Join 3,520 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Oh, It's On!
July 12, 2011 6:57 PM   Subscribe

30 years ago this summer Ronald Reagan was president, Raiders of the Lost Ark hit the theaters, and Nintendo launched Donkey Kong.

The first video game designed by Shigeru Miyamoto, Donkey Kong orignially starred Popeye, Brutus and Olive Oyl. At the time, Nintendo was producing playing cards and watches with the characters, but they decided against letting Miyamoto use them in his new video game, leading to the creation of the now-iconic gorilla, carpenter & princess.

Miyamto designed the game, but the actual coding and hardware development was done by Ikegami Tsushinki, an engineering firm. Under the contact between the two companies, Nintendo owned the characters and the game, but not the manufacturing rights. This lead to a biter copyright dispute, and put Nintendo in the odd position of having to reverse engineer its own product. But reverse engineer it they did, and Nintendo created many sequels and remakes. The game has appeared in one for or another on every game platform Nintendo has ever made.

Oh, and that carpenter? You may know him better as Mario, the star of a few games of his own, many designed by Miyamoto.

Donkey Kong, previously on Metafilter:
Donkey Kong Country
Mister Rogers learns to play
Tribute Art
Play Donkey Kong Jr online
and more!
posted by FfejL (39 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
That Gamasutra article is amazing. Shigeru Miyamoto did the cabinet art for Radar Scope!!!
posted by chaff at 7:02 PM on July 12, 2011


Neat! I also highly recommend The King of Kong to anyone who hasn't seen it.
posted by hypersloth at 7:05 PM on July 12, 2011


This FPP makes it seem like Donkey Kong is more important than Raiders of the Lost Art; but okay, I won't flag it, looks like a quality post.

But watch it, bud!
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:07 PM on July 12, 2011


sigh, i am so old... so old...

thanks for this.
posted by joeblough at 7:10 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Today is Cheryl Ladd's 60th birthday.
posted by Trurl at 7:11 PM on July 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Speaking of King of Kong: sad, terrible news about remaking it as an Office-style documentary.
posted by youarenothere at 7:13 PM on July 12, 2011


Neat! I also highly recommend The King of Kong to anyone who hasn't seen it.

Seconded, especially before the remake ruins it.
The director of The King of Kong wants to remake it as a mockumentary a la The Office.
posted by 2ghouls at 7:13 PM on July 12, 2011


I remember years, YEARS later watching the son of a friend playing Mario Brothers 3 (or 4, or 29, or...), and was astonished, astonished that the character was based on my Donkey Kong.
posted by Melismata at 7:16 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, how many quarters did I feed into Donkey Kong machines in the 1980s? Certainly not as many as I did into Pac Man, and I played my share of a lot of other games (Qix! Asteroids! Burger Time! *and many others*). But DK and PM were the big two.

My parents HATED my video game interest. I had to sneak off to new and creative locations once my father figured out my habit of hitting the arcade at certain times. And once a new arcade opened in town and I had a blissful stretch of quite a while where I could disappear and be in a dark cave full of glowing screens and squawking sound effects and drop quarter after quarter into machines. He discovered it eventually, of course.

I never quite made the transition from DK into Mario... mostly because no matter how much we begged, my sister and I were never allowed a Nintendo console in our house growing up.
posted by hippybear at 7:19 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought King of Kong already had a sequel.
posted by neuromodulator at 7:25 PM on July 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I had a ColecoVision and played this every goddamn day after school.
posted by desjardins at 7:31 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


How different would videogames be today if Nintendo had licensed Popeye, and never made Mario a necessary IP?
posted by codacorolla at 7:46 PM on July 12, 2011


doo doo Doo DoodooDoodoo doodleoodleoodle OO!
posted by bwg at 7:46 PM on July 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


obligatory:
Metafilter: a dark cave full of glowing screens and squawking sound effects

But seriously folks... Man do I ever miss arcades. The competing bloops, bleeps and 8 bit soundtracks, usually overly loud. And the unholy, quasi-deathly glow of light generated mostly from the CRT screens behind the plastic shield of their cabinets. The mysteriously sticky carpets and often garishly painted walls... sounds horrible now, but then it was nirvana.

