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Classic Donkey Kong

June 9, 2008 - Matt Phillips
Having grown up in the 70’s and 80’s, I have very fond memories of video game classics. The arcade greats that paved the way for modern gaming still have a strong following. Pop art, books, websites, and even documentaries that are devoted to classic gaming are available.

I recently watched the documentary “The King of Kong”. This movie followed the competition for the highest score on the game Donkey Kong. The majority of the people in this documentary are obsessed to the point of insanity. The “defending” score holder Billy Mitchell grandstands and boasts about his fame while a mild mannered middle school teacher, Steve Wiebe, attempts to claim the title for himself. It is amazing how good these people are at games, however, most of the people have nothing else in their life of any importance. Steve Wiebe seems like the only person in the documentary that has any real character. His obsession with the game is strong, but still maintains a teaching career and a family. It is an interesting movie for anyone with interest in classic gaming.

There are many books available about classic video games. Art books devoted to video game themes show how much influence classic games have on pop culture. The coffee table book “High Score” gives an overview of the history of electronic games with lots of full color pictures. If you are looking for something more substantial I suggest “Power Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave The World An Extra Life”. This book goes in depth in the origins of gaming, examining the influence that Japanese designers have on the industry. One chapter focuses heavily on Donkey Kong and its influence. Not only is it the first video game ever designed by someone other than a programmer (Shigeru Miyamoto), but it is also the first video game with a clear story with a beginning , middle and end. Donkey Kong is the game that introduced Mario to the world.

There is currently a great deal of interest out there for classic gaming. If you have an old game console collecting dust somewhere, remember, there is still life left in those old games.


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