The Life and Extra Lives of a Professional Nerd
As Daniel Hardcastle careers towards thirty, he looks back on what has really made him happy in life: the friends, the romances… the video games. Told through encounters with the most remarkable – and the most mind-boggling – games of the last thirty-odd years, Fuck Yeah, Video Games is also a love letter to the greatest hobby in the world.
From God of War to Tomb Raider, Pokémon to The Sims, Daniel relives each game with countless in-jokes, obscure references and his signature wit, as well as intricate, original illustrations by Rebecca Maughan. Alongside this march of merriment are chapters dedicated to the hardware behind the games: a veritable history of Sony, Nintendo, Sega and Atari consoles.
Joyous, absurd, personal and at times sweary, Daniel’s memoir is a celebration of the sheer brilliance of video games.
Developer: Game Freak Publisher: Nintendo Platform: Game Boy
Released: 1996 (JP) / 1998 (NA) / 1999 (EU)
What is it? An RPG about capturing wild creatures.
What is it really? An addiction that has had me in its grasp for two decades.
Pokémon Red and Blue are works of programming art. The English release of the games was just a single megabyte in size,1 meaning that you could fit the entire thing around 50,000 times onto a standard PS4 or Xbox One disc. That’s 100 hours of gameplay, a world with 10 cities and towns, 170 animated abilities,2 80 Items,3 45 music tracks,4 an uncountable number of NPCs5 and 151 monsters, all on a cartridge that takes up the same amount of space as around a minute of mp3 music.
It’s that monster number that I want to focus on for this story. Not the first 150, we could all catch them. I want to just look at that final one. Number 151. Mew. The mystery that captivated
1 Apparently, the Japanese release was only 512 KB!
2 Roughly. I only counted this once.
3 Again. One count. I had stuff to do today.
4 I’m a busy man, goddammit!
5 Totally countable by someone who isn’t me.
a generation. A generation that clearly had nothing else better to do beside collecting Pogs and making barely flavoured ice with Mr Frosty.
You see, Mew wasn’t technically obtainable in Pokémon Red and Blue. There was no way of catching it without going to special events, hacking your save file, or very clever glitches that weren’t found until over a decade after the game came out. Everyone knew someone who knew someone else who knew someone else who had one, but nobody seemed to be able to prove it. Even that kid in your class whose uncle worked for Nintendo didn’t have a smidge of evidence.
These days, if you don’t know a thing, you go online, and after a few searches, you know the thing. Back when I was a lad in school, we didn’t know things simply because there were no ways of knowing them. The closest thing we had to the internet was a library, and no book in there had even heard of video games yet. This meant that rumours weren’t just king, they were currency. I traded many wildly incorrect rumours I’d heard for Pokémon cards back in the day.
‘Yeah, just hold B and Down and you’ll definitely catch any Pokémon. Now, Hand me that shiny Alakazam.’6
— Me, 1999 (probably) How many of these playground legends did you hear?
- If you give Pikachu enough Water Stones, he’ll turn into a Pikablu.
6 Remember those kids who would later bottle out of the trade and tell their parents to force you to trade back? You know, the argument-starters who eventually caused all these awesome fads to get banned from schools? I hope they’re all fucking dead.
- Bill has a secret garden behind his house with a legendary Pokémon in it.
- Catch a Lickitung with the Game Boy upside down and it’ll evolve into Luigi.7
- Magikarp’s splash can insta-kill anything (it just only works a fraction of a per cent of the time).
- Talking to Oak’s assistant a hundred times before picking your starter means you can get all three of them.
All of these were, quite obviously, bullshit. However, there was a magic to these rumours, a chance that they might be true, formed from the coalition of a brilliant game and the fact that all children are idiots.
My favourite myth was the truck. Apparently, there was a truck somewhere in the world that had a Mew hidden under it. Only a level 99 Machamp8 that knew Strength could move this mystery vehicle. I remember my entire school spending every moment that wasn’t sums or finger-painting trying desperately to find this truck. We heard a rumour that it was next to the SS Anne, a cruise ship docked in the game. Problem was, the boat left and the port was locked down before you got the ability to swim and explore the area. Bugger. Guess it’s back to Tazos for us.
However, a week later, and I distinctly remember this happening in church, I came up with a solution. The SS Anne only left when you got off it, so if I lost a battle after getting the mission item, but while still onboard, I’d be teleported out to the Pokémon Center to heal up. Maybe, just maybe, the ship wouldn’t leave and I’d be able to come back later. With the
7 This was actually an April Fool from Nintendo Power magazine. They also claimed a Dratini could evolve into a Yoshi if you traded it and trained it loads. I spent hours on this one. Bastards.
8 Some people said to use a Squirtle, but they were clearly idiots.
delicate movements of a world-renowned surgeon, I extracted my red Game Boy Pocket from my coat, turned the volume down and reset my game. Yes, I’d lost all my progress, but if this worked. . . I’d be a hero.
Mum then saw my Game Boy and confiscated it until we got home. I tried to explain the hero thing but she was too wrapped up in the priest’s sermon, a speech that was getting dangerously close to somehow becoming less than monotone. Batman didn’t have to put up with this shit. Lucky Batman.
Later that night I performed rigorous testing in the most scientific environment I could manage,9 starting the entire game from scratch to prove my hypothesis. The hours passed as I raced through the game, wanting to know the answer before school the next day. Eventually, I had my answer. I was right. The SS Anne didn’t leave if you fainted inside it. We were through the looking glass.
I pushed on, ignoring the first rays of sun creeping across the floor, finally obtained the ability to swim, went back to the port and . . . oh my God . . .
The truck was real.
It sat there, off-screen until you swam over to it, just next to the SS Anne. No way to access it without the fainting strategy. I didn’t have the level 99 Machamp required to finish the rumour, but that would come later. I had to report my findings to the playground. I put my Game Boy away, placed my glasses down and heard my alarm go off.
Looking back on it, this was the most popular I’d ever be in school.
I was king. No, kings are mortal. I was God. God of the swing set. I was young at the time and may be remembering this
9 Under my bed covers with a torch.
wrong, but at least 80,000 children crowded around me that day to see the truck. Liam Packton claims he saw kids in uniforms he didn’t even recognise watching me play that Game Boy Pocket. I swear at one