We were watching the Beijing Olympics at the weekend and got to nattering about how there's hardly any excitement around event-based sporting games anymore. Predictably the conversation took a rose-tinted turn towards the nostalgic and we all traded happy tales of masochistic joystick waggling and multi-load cassettes. No doubt other gamers with a memory for the shit old days will do the same. Here's five games that we reckon will fondle the memories of most old-schoolers at some point during the 2008 games.
Along with Konami's Track & Field, Activision's Decathlon was a pioneer in actual physically demanding gaming. And Activision pimped it like some funky innovation to be grateful for. The game's manual told players that it was "No easy task designing adrenaline into software." It wasn't exactly a stroll in the frickin' park operating a joystick at 300wpm either, but still. See the slightly fuzzy back-of-the-box image below for awesome retro features besides carefully designed adrenaline that Activision wanted to bring to the attention of gamers.
It took us a little while to figure out that all the bust-a-gut running bits in the game could be made considerably easier by using paddle controllers. In the meantime we'd killed a good few Atari sticks, which admittedly weren't the most robust little buggers in the first place. So our first taste of DIY joystick repair was all thanks to Activision Decathlon. If a session didn't have to be interrupted in order to disassemble and fix a knackered-out stick, then you weren't putting in enough effort.
Above: Running in 1983. Fastest waggler wins
Best event: 1500 metres
The strenuous and prolonged persuasion of a joystick in a repeated left-right motion always encouraged heavy breathing, arm cramps, cries of pain, vinegar-stroke facial contortions and a dramatic post-race collapse. As such it was the best event for spectators.
Worst event: 1500 metres
The strenuous and prolonged persuasion of a joystick in a repeated left-right motion always encouraged heavy breathing, arm cramps, cries of pain, vinegar-stroke facial contortions and a dramatic post-race collapse. As such it was the worst event for competitors.
Just revel in that box-art. It's disco hangover 80's neon-love artistry of the highest order. Never mind that gymnastics were quite clearly involved, when the box is illustrated with such a striking statement of sporting radness, the game inside simply has to be played. And in the shit-bit era of gaming, Summer Games was a classic. The first title in the 'Games' series from Epyx, it took a team of seven people six months to develop. It was a multi-million seller across various formats and justifiably so. The back of the box described it like so:
When we weren't busy drawing crude cartoon cocks on the tummies of our sisters' Care Bears collection, a large chunk of our 1984 was spent bunkered down for marathon sessions of your-turn-my-turn multiplayer Summer Games with as many of our mates (up to eight!)as we could reasonably tolerate at the same time. One box-sized bedroom, multiple sweating bodies, a dangerously hot C64 power adaptor and nothing but Hubba Bubba for nutrition. Certainly a healthy introduction to single-system social gaming if ever there was one. The ancient Summer Games ad below is a pretty good representation of what we looked like back in '84.
Best event: Diving
The dive, the tucked-in spins, the perfect position for the meeting of man and water. And, of course, the adulation of the judges.
Worst event: Gymnastics
Perfection required too much stick manipulation and precise fire-button pressing. Too fiddly. And it was gymnastics.