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access_time April 3, 2013 at 8:50 AM in Culture by Ryan Bates

Top X List | Signs that You’re an Old School Gamer


If you’re like me and graduated high school sometime in the 1990s, especially the back half, you were probably in that first generation where video games played a dominant role in life. Those who graduated in the 1980s, sure, they had Pong and Berserk, but it was still more of a novelty than a facet of life.

Nowadays, if you were a graduate of the ’90s, you may find yourself these days either parenting or preparing to (unless you’re like me, who plans to parent sometime in the 37th century). This makes us the first generation not only to be involved in video gaming as adults, but the first generation to pass gaming on to our children.

I have some bad news… this makes us old.

I mean, not old like our parents, who are obviously old old (except for my Mom, if I ever want to be invited home for a holiday ever again), but, let’s face it… we’re starting to get older.

Don’t believe me? Here’s your test: watch your kids play video games, and compare it to how you played video games at their age. You’ll experience an overwhelming feeling of how different this generation’s video games are, then an irrational combination of resentment and nostalgia when you realize how easy this generation’s gamers have it. Both of these feelings will be followed up with an insatiable urge to rattle off a cantankerous statement beginning with either “Back in my day…” or “When I was your age…”


Congratulations. The generation that invented Donkey Kong is now a generation full of Cranky Kongs. And you know what? That’s okay, because, as usual, we know what we’re talking about.

So this Top X List celebrates the curmudgeon in all of us. It embraces the elderly, it gleans respect for the geezer, it accepts the angry coot in our generation. This time, x = “16 Ways Things Were Harder Back In OUR Day…”



CrankyKongVictrola 1.)“Respawning? Respawning is for namby-pambys!”

Back in OUR day, we didn’t get to just come back to life whenever we wanted to. No, we got a limited amount of lives, and once you were done, that’s it. Game over. Do any of you kids even know what those words mean? (And no, I’m not referring to a clever t-shirt with a wedding cake couple.) You wanted to come back to life more than what you were allotted? You had better find a green mushroom, or a hundred of your world’s denomination, or something that vaguely looked like you or your head, or else those spikes up ahead just got a whole lot spikier.


CrankyKongVictrola 2.) “Everyone was bilingual in our day: English and Engrish!”

Back in OUR day, we were just thankful that games were translated at all. Nowadays, games not only have writers, but localizers, storyboarders, voiceover artists, and specialized character development teams. In our day, “A WINNER IS YOU!” made total sense. “ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US” – we knew what they meant. We were practically one step away from being fluent in Japanese.


CrankyKongVictrola 3.) “We didn’t call them ‘Mega Man Platforms.’ We had to deal with them in every single game!”

Back in OUR day, those disappearing & reappearing platforms you whippersnappers call “Mega Man Platforms?” We didn’t call them “Mega Man Platforms,” because they were in practically every game! And God forbid you were a few pixels off, or else it was curtains for your hero.


CrankyKongVictrola 4.) “Yeah, we had checkpoints… at the end of a stage!”

Back in OUR day, you didn’t get those checkpoints. You never got that feeling of relief knowing that when you respawned you would at least be halfway through the level still. No. Here’s the perfect example of what happened in our day:

Feeling a little nostalgic while creating this article, I trotted out the old NES and popped in one of my all-time favorite 8-bit cartridges, Konami’s adaptation of Tiny Toon Adventures. I LOVED that game! Playing as Buster Bunny, you could bring along one of your pals to help you rescue Babs Bunny and save Acme Acres from the ultra-destructive, ultra-wealthy spoiled brat Montana Max. Level two has a water level in it, so I bypassed Dizzy Devil’s tornado ability and Furrball’s wall climbing in favor of Plucky Duck’s flying and swimming abilities. That was all well and good for 2-1 and 2-2, but 2-3 was on board a pirate ship, where neither of those abilities helped.


So as I carefully leaped from platform to platform, collecting carrots with Buster and Plucky, bopping on pirate’s heads, dodging spikes from below and above, I finally made it to the boss, the Pirate Captain, and carelessly ran into a falling barrel.

If this had been a game today, Buster probably would have “respawned” right outside the boss fight. Not in our day. My next life started on the bow of the ship… where the stage started.

This wasn’t the day of “you’ll get ’em next time, slugger.” This was do or die… and start over.



CrankyKongVictrola 5.) “Multiplayer? Sure, but just one of you! And you sit your ass down and wait your turn.”

Back in OUR day, “two-player” didn’t mean two players together. Quite the contrary. Remember when you first got Super Mario Bros.? It was two players! YES! You and your buddy can fight the forces of King Koopa and his minions together!


