings playing video games. Not a…single…one….. …..

Huh.

Anyway, what I’m getting at here is that if I was old when I first started playing games, I was still young when I got that DK Jr. Game & Watch.

Huh?

Okay, so…the Game & Watch. In so much teal magnificence. At least as far as Donkey Kong Jr. was concerned.

Game n’ Watches were produced by Nintendo before (and after) they released some other handheld system…what the heck was it called…? The things were readily available and pretty popular among my elementary school crowd. My DK Jr. Game & Watch arrived as a random Christmas present, and I loved the hell outta it. In just thinking about it, I can hear the timed beeps that signaled the start of each game. I can feel its cool metal casing and stiff, plastic buttons. I can see Donkey Kong Jr. scampering across the screen in all the LCD glory that could be mustered by a device that wasn’t much bigger than a wallet.

But size didn’t matter, only the fun did. And this itty-bitty version of Donkey Kong Jr. provided just that. Along with all the nonsense provided by snapjaws and birds (the game’s enemies), but I guess dealing with them was just part of the fun too. The goal was simply to repeat wave after wave, gathering keys to save dear ol’ Donkey Kong Sr. from the wrath of a familiar looking mustachioed man. The longer you went with the game, the faster things moved. Eventually, my lack of dexterity always got the better of me after only a handful of waves. But I played that little Game & Watch like my life depended on it.

Until we got the Atari, that is.

After that, static electronic games seemed downright crude compared to the flash and dazzle of the likes of Robotron 2084.

Only recently I learned that Nintendo made Game & Watches until the early 1990s. Considering that the Gameboy (y’know, that lesser-known handheld) came out in 1989, it seems a little silly that Game & Watches would have continued to proliferate for even just a few months, let alone a couple years after the Gameboy’s swift takeover. Then again, we are talking about Nintendo here, so…anything goes, I suppose.

7 Comments

    1. Oh, I can’t imagine what it would have been like to see Game & Watches actually in a store! I only ever saw kids with them. I’ve not heard of Climber, so I shall have to go look it up!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The first games I played were on the BBC Micro but I couldn’t tell you which game it was. I remember playing a space invader style game (it might have been Galaxian but I’m not sure).

    I also had a Game & Watch but it was Mario’s Cement Factory.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The BBC Micro, was that a console or a PC? We got a TRS-80, a classic Radio Shack PC, around the same time that I remember the Game & Watch. I learned basic programming on it, and maybe we had some games for it too? I might have counted it here if I could remember better.

      Meanwhile, I do remember Mario’s Cement Factory! A kid in my school seemed to have all the Game & Watches, and that was one he brought in repeatedly, along with Snoopy Tennis.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never seen that commercial before, but it had “eighties” written all over it (even discounting what it was advertising).

    I’m fairly certain that Super Mario Bros. was the first game I’d ever played. I was about three years old at the time, though it’s entirely possible I played games even before then and simply don’t remember it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good ol’ Super Mario Brothers. 🙂 Not to discount everything that came before it, but that was such an influential title for so many people. The gaming landscape would be quite different had Mario never leaped onto a Goomba in such a fashion.

      That commercial is one of my favorites involving gaming, and it serves as a reminder that the Game & Watch came in different form factors. Gotta hand it to Nintendo.

      Liked by 1 person

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