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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

Games Database

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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"American Mall," Bloomberg
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Unwinnable Video Game Challenges You to Keep a Shopping Mall in Business
"American Mall," Bloomberg
"American Mall," Bloomberg

Shopping malls, once the cultural hub of every suburb in America, have become a punchline in the e-commerce era. There are plenty of malls around today, but they tend to be money pits, considering the hundreds of "dead malls" haunting the landscape. Just how hard is it to keep a mall afloat in the current economy? American Mall, a new video game from Bloomberg, attempts to give an answer.

After choosing which tycoon character you want as your stand-in, you're thrown into a mall—rendered in 1980s-style graphics—already struggling to stay in business. The building is filled with rats and garbage you have to clean up if you want to keep shoppers happy. Every few seconds you're contacted by another store owner begging you to lower their rent, and you must either take the loss or risk them packing up for good. When stores are vacated, it's your job to fill them, but it turns out there aren't too many businesses interested in setting up shop in a dying mall.

You can try gimmicks like food trucks and indoor playgrounds to keep customers interested, but in the end your mall will bleed too much money to support itself. You can try playing the bleak game for yourself here—maybe it will put some of the retail casualties of the last decade into perspective.

[h/t Co.Design]

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11 Fun Facts About The Wedding Singer
New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema

On February 13, 1998, Adam Sandler gave Valentine’s Day sweethearts a retro treat with The Wedding Singer, a 1980s-set rom-com about a heartbroken wedding singer named Robbie Hart (Sandler) who falls in love with a waitress/bride-to-be whose married name will leave her as Julia Gulia (Drew Barrymore).

At this point in Sandler’s career, he was known more for his puerile comedies like Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison, not as a romantic leading man. The Wedding Singer changed all that. After earning its $18 million budget back during its opening weekend alone, The Wedding Singer went on to gross $123 million worldwide—making it Sandler’s highest-grossing movie to date at the time.

Besides being a bona fide box office hit, the film’s two ’80s-heavy soundtracks—which included tunes by The Police, David Bowie, The Psychedelic Furs, New Order, and The Smiths—were also popular. For the film’s 20th anniversary, here are 11 fun facts about The Wedding Singer.

1. THE DIRECTOR’S OWN REAL-LIFE HEARTBREAK ALLOWED HIM TO TAP INTO THE FILM’S EMOTION.

Longtime Sandler friend and collaborator Frank Coraci directed The Wedding Singer, and said that his own experience with having his heart broken was part of what allowed him to tap into the movie’s unique balance of humor and heartfelt romance.

“I remember lying in bed and not being able to move, so it was easy to tap into that pretty quickly,” Coraci told The Hollywood News of his own heartbreak, which happened a couple of years before the movie came along. “I think the distance between those two things was good. It let me look at it differently and allowed it to be funny. I think if had happened before, The Wedding Singer would have been one seriously depressing movie.”

2. THE IDEA TO SET THE FILM IN THE 1980S CAME FROM THE RADIO.

The Wedding Singer was written by Tim Herlihy, a longtime collaborator of Sandler’s who, in addition to writing for Saturday Night Live, wrote the scripts for Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and The Waterboy (among other Sandler-starring films). Sandler mentioned to Herlihy that he wanted to do “a film about a wedding singer who gets left at the altar.” For his part, Herlihy let the radio inspire him. “I was listening to the radio show Lost in the ’80s, and I said, ‘I want to do a movie set in the 1980s. So of course, we thought, ‘Why don’t we do a story about a wedding singer in the 1980s?’”

3. SANDLER WANTED TO MAKE A “PRO-LOVE” FILM.

While promoting the movie on Late Night With Conan O’Brien in 1998, Sandler said, “We wanted to make a romantic comedy that was heavy on the laughs. It was nice to do a movie that was pro-marriage and pro-love.” He explained men have a difficult time falling in love. “You got guys who say they don’t want to be in love, but those are usually guys who have been hurt before.”

4. THE MOVIE DOESN’T FEATURE ANY SEX SCENES, AND THERE’S A REASON FOR THAT.

In the same interview, Conan O’Brien asked Sandler why there weren’t any sex scenes in the film, which seemed odd for a rom-com. Sandler was candid with his answer: “The main reason for not having a sex scene is I’m not good at sex,” he said. “I started when I was pretty young and I was always like, you’ll get better. And I got older and it’s still not good.”

