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15 Things We Miss About Old-School Gaming

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With last year's release of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, the next generation of video game consoles is already underway. It’s a far cry from the 8-bit escapades that gamers of a certain age grew up on, so let's take a nostalgic glance back at what we miss most about the good old days.

1. Blowing on cartridges

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If something with your spanking-new eighth generation console goes wrong then you’ll probably need a team of NASA trained scientists to fix things for you. That wasn’t the case in the late '80s and early '90s, however, when millions of gamers worldwide grew up thinking that blowing enthusiastically onto the connectors of their cartridge was the cure for all console-based ills. And it worked! Well, kind of. (Lots more on that here.)

2. Cartridge art

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While we’re on the subject of cartridges, let's not forget the artwork that adorned their exteriors. Sure, modern Blu-rays are amazing, but once you’ve taken them out of their box, they’re just uninspired metallic discs. There were no such problems with cartridges, however, which came complete with gorgeously illustrated labels you could still see even when they were slotted into your console.

3. Hint hotlines

Amazingly, people actually got paid to man phone lines offering hints and tips on the latest games. It was a pretty aspirational job too, provided you were a teenage boy with little or no concept of what being a grown-up actually entailed.

4. Entering your initials on the scoreboard

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Few things in life can replicate the thrill of seeing your initials rise to the top of the scoreboard, even if it’s on your home console where the only person you’ve knocked off of the top perch is your older sibling.

5. Ludicrous accessories

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The entertainment arms race saw Sega and Nintendo release a bewildering array of accessories designed to swallow up the hard-earned allowances of their impressionable audiences. They ranged from the sublime (Sega’s Menacer scope), to the ridiculous (the Mario Paint mouse), to the utterly absurd (NES Power Glove).

6. In-built games

America didn’t take to Sega’s Master System, even when it was reissued with a game—the oddly hallucinogenic Alex Kidd in Miracle World—built directly into the console itself.

7. Zero load time

No menus, no loading bars, no annoying graphic advertising the brand you’ve already handed over hundreds of hard-earned dollars to every time you hit the on button. In fact, after flicking the hefty switch marked ‘power,’ there were no load times whatsoever on classic consoles, which was perfect for those of us who were always trying to squeeze in just one more game before bedtime.

8. Manuals the size of novels

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When it came to playing the games of yesteryear, there were no on-screen hints or in-built tutorials to guide you through the gameplay; some games came complete with manuals that had to be studied before you could even consider inserting the cartridge into your console. Crammed full of maps, diagrams and blank pages where you could scribble your in-game notes, these weighty tomes were a major part of the new game experience, an added layer of anticipation that gamers could peruse while feigning interest in everyone else’s gifts on Christmas morning.

9. Tangled controllers

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There was a certain art to untangling controller connectors, a propensity for which might earmark gamers as potential naval recruits from an early age. Sure, the tangled web of wires could be frustrating, but at least their batteries didn’t run out.

10. Not being able to save your progress

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There were no save points and no second chances when it came to completing games of old. Instead, reaching the end credits required skill, commitment, and probably a smattering of Chaos Emeralds for good measure.

11. Gameplay over graphics

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Without the ability to create photorealistic worlds that make everyday life look positively mundane by comparison, developers had to prioritize gameplay over graphics. The result was a slew of side-scrolling masterpieces—eminently enjoyable games that are still being played more than 30 years later.

12. Cheats

From the Konami code to the blood cheat from Mortal Kombat, rapidly pressing buttons in a seemingly random combination was a dark art many early console gamers were keen to master.

13. Glitches

Before Internet connections enabled developers to fix things on the fly, games were inevitably shipped with all manner of weird and wonderful glitches. No one liked getting stuck in a wall in Zelda of course, but nevertheless these became an oddly beloved part of the gaming experience. They even began to become legitimate game features, as was the case in the Mortal Kombat franchise where a kaleidoscopic array of new characters became a part of subsequent installments after starting life as graphical glitches.

14. End of level bosses

Sure they were tough, but final bosses were a rite of passage for many gamers, particularly at a time when a propensity for besting the likes of Dr Robotnik and M.Bison could elevate your social status quicker than a hand-me-down biker jacket ever could.

15. The word "joystick"

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Aptly named, the joystick was the carpal tunnel-inducing controller through which many a gamer experienced adolescence. The world is a darker place without them.

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14 Things You Owned in the '70s That are Worth a Fortune Now
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From old toys and housewares to books and records, these pieces of '70s memorabilia have aged (and increased in value) like fine wine.

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10 Things We Learned From Vanilla Ice's 1991 Autobiography, Ice by Ice
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Vanilla Ice turns 50 on October 31, which will either make you feel very old or compelled to ask a nearby senior who Vanilla Ice is. The hip-hop artist was best known for To the Extreme, his 1990 album that sold 7 million copies, and its breakout single, “Ice, Ice Baby.” He also had a notable turn as himself in 1991’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze before attempting to reinvigorate his career as a Rasta-infused rapper with dreadlocks after his initial novelty wore off.

Before that happened, Ice (a.k.a. Robert Van Winkle) penned Ice by Ice, a 1991 “autobiography” that has no co-author byline but was probably written by a man named Randi Reisfeld, who is thanked by the rapper in the foreword for “putting my thoughts together.” At an economical 164 pages, it’s essential reading for anyone who wanted to know the name of Ice's signature hairstyle (“the beak”) or how women can grab his attention ("dressing super-sexy”). Here are 10 things we learned about the Iceman in this revealing paperback cash grab.