And by “together” what they really meant was that the person who owned the Nintendo, or at least the cartridge, and could play it all the time, played for like a half hour, going through stage after stage after stage, finding fire flowers and stars… and you just sat there like a schmuck (or even worse, got him a candy or soda because he was too busy playing… Jon Hill, ya freakin’ jerk).


Yet when that glorious time came that it was finally your turn, you, Luigi, younger of the two Mario Brothers, found out that you were not, in fact, traveling with big bro Mario. No, you were left behind, at the start of 1-1.


Waiting. Waiting for some love.

CrankyKongVictrola 6.) “Lagging? Oh, boo hoo. We didn’t need no online connection to know lagging, we just needed more than five friggin’ things on the screen!

Back in OUR day, speaking of Super Mario Bros., remember those hellacious bridge levels? Oh, sure, they looked innocent enough, but then out of nowhere 800,000 Cheep Cheeps come flying from every direction (seriously, what the heck kind of creature swims so deep yet also flies so high? FAWK science, this is the Mushroom Kingdom). But that’s not all… not only was it hard to dodge all of them, let alone get a fireball off or God forbid bop on one, once you had about four or five of them on there, plus you and anything else going on in the scenery, you had this thing I used to refer to as “character blink.”

We thought we had fixed the problem after the Atari Pac-Man fiasco. Oh no, my good child. We didn’t. Our graphics weren’t as advanced as yours. Our 8 bits could only handle so much art. Then at that point, things started blinking. While you were dealing with the two Cheep Cheeps and the Koopa Troopa in front of you… SURPRISE! A Goomba snuck up behind you and bit you on your ample Italian plumber ass. You probably would have noticed, had the thing been solidly visible the whole time!

This, perhaps, could have been permissible had we the ability to pass through blinking enemies in games, but it never did seem to work that way, did it? (Ninja Gaiden, I’m looking at you.)



CrankyKongVictrola 7.) “Downloadable content? We had ’em. We called them ‘sequels,’ ya little punk!”

Back in OUR day, by the way, those two problems I was just speaking of – two-player non-simultaneous and “character blink” – didn’t get patches or reissuings… we had to wait for these things to be fixed in Super Mario Bros. 3. THREE! SMB2 didn’t even give you an option for two players, so suck on that, Lollipop Guild!


Peach v Toadstool

CrankyKongVictrola 8.) “Who’s this broad? Back in my day she was Princess Toadstool!”

Back in OUR day, it just made sense. The MUSHROOM KINGDOM, run by little people known as MUSHROOM RETAINERS, was governed by PRINCESS TOADSTOOL.

I mean, who’s this hot chick calling herself Peach and wearing a crown and taking her lesbian cousin Daisy everywhere (you know she is)? And where’s any evidence of a KING Toadstool or a QUEEN Toadstool to bring insight to this naming fiasco?



CrankyKongVictrola 9.) “You kids, with your Internets and your YouFaceTubeTwitterSpaces… made ya all soft! You know what we had when we needed to figure out a hard level? Magazines. And we had to read them, ain’t nobody there to hold our hands!”

Back in OUR day, we didn’t have walkthroughs or 100% runs or Let’s Plays. NO. You know what we had? We had Nintendo Power. And we had it once a month.

But that doesn’t really mean anything, because if you needed to know how to defeat Lich, the Fiend of the Earth in Final Fantasy but NP decided to do a full cover story (with maps) on A Boy and His Blob, then you only had two more chances left: “Classified Information” or “Counselor’s Corner.” “Classified Information” was mainly cheats and codes, such as the infamous Konami code, which wouldn’t help you for ish in Square’s role-playing game.


There was only one hope left… “Counselor’s Corner.” There was usually three questions, so surely other people have been having problems with the undead Fiend, right? I mean, look how many people were left in his wake! And we didn’t have your fancy-pants Phoenix Down back then either. Even our Red Mage is dead! We couldn’t even get the White Mage to come with us, he was so scared. How the hell are we gonna cast Life spells with a dead Red Mage?

One question would usually pertain to another difficult boss fight. Admirable. Not everyone is working on Final Fantasy. One question would focus on finding a tough item or secret something-or-other. That’s fine. Everyone needs more Heart Containers.

One question left. Here it comes… how do you defeat Li – WHAT THE EFF? Everyone already knows how to get the first warp whistle in Super Mario Bros. 3! Even my kid sister can do it, and she was adopted from gypsies from Germany!

Man, now I have to wait a whole other month for Nintendo Power. Or… I could call that Counselor’s Hotline. I mean, it’s only like $5 a minute, right? I can use Mom’s plastic card. It’s got infinite money.



CrankyKongVictrola  10.) “There were no tutorials! You wanted to learn how to do a move, you cracked open the booklet and figured it out yourself!”