5. BARRYMORE APPROACHED SANDLER ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER.

Since the release of The Wedding Singer, Sandler and Drew Barrymore have gone on to star in 50 First Dates (2004) and Blended (2014) together, but their original collaboration was really the actress’s doing. Barrymore told Howard Stern she was interested in working with Sandler because “[I thought] I want to be a modern weird Hepburn, Tracy old Hollywood couple.” Sandler agreed to meet with her. “We looked like the worst blind date you’ve ever seen,” Barrymore recalled, referencing how she had purple hair and wore a leopard coat. Still, as Barrymore told The Huffington Post, she was convinced that she and Sandler were “cinematic soul mates,” and wasn’t afraid to tell him so. Soon after this meeting, the script for The Wedding Singer came along.

6. THE “RAPPING GRANNY” LIVED TO BE 101.

At the age of 84, Ellen Albertini Dow portrayed Robbie’s neighbor Rosie, a.k.a. “The Rapping Granny.” During a wedding scene in the movie, Rosie gets on stage and raps to The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” However, when the filmmakers asked Dow to perform the rap, she admitted she wasn’t familiar with that style of music.

In a 2008 radio interview, she recounted how Sandler and Coraci approached her with the idea. They told her, “‘We think it might be funny for an older woman to do rap,’” Dow explained. “And I said, ‘What is that?’ I had no idea what rap was. They took me to a soundstage and handed me this rap song. I went in the booth and it was very foreign to me. I said, ‘Can I move a little to it?’ They said, ‘Oh, sure.’ I’m not bragging, but I danced all my life, and I played the piano, so I know music. I started to move to it and I got it right it away. I got it very fast and loved it and had fun with it.” Her rapping success led to her rapping in a Life Savers commercial, and she even considered recording a rap record for children. In 2015, Dow died at the age of 101.

7. IT’S THE FIRST SANDLER FILM TO INCLUDE A FEMALE PERSPECTIVE.

In previous Sandler films, women mainly existed only as love interests. Herlihy, however, changed that with The Wedding Singer. “Drew elevated things for us,” the screenwriter told Esquire. “The scenes with her and Christine [Taylor]—the scenes with her without Adam—[were all great]. You look at the first movies and there’s not a lot without Adam because we did test screening and they said, ‘Get rid of that scene.’ But this time with Drew we were able to do that and have those scenes survive to the movie.”

8. THE CREATORS OF THE WEDDING SINGER BROADWAY MUSICAL KNEW IT WAS “BORN TO SING.”

The success of the film inspired a Broadway musical adaptation that ended up earning five Tony Award nominations and eight Drama Desk Award nods. Matthew Sklar composed the music, and Chad Beguelin wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the book with Herlihy. It premiered in Seattle in January 2006 and then officially opened on Broadway in April 2006.

In the fall of 2007, the musical toured nationally, then eventually landed overseas in London, Abu Dhabi, the Philippines, and Australia. Beguelin said the musical came from him pitching a movie idea to New Line Cinema. “They asked me, ‘What would you do with our catalogue?’ Well, I thought The Wedding Singer was born to sing,” he said. They felt a musical could convey stronger feelings than what was on the screen. “In the movie, you get a close-up of Drew Barrymore looking distraught at her reflection in a wedding dress, but you can’t do that on stage,” Beguelin said. “That’s where you write a song.”

9. BARRYMORE WANTED THE AUDIENCE TO “HOLD THE BOWL OF LOVE.”

In a 1998 interview, Barrymore explained what drew her to the character of Julia: “She has an ease that follows her and that’s the energy that she exudes, and I really, really like that about her. And she’s a happy girl.”

Barrymore further said she wanted people to be happy and for the movie to cause the audience “to hold the bowl of love and have those hearts in their eyes and all of that good mushy stuff we live for."

10. BILLY IDOL STARRED IN THE FILM TO APPEASE HIS SON—AND TEENAGERS.

Billy Idol, whose song “White Wedding” appears on the soundtrack, portrays himself during a climactic scene on a plane. “My son loved Adam Sandler and I thought: ‘I’m going to have to see it anyway, so why not be in it?,’” Idol said. “I gained a number of diehard teenage fans through doing it, who are adults now and are still turning up to my gigs.”

“There’s something about Billy Idol hanging on a plane, knocking back champagne, and getting involved with my love life,” Sandler said of Idol’s cameo. “Everybody thought that’d be fun.”

11. BOY GEORGE WAS A FAN OF BOY GEORGE.

In the film, transgender actress Alexis Arquette played a character named George, who had similarities to the iconic Culture Club frontman Boy George. Wedding Singer George even sings the band’s 1982 hit song “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” at a wedding in the movie. Arquette passed away on September 11, 2016, and around the same time the real Boy George paid homage to the actress at a concert in Maryland. He dedicated “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” to Alexis and her family.

“Alexis played me in The Wedding Singer, very hilariously,” he said. “When I went to [see] The Wedding Singer, I didn’t know what was going to happen. When I saw Alexis doing an impersonation of me, I was rolling around on the floor laughing.”

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