1. HE CUT HIS OWN HAIR.

Even at the height of his fame, Vanilla Ice wouldn’t trust just anyone to get near his trademark pompadour that he dubbed “the beak,” with lines shaved into the sides and a light stripe whooshing through the front. To maintain the look, Ice preferred a DIY approach. “I sit where there’s a mirror behind me and hold another mirror in front of me,” he writes. “That way I can see my whole head.”

Ice was so demanding of his follicles than anything less than perfection would be met with self-banishment. “I don’t like to be photographed unless my hair is perfect—that’s why you’ll see pictures of me in baseball caps a lot.”

2. HE DOESN’T CRY.

“I don’t cry and I don’t know why,” Ice explains. Even when he shattered his ankle as a teenager in a motorcycle accident, Ice didn’t get weepy. The only time he confesses to feeling even a passing sensation of tears is when he was handed plaques for having a platinum record. “My eyes got watery … it’s as close to crying as I’ve ever come.”

3. HE GOT STABBED IN THE BUTT AND LOST FOUR PINTS OF BLOOD.

Vanilla Ice in a Miami Football T
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As Ice’s popularity grew, much was made of his claims that he grew up in rough parts of Miami and Dallas, where he joined a street gang after his stepfather relocated his family for a job opportunity. Some observers accused him of embellishing his background in order to appear more like a hardcore street urchin. Ice bemoans the fact that he’s felt compelled to pull down his pants to show off the scar on his butt from a knife attack at age 18. According to the rapper, a street fight turned ugly when an attacker pulled a knife and sliced open his thigh and buttocks, requiring an extended hospital stay after he lost four pints of blood. “What they did was put this thing that looked like a Q-tip with alcohol on it down inside my leg to plug up the artery,” he writes. (He didn’t cry, though.)

4. HE WORE MISMATCHED SNEAKERS TO SCHOOL.

Growing up, Ice bounced from school to school, admitting he wasn’t very interested in formal education and jarred by having to be the new kid on a regular basis. To offset that sense of isolation, he began showing up in increasingly outlandish outfits, including wearing mismatched shoes. “I’d wear a boot on one foot and a tennis shoe on the other,” he writes, “wear blue jeans with one leg long, the other leg cut off, stuff like that.”

5. IF HE HAD A PROBLEM, HE REALLY WOULD SOLVE IT.

Ice maintains that he was never comfortable sharing his feelings with others. His mother, who was single until marrying his stepfather when Ice was eight years old, tried to put him into therapy to address his troublemaking ways at school; Ice refused to talk. “I never needed to talk to anyone to solve my problems,” he writes. “A lot of people need someone to talk to, but I’ve never been able to open up and do that. Never could, never will. That’s just the way I am. And that’s just exactly where the ‘Ice, Ice Baby’ hook came from—‘If there was a problem, yo, I’ll solve it.’”

6. HE WOULD SOMETIMES USE DIRTY WORDS.

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Engaging in rap battles growing up, Ice would occasionally deploy some profanity—not because he necessarily wanted to, but because his competitors had started it and he needed to keep up. “The thing is, I wouldn’t do it unless some other rapper started cursing and dissin’ me and the crowd started liking it,” he writes. "'Cause if the crowd starts liking the cursing part, that means to win you’re going to have to curse back at them.” Ice maintains in the book that his raps were clean on his records because “I don’t need to put in dirty words to express myself.”

7. HE WAS ORIGINALLY KNOWN AS VANILLA M.C.

Ice got his start performing at City Lights, a dance club in Dallas owned by future manager Tommy Quon. With “Robert Van Winkle” not having a ton of appeal on a marquee, Ice decided to take the nickname given to him as a teenager when he was beatboxing and rapping in his neighborhood (“Vanilla M.C.”). But Quon pointed out that there were already a lot of “MCs” in the music business, including M.C. Hammer and Young M.C. “You know, your raps, your rhythms are really smooth, smooth as Ice, in fact,” Quon told him. Writing that “it sounded okay to me,” Vanilla M.C. became Vanilla Ice.

8. HE WAS DRAWN TO WOMEN FOR THEIR LOOKS.

Not one to sanitize his image for the masses, Ice admits that his primary concern when dealing with the opposite sex is whether he finds them attractive or not. “My first impression of a girl, whether I’m going to be drawn to her or not, is based on her looks. I know it’s not fair, but then I see what her personality is like.”

Once Ice establishes a woman could engage him intellectually while still “dressing super-sexy,” he enjoys entertaining them at fine dining establishments. But not too fine. “I like candlelit romantic restaurants, but not those where the menu is so fancy that I don’t know what I’m ordering.”

9. HE GOT AN OFFER TO APPEAR IN A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET SEQUEL.

Vanilla Ice and Kristin Minter star in 'Cool as Ice' (1991).
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Ice’s career could have gone in multiple directions following the success of To the Extreme. He filmed a cameo in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sequel and had his own starring vehicle in 1991’s Cool as Ice. In between those projects, Ice was offered a small role in a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel, presumably to be murdered by Freddy Krueger, “but I didn’t have room in my schedule to take time off for it.” 

10. HE WAS STALKED BY A SATANIST.

We’re cheating slightly, since Ice doesn’t disclose this fact in his book, but it’s still worth noting. At height of Ice mania in the 1990s, the rapper told Rolling Stone that a woman began following him around in an attempt to convert him to Satanism. Ice first noticed the woman at Wembley Stadium when she flashed him in a trench coat. (See: number 8.) Later, the same woman followed him to Japan and left a book under his hotel door: a Satanic Bible, with a personal message to join the flock. Why? Because his birthday falls on Halloween.

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