By 1991 the Nintendo Entertainment System had become the center of my entertainment universe. I had a closet full of old Nintendo Power magazines, had slept on the Super Mario bedsheets, carried notebooks and folders with Link on them to school, and consumed my share of snacks shaped like famous Nintendo characters. One afternoon my Dad and I were out running errands, and somewhere while driving from one store to the next we started talking about the future of video games.
Now, this wasn't a very deep conversation. We weren't talking about how someday in the future we'll all be waving controllers around in front of a sensor bar and downloading optional levels to store on a hard drive. Instead we were talking about video games and how, someday, they might be able to teach as well as entertain. Now, even by this point there had been edutainment titles. My elementary school was loaded with Apple IIe machines that taught spelling and math skills, and my own Commodore 64 at home was used for learning as well as fun. But the issue at hand was about the actual NES itself and how, according to my father, it had no educational value. His opinion was that it would never be able to teach anything of value. I countered that not only could it teach, but there were already games to do so. We went back and forth on this for a while, and eventually he proposed a bet. If I could prove that there were educational NES games, he'd buy me the game of my choice.
Now, everyone should know never to make a bet with a child. Dangle a free video game in front of a child (especially myself at age ten) as a prize and you will lose that bet. Sure enough, once we returned home I plunged into my Nintendo Power archive and pulled out the proof of educational gaming: the Miracle piano developed by Software Toolworks. The magazine had recently published a small feature on a piano keyboard that could be connected to the NES and a special game pak that actually taught people how to play the piano. The Miracle was a very specialized piece of equipment, certainly, and you wouldn't find it in your local store, but that didn't matter in the terms of the bet. I presented the article to Dad, he read it, and then admitted defeat. The next time we went to the store, he'd buy me the game of my choice.
While Nintendo was the center of my universe, one of the non-gaming characters in orbit at the time was Disney's Darkwing Duck, an animated spoof of superhero characters that pit the egotistical Darkwing against a variety of comical Batmanesque villans such as Megavolt, Liquidator, Dr. Bushroot, Quackerjack, and F.O.W.L agent Steelbeak. Capcom had just released a NES game based on the cartoon, so it was obvious which game I snatched from the display case on the next trip to Wal-Mart. The game, while fun, turned out to be woefully short. After just seven levels the game came to an abrupt end, and while it doesn't see much replay these days in my home, it still reminds me of one of the times that I outsmarted my father. Thanks again, Dad!