Castlevania 1-3

The game: An elderly man is mercilessly persecuted by successive generations of leather-clad, bondage-fixated upstarts who hate him and all of his kind. They break into his house and smash his things, and sometimes they burn crosses on his property. Obviously, you play as one of those upstarts.

The lesson: Don't pick up watches that you find lying around old peoples' houses. They'll do you no good and you might get in trouble. Unless you're in one of the rooms where disembodied heads fly at you, obviously, in which case it's steal-that-watch o'clock.

Bonk's Adventure

The games: The eponymous hero, a cave-dwelling chrome-dome with teeth apparently made of adamantium, battles dinosaurs in a series of prehistorically spurious escapades. No mushrooms for Bonk: his powerups are slabs of indeterminate meat.

The lesson: Before Oprah brought compulsive overeating to public awareness, Bonk was providing a sobering example of the disorder. Disregarding folk wisdom and eating chunks of meat bigger than his head will boost Bonk's power – but he'll roam the land in a fury, unable to forgive himself for the binge-eating he can't help but commit. Learn from Bonk: Food addiction is a tragic affliction.

Final Fantasy/Dragon Warrior

The games: So there was once Dungeons and Dragons, or “Ren Faire daydreaming with more rules”. Game designers tried to streamline D&D by giving all the dice-rolling and enemy-moving jobs to a computer, freeing humans up to focus on creativity and shared storytelling; “That's nice,” answered Japan, “but wouldn't you rather hunt slime-blobs in a dodgy Tolkien pastiche?”

The lesson: Blah blah hard work and honest graft make you a better person, yadda yadda elbow grease, blah blah blah up by your bootstraps. Yes, it's nice to learn that by putting in hours of slog, you too can save the kingdom; it would be a while longer before RPGs would append that maxim with “or you could just play something less mind-numbing.”

Bubble Bobble/Snow Bros/Tumblepop

Above: Don't eat the yellow snow

The games: Bubble Bobble pioneered the “catch and release” subgenre of platformer, pitting snot-blowing dinosaurs against cutesy reapers and whales. This firm grounding in incomprehensibility inspired the pudding-goblin heroes of Snow Bros, as well as Tumblepop's off-brand Ghostbusters.

Above: When there's something strange in your local borough, who are you going to contact? Tumblepop!

The lesson: The shared message of these games is merciless cruelty. Captured enemies who go too long without being snuffed will come back, twice as angry as before – so unlike milquetoast Commando or Mercs fans, the proficient Bubble Bobbler will discard mercy and fill his heart with hate.

Space Invaders

The game: No one would have believed, in the last years of the twentieth century, that an alien force could develop the technology to reach and invade Earth, then use that technology to hover uselessly while an idiot with a pea-shooter hid in a bunker and slowly shot them down one, by one, by one...

The lesson: Space Invaders is a resource management game masquerading as the world's first shoot-em-up. The key lies in knowing when to use the provided bunkers as cover, and when to shoot them out for a clear line of fire. From this, we learn that sometimes to survive, it's necessary to destroy your own-- oh, sod it, just play Galaga instead.

What unconventional wisdom have you found in old (or newer) games? Let us know in the comments.

Dec 1, 2010

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  • TE5LA - December 28, 2013 9:18 a.m.

    What I've learned is, if I'm in a team-based game and our side wins, it's because of my mad skills. If we lose, it's because of my sucky teammates :)
  • VocalizedBoar - December 3, 2010 5:05 a.m.

    Don't forget the most important lesson. Whatever you do, you will always die of dysentery.
  • Baron164 - December 2, 2010 3:39 p.m.

    This article brings back memories. Especially the bastard game developers are bastards part :-)
  • philipshaw - December 2, 2010 3:11 p.m.

    Great article, I have definitely learned some lessons,only lesson I have learned from old school games is from streets of rage and that is eating turkey off the ground is always a good thing
  • NeelEvil - December 2, 2010 10:58 a.m.

    For years now I've said that if games have taught me anything, it's that all of lifes problems can be solved by shooting them or re-arranging blocks.
  • gmknoble - December 2, 2010 7:16 a.m.

    Excellent article!
  • Darkhawk - December 2, 2010 3:25 a.m.

    Contra (lesson from fighting bosses): Location is everything.
  • NightCrawler_358 - December 2, 2010 2:58 a.m.

    And thats how i became the person i am today. Naw, but i love Double Dragon 2: the Revenge for NES.
  • n00b - December 2, 2010 1:39 a.m.

    i learned in tetris that no matter how well you plan, life is gona throw you a piece than you can use and messes up your whole game. also from final fantasy 4 i got to a part where the enemies were too hard and kept running away. eventually i was so week that every monster killed me and had to spend hours grinding to get to a lvl i needed to be. the lesson: if you runaway from the hard stuff its only gonna get harder. damn calculus
  • Sy87 - December 2, 2010 1:29 a.m.

    Ah life lessons that I keep to heart. Of course when in danger of any crazy monster or situation of great peril man up and kick some. Also those games are just hard and requires lots of skill unlike today's game that have to add cheap overpowered AI that break game rules to beat you.
  • Yeager1122 - December 2, 2010 12:47 a.m.

    You guys should do one about lessons learned from games now.
  • Cyberninja - December 2, 2010 12:16 a.m.

    wisdom learned from anything on xboxlive, people online are aholes and want to teabag you.
  • drewbian - December 1, 2010 11:47 p.m.

    awesome article, i feel i have a new outlook on life that was not made clear by these games, but now it is and i will excercise these things in the tough world of rl
  • moh82sy - December 1, 2010 11:47 p.m.

    anther lesson from Double Dragon:don't play Double Dragon (nes version) with a friend because he will ignore the bad guys and just keep hitting you.
  • Nap1400 - December 1, 2010 11:40 p.m.

    Kirby's DL3 and Kirby 64 Just because something is cute and pink doesn't mean it's not hiding something deeply disturbing.
  • Clovin64 - December 1, 2010 11:36 p.m.

    "Bastard game designers are bastards". Thank you GR, I shall never forget this priceless slice of wisdom for as long as I live.
  • skyguy343 - December 1, 2010 11:25 p.m.

    I am enjoying this gentleman's contributions to this site
  • HarryBalls - December 1, 2010 11:23 p.m.

    Cool article Tom!

Showing 1-19 of 19 comments

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