That place for me will always be The Outer Limits across from Factoria Square circa 1979/80. Yeah, I'm old, but... good times, good times.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 7:52 PM on July 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


I was also "launched" 30 years ago, and still prefer Donkey[sic] Kong to them new-fangled games developed by rascals ten years younger than I.
posted by obscurator at 7:58 PM on July 12, 2011


The astounding arcade game of my day was Street Fighter II. That was mental. Like, we made trips to arcades before (from the suburbs), but the SFII scene was something else entirely.

I was the super geeky nerdy kid who actually gained respect for my SF skills. Weird times.
posted by neuromodulator at 7:59 PM on July 12, 2011


Tomorrow's Harrison Ford's 68th birthday.
posted by blucevalo at 8:48 PM on July 12, 2011


Actually, 69th.
posted by blucevalo at 8:49 PM on July 12, 2011


Man do I ever miss arcades. -- I wish I had every quarter I ever wasted in those Pits of Satan.
posted by crunchland at 9:11 PM on July 12, 2011


Note that Nintendo released a Popeye arcade game a year later, although it didn't quite go down in history (although Wikipedia claims Ikegami Tsushinki did design work for the game).

Space Panic which is a platforms-and-ladders game predating Kong (it was difficult and annoying, just like Donkey Kong was when it first came out).

Crazy Kong is a Donkey Kong bootleg which runs on Crazy Climber hardware and has completely retarded graphics and sounds.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:30 PM on July 12, 2011


Donkeys aren't monkeys! - Professor Farnsworth
posted by gern at 9:55 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


This FPP makes it seem like Donkey Kong is more important than Raiders of the Lost Art

If it's so important then WHY DID YOU GET THE NAME WRONG!?!?
posted by MattMangels at 10:30 PM on July 12, 2011


Huh. Did not know that about the programming of Donkey Kong. However, I'm pretty sure that Donkey Kong has not appeared in one form or another on every platform Nintendo has ever made. Virtual Boy doesn't have a version of DK, and I'm pretty sure there was an ancient, non-programmable TV Games-style unit they made that couldn't run Donkey Kong (or anything other than the game that was made for it, something involving dodging cars).

Others:

NES: Donkey Kong
Gameboy, Gameboy color: Donkey Kong (remake, both an expansion of the original game and the predecessor of the Mario vs. Donkey Kong games)
SNES: Super Gameboy
N64: Donkey Kong 64 is actually not a remake of Donkey Kong, but it contains an emulation of the arcade game.
Gameboy Advance: Runs Gameboy games, but also Mario vs Donkey Kong. There's also a Donkey Kong microgame in WarioWare.
DS series: Mario vs Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis, original unit also runs GBA games
Gamecube: ?
Wii: Donkey Kong over Virtual Console
posted by JHarris at 10:34 PM on July 12, 2011


@youarenothere There's a kind of spiteful mindset that has a guy seeing Billy Mitchell in the documentary and being really frustrated and resentful that they didn't turn the lens more harshly on him. I don't think it's really a surprise that a guy behind "The Office" would feel this way-- "Office" is basically structured around the exhibition of caricatures to complement the viewer surrogate/Jim Halpert. He'd need to either find a counterpoint or make an original character to mug for the camera like Halpert and give the viewer enough distance and a safe proxy through which to consume the spectacle.

I second your opinion on not wanting to see that. I prefer the more honest original, but I'm sure that his 'debunking', if he does it, will have its followers.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:44 PM on July 12, 2011


30 years ago this summer Ronald Reagan was president

Ugh.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:53 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was just thinking, do I get a shitload of hipster points for both owning an original NES and having never seen Raiders of the Lost Ark?
posted by MattMangels at 11:00 PM on July 12, 2011


There's a kind of spiteful mindset that has a guy seeing Billy Mitchell in the documentary and being really frustrated and resentful that they didn't turn the lens more harshly on him.

Replace "spiteful" with "completely justifiable" and I'm with ya. At this point I think I'd welcome just about any endeavor whose main purpose is to lambaste that ass-clown.

But yeah, I guess it would kinda spoil it, by bringing it into a non-fiction setting, since the real guy is so glaringly aggravating all on his own.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:01 PM on July 12, 2011


Yeah, like I said, it'd be perfect for people who watch "the Office".
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:12 PM on July 12, 2011


As a kid I had a special dance for all the famous video game intros in those few seconds after the quarter was inserted. Donkey Kong was a particularly good one.

I can't be the only one.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:18 AM on July 13, 2011


I was just thinking, do I get a shitload of hipster points for both owning an original NES and having never seen Raiders of the Lost Ark?

No, you get a "wow, how sad that you've never seen one of the absolute best movies of all time" award.

Either that or your life has been made so incredibly rich through your owning of a NES console that you aren't missing out. But somehow, I doubt that.
posted by hippybear at 4:25 AM on July 13, 2011


I thought Mario was a plumber?
posted by antifuse at 6:26 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


However, I'm pretty sure that Donkey Kong has not appeared in one form or another on every platform Nintendo has ever made

List of Donkey Kong Games (wikipedia)

GameCube had the Donkey Konga games. And if you include Donkey Kong as a character (not just games with him as a main character) there's also all the Mario Kart games, among others :)
posted by antifuse at 6:38 AM on July 13, 2011


And to answer my own question, apparently Mario was a carpenter in DK, to fit the construction yard setting, but took up plumbing when Mario Bros came out, to fit the many underground settings. A jack of all trades! And of course, he was a doctor later on too :)
posted by antifuse at 6:44 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jumping next to Donkey Kong at the top of the girder level and pushing sideways for bonus points was all I did the summer of 1981.

Mmmmm bonus points.
posted by Aquaman at 7:54 AM on July 13, 2011


This FPP makes it seem like Donkey Kong is more important than Raiders of the Lost Ar[k]

There's not much question in my mind that at the time and probably for the decade following, Raiders was the bigger cultural phenomenon. But today I think it's arguable that the Mario franchise is bigger and more widely beloved than Indiana Jones and if you take DK as the point where it was born...
posted by weston at 8:04 AM on July 13, 2011


As a kid I had a special dance for all the famous video game intros in those few seconds after the quarter was inserted. Donkey Kong was a particularly good one.


I am not sure that we will be able to assess the relative value of this dance unless you post a video.

posted by elizardbits at 8:35 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, I loved me some Popeye.

Around that time period there were a lot of games that had that DK DNA. I was a young, land-based USN sailor in Japan at that time and the Japanese arcades were full of variations on the theme of DK, Space Invaders, Galaxian and Sega Sprite-based games. I put a lot of my paycheck into the Japanese Economy those days.
posted by djrock3k at 8:55 AM on July 13, 2011


Yeah, that Popeye game was pretty solid. And yeah, without the success of Donkey Kong and the eventual release of the NES, who knows where video games would be. I would gather that Donkey Kong is a lot more impactful than Raiders.
posted by jasondigitized at 9:43 AM on July 13, 2011


Love the unnecessary footnotes on the Wii site:

"Pac-Man was an arcade game released in 1980 by Namco (now Namco Bandai Games Inc.). A huge hit worldwide, it later appeared on the Nintendo Entertainment System."

...Where it became a really huge hit?
posted by Toby Dammit X at 10:46 AM on July 13, 2011


« Older "Writing about metaphor is dancing with your conce...  |  The way to make a very secure ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments