Thursday, 1 September 2016

Pop Culture League Challenge: No Quarter*

Oh my god, the League of Extraordinary Bloggers is back and I missed two weeks of it! It’s been rebooted as The Pop Culture League so as to not exclude a person who doesn’t use a blog (Tumblr users, YouTube users etc) and I’m down, but a rose by any other name and all that, this is my first League of Extraordinary Bloggers post. What is the League? Well every week the site Cool and Collected set a topic and people can produce something on that topic, I won’t be doing EVERY week’s League post because sometimes the topic is just so ill-suited but this week’s topic is perfect: What’s your earliest arcade or video game memory?

Usually it’s the story of a kid who’s mum won’t let them play them nasty, mind rotting, murderer making, electronic demon spawn but not here, my mum bought me a NES for my birthday in 1991, I hadn’t asked for it because I didn’t actually know what a Nintendo Entertainment System, or a video game console period, was, yeah my introduction to video games is a little abnormal. Until it happened I had no desire to play them, in fact I was only vaguely aware they existed. The only ‘arcade machines’ I’d ever been near were 2p machines, a pathetic kind of seaside gambling, and UFO Catchers – or ‘the cranes’ as they’re known – and maybe Whack-A-Mole. Mum got me this gift, which began a life-long hobby, because this particular NES came bundled with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the first game, with the annoying underwater level) and I was and remain a massive TMNT fan, apparently this set helped save the NES, sales wise, in the UK. Well I say my mum got it, her brother, my late uncle, actually got it – he worked on the vans delivering, at this point, electrical goods and ‘acquired’ it through that I believe, later on he’d work delivering sweets and filling up vending machines and we’d never be short of Mars Bars again, well until he tragically died from a heart problem. But back to the happy memory of my first video game eh? The reason I remember this so clearly is not actually because Konami’s TMNT wowed and enthralled me – though it totally fucking did – but because my grandparents (whom me and my mum lived with) actually allowed me to completely take over the dining room table! This was more wowing and enthralling than any 8-bit tie-in video game with shitty underwater stages I can tell you, when you live in a house owned by a neat freak and a fascist the day they actually allow you to move furniture for a whole 24 hours is a day you don’t forget. If you think I’m joking I am seriously not, my nan (the neat freak) used to make me put a sheet down if I played on the lawn in case Real Ghostbusters Ecto-Plazm discoloured the grass and my grandad…well we’ll get to him in a minute. But this birthday my grandad cheerily brought in an old telly and allowed me to set up this marvellous magic box on our real wood drop leaf table and even moved the chairs to accommodate me, fuck me it must be my birthday thought I.

This didn’t happen again, in fact the next time I was allowed to set up a video game console in the front room with my grandad in it the console in question was the Nintendo Wii, which he actually really likes. This is primarily while I don’t have a massive nostalgic attachment to the NES like I do my Mega Drive, see my NES wasn’t permanently set up but was instead dragged into the living room for play on the ‘main telly’ – and if you’ve never played Super Mario Bros on the biggest telly Curry’s sold in 1991 you’ve missed out, seeing Mario that huge is amazing. But this could only be done when Grandad was asleep because when he was awake he owed the television – he was kind enough to let me watch CiTV when I got home from school but not until some years later and I still think he only did that because he really liked that show with the parrot called Madison, and anyway no CiTV show was made up of pixels and annoying bleeping. So the NES only got used in school holidays and there was only a few of them between June 1991 and November 1992 – the 21st of November 1992 to be precise, Sonic Twosday. After the arrival of the Mega Drive and with it my massive (and unending) obsession with Sonic the Hedgehogs, I got my own little set-up in the extension – a white unit I still use today for my retro video games – the NES was part of this but the Mega Drive was just so much better and so much more filled with Sonic games, so while the NES did get a look in (I still have trouble going a month without playing a Mario game) I never really bonded with it the way I did my Sega consoles. Then it went to my paternal nan’s house and then she dropped it down the stairs, yeah, this is that NES, and no I’m not over that, I had to wait until I discovered emulation to play Blaster Master again. Oh and the old telly that I used to play the NES that birthday, the one that later sat on the White Unit for the NES and Mega Drive was one of those TVs that the remote control pushed into? And then you pushed it in a little way and it sprung out? Those things were fucking great, can we bring them back? I’d forgo flat screens in a heartbeat to have one of those springy push-in-push-out remote controls.

Every joke about this game has already been made
So now you’ve had the brief biography of my NES what have we learned? Well we’ve learnt that Uncles are great at getting electrical goods, nans are terrible at carrying electrical goods, my maternal grandparents need psychiatric help, spring-loaded remote controls are engineering genius and The League of Extraordinary Bloggers allows me to post a few paragraphs of indulgence, thanks for reading.

As is customary with the League, here’s some links to some other participants:
And Cool and Collected itself because they love King Kong and so should you


  1. Welcome to the League! I remember spending many hours with the TMNT game and those underwater levels! I was never really into the Turtles and this game was probably my only exposure to the franchise other than the original comics. Flat screen TVs have got to be the greatest invention ever -- I remember moving a huge CRT TV whenever we had a sleepover so that we could play the Nintendo all night.

    1. thanks! and you're not wrong - carrying them great big ol' boxes of tvs was horrendous!