Back in OUR days, we have to learn the moves ourselves. You want to know how we did it, punk? Not by no cutesy tutorial section in the beginning of the game. We did it by following what was in the instruction booklet.

Yeah, that little pamphlet you kids just ignore that comes with the game… that was like gold to us! (And in the cases of Zelda and Zelda II, it literally was like gold.) Because how long exactly did we have that little booklet? If you were like the rest of us, it was about two weeks before one of the following happened:

→ Booklet was lost.

→ Booklet was torn apart due to being cheaply made.

→ Booklet was torn apart due to angry dog.

→ Booklet took up permanent residence in your couch cushions.

→ Booklet took up temporary residence in your jeans pocket, and thereafter the washing machine.

→ Booklet became a drink coaster for your mom’s coffee table and too wet to read.

→ Booklet wound up where missing socks go.

→ Booklet abducted by aliens.

→ Booklet used to blow down a prison wall by MacGuyver, along with a paper clip, three grape-flavored Pop Rocks (only three DEAR GOD NOT FOUR) and a 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers Kirk Gibson trading card. (Look at all the ’80s references!)

→ Booklet thrown away by some punk in the future who came back via time machine to the late 1980s and figured that there would be a tutorial.


CrankyKongVictrola 11.) “Boo hoo! ‘Camping?’ ‘Sniping?’ In my day, war was HELL! You did whatever it took to survive when you were only armed with a Zapper!”

Back in OUR day, we did this:


Yes, we were that close to the screen, not only due to the cord but due to our sanity and mentally-cruel hunting dogs. It wasn’t a proud moment, but we did it. I did it, and you did it too, and just remember liars go to hell.


CrankyKongVictrola 12.) “Auto-save? Gobbledygook! You wanted to save your progress, you got out a pencil and paper and wrote down mishmash until your fingers bled, boy!”

Back in OUR day, we didn’t have the game save just whenever the hell it felt like it. Hell, we were lucky if we even got save points. No, we had passwords.

Passwords don’t sound so bad, you say? Well, not if you were playing a game like Code Name: Viper


I mean, granted, it’s not really a password, more like a passcode, but really, that wasn’t so bad.

But then…


What in the hell is that, The Goonies II? That’s not a word or a code, that’s like a passthing. And God forbid even one character is off, or else the whole thing is wrong. (Which of course is why no one could EVER write the code for you, because you know they were going to switch a “B” and an “8” but you never could figure out if they were doing it on purpose.)


WHAT? River City Ransom, that’s just not fair. I almost just want to start the game over at this point.

And then, just like the platforms, there was this Mega Man tomfoolery:


No passcode of any sort should ever… ever… require two different pens and graph paper to write down!


CrankyKongVictrola 13.) “Next-gen graphics meant everything wasn’t olive green!”

Back in OUR day, this…


…to this…


…was revolutionary. We didn’t overuse the buzzword… we created it!



CrankyKongVictrola 14.) “When I was your age, controllers had wires! And thank god they did, because if they didn’t, it meant the damn dog ruined another one!”

Back in OUR day, you didn’t own your video games. Your video games owned you, and they kept you bound by a leash known as a “controller cord.” You couldn’t go willy-nilly all about your house, sitting wherever you pleased. No, the controller cord determined where you sat your ass down, and you stayed with that game whether or not you needed Doritos or Mountain Dew (that’s what Player Two was for apparently… Jon Hill, ya freakin’ jerk). Everyone knew it, everyone dealt with it…


…Except for that spoiled kid who went and bought that infrared wireless controller set. Oh, they thought they were sooooooooo good… they have been freed from the restrictions of the controller cord! Free at last, free at last… thank God Almighty – and then two hours later they realized they had to sit even closer to make sure the infrared signal was received.


CrankyKongVictrola  15.) “Even the controllers were made of tougher stuff… when we threw it, it bounced. Now, you set it down too hard these pansy controllers break and you’re out at least $40!”

Back in OUR day, a NES replacement controller was about $7.00.

Nowadays, a Wii U replacement controller retails for about $140.00.

Just saying.


CrankyKongVictrola  16.) “Tech support? Just blow on it, it’ll be fine!”


Back in OUR day, everyone appreciated a good blow.





  • Max $terling April 3, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    I must be getting old because I actually miss “Game Over” screens. Imagine if gamers today came across that; they’d rant about how the game sucks all over youtube.

  • ubernaut April 3, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    nice article definitely brings me back.

  • Ramon Aranda April 3, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    Online multiplayer? Pff…these kids are spoiled. I’ll take some local co-op any day.

  • Ramon Aranda April 3, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    LOL, I love the one about tech support, Nintendo Power and passwords.

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