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A Time to Build: Paper Mario 1988

2008-11-15 12:20:50·  4 minute read   ·  KestrelPi
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[Editor's note: SurplusGamer talks about his attempt at making a videogame at the young age of seven for his A Time to Build Monthly Musing topic. -- CTZ]

This topic had me stumped for a couple of hours, not because I couldn't think of anything to write, but because there are too many things I could say on this subject. Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I remember. Not only that, but as soon as I began to think about the fact that games are things actually made by real people, rather than materializing out of thin air, that whole process of creation has fascinated me. I can't help but think back to where this fascination started. See, you may be surprised to learn that I made my first NES game when I was six or seven-years-old.

Well, kind of ...


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For a while I had my BBC Micro but I found out (I don't know how) that I would be getting a NES for my birthday and that was something else entirely. I'd played on a friend's NES and was well aware that they were the Best Thing Ever, so this was cause for no small excitement. There was only one problem:

My birthday was a full month away!

Now this might not seem like such a big deal, I know. However, you might not remember in those days a month was like a whole year in today's currency. So as well as being incredibly exciting it was also like slow torture. I'm only grateful it wasn't Christmas, when things got so exciting that a single day could last a decade. Even so, I knew something had to be done and a plan was quickly formulated: if I couldn't get a real NES now, I'd just have to build one.

To give you an idea of just how determined I was about this, my last attempt at building something was when we made a pencil case at school for arts and crafts. Or rather, everyone else in the class made a pencil case, while I accidentally made something that more closely resembled Cthulhu. You'd think that might deter most children from embarking on Project NES but not me! I wanted Mario and I wanted it now.

In my mind, I was an engineering genius. First, a box with a square hole in it to make a TV, using cardboard borrowed from my Dad's supplies. Along the bottom end of the 'screen' I cut a slit and through the slit I could poke long pieces of paper, at the end of which I could stick my sprites: Mario, the Goombas - the possibilities were endless. Then came my pride and joy: instead of simply drawing the level on the back of the screen, I could cut another slit in the top of the box, and simply slot each level in as and when I needed it.


Engineering. Genius.

"But what about the game logic, the enemies, collision detection, items, that sort of thing?" I hear you cry in perfect unison. Nonsense! I didn't need any of that, I had my imagination. In fact I must have been an awfully fair-minded child, as the first time I tested the game I died on the first screen, despite being in control of both Mario and the single Goomba. That just went to prove that the system worked!

Triumphantly, I gathered everything up to show my Dad, who regarded the thing doubtfully.

"This'll keep me going, until my birthday!", I insisted.
"No ... no, it won't", he replied in a derisive tone, one that I like to pretend was so mentally scarring, that I blame it for all the problems I've had in my life since.

Of course, he was proved correct later that evening, when I accidentally sat on it, bringing my bold experiment to an abrupt close, by which time I had already learned how limited my previously much-trumpeted imagination could be. Is the moral of the story to be that the imagination is no substitute for a good videogame, then? I hope not. I prefer to simply look back fondly to the days when I could believe that, given naught but a few bits of paper and some glue, anything was possible - if only for a day. And, of course, good things came to those who waited.

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This story was submitted via our Community Blogs, and ultimately made it to the home page! Anybody can get on the homepage of Dtoid when you piss excellence. Want in? Write a longform blog with photos and senpai may notice you (our community committee picks the promos). It happens all the time: read more promoted stories

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