Nintendo World Championships: First-hand memories of the 1990 original0 Comments
When Nintendo announced today that they will be holding a Nintendo World Championships 2015 just before E3, the 14-year-old kid inside of me completely freaked out.
I was there the first weekend in March of 1990, at the very first stop of the national tour in Dallas, Texas. As the young video game nerd I was at the time, I found myself bullied at school for my passion for all things video games and all things Nintendo. The announcement of the NWC gave me hope that I'd finally have somewhere that I didn't feel out of place.
I only had one of the games in the original competition, Super Mario Bros., so getting ready for the event meant I had to learn two new games. I was somewhat familar with Tetris from the Atari arcade version, but Rad Racer was a new one to me. I spent every spare moment leading up to the event practicing. So much so, that I was actually scolded for taking a break from practice a few days before the event -- something that was in stark contrast to what my dad usually said to me about video games.
I arrived at the event, and was overwhelmed by it. It was far more than just a competition, it was a celebration of all things Nintendo at a time where they dominated market share like nobody had ever done before, or since. I can still picture every inch of it each time I step into that building at Fair Park in Dallas. The stage where the game play counselors stood, and all the stations where we were able to play Nintendo Entertainment System games which had yet to be released -- an occurance that was an uncommon as a unicorn back in those days.
My dad wasn't overly thrilled at having to buy a seperate ticket to try to qualify for the Nintendo World Championships competition itself, but he did so anyway. Reaching the quarterfinals was cake for me, leading to a long line just to get on stage and compete in front of a crowd for a shot at the semi-finals. Being a 14-year-old that finally felt at home. I talked some smack in that line, hoping inside that once on stage, I could finally back it up.
I blew through Super Mario Bros. and Rad Racer, but Tetris gave me a bit of trouble early on. I could hear the catcalls thrown at me from those I'd talked smack with in the line, but I managed to pull out of my funk, getting the top score on stage as emcee Terry Lee Torok bounded about with the energy of a dozen high school track stars. Man, did that guy have a head of hair on him. He still does.
For my troubles I made it into the semi-finals, and received a t-shirt that I proudly wore around the event for the rest of the day. I still have it to this day -- as seen above -- and as it turns out, it has become a bit of a rarity. For some reason, later stops on the Nintendo World Championships tour replaced these shirts with some dog ugly painter's caps that are far more common than the original semi-finalist t-shirts.
This also meant I had to come back the next day for the semi-finals. I was confident that morning, but became nervous as we returned to the same area where we'd qualified in the first place just to try again. Unfortunately, I ended up being placed near the far-end of the playing area, meaning I was on a side where the crowd and several media outlets were going to be watching.
Long story short, I choked. My nerves totally gave way once a news camera from Dallas/Fort Worth's Channel 4 came over my right shoulder to film my gameplay. At that point in time, I'd never been on a news camera before and quickly wrecked multiple times on Rad Racer. After that, my shaking hands didn't help me much on Tetris, especially since I'd lost time due to my miscues on Rad Racer that I knew would cost me.
It wasn't easy on me to look at the screen and see what was by far my lowest score at the event. I remained and listened as they called out for certain score thresholds, but I already knew how that was going to end up. I didn't make the cut. I'd blown it.
I did stick around and have fun that day watching the finals on stage, wishing I'd held it together, and at least had a shot to be up there. I wouldn't have advanced from what I saw of the city champion's gameplay, but I probably would have taken that better.
I waited for my shot at the Nintendo World Championships 1991, but such a thing never came to pass. Yes, Nintendo held some smaller Powerfest events with similar competition setups off and on for a few years, but the pomp and cirumstance of the original competition was replaced by travel trucks in big box retailer parking lots, and corners of amusement parks. It was nowhere as big and never as special, and I never had my shot at redeeming myself for buckling under pressure.
The idea that Nintendo is going to embrace this concept again for the 25th Anniversary of the original event sparked a reaction in me that was almost exactly like the excitement that I felt the first time around. I'm pleased that Nintendo is finally recognizing the original tour with such an event, given just how much the booming world of eSports today owes to the original.
Will I have my chance at redemption this time? Hard to say. There is a big difference between being a 14-year-old kid with few friends, and being a 39-year-old husband and father of two with a metric ton of career preparation leading up to E3.
But, I guess if the games are right titles -- meaning, ones I won't need much prep time for -- I'd sure like to give it a shot.
For now, I await further details, forever reminded of the joy and agony I felt at the original Nintendo World Championships a quarter century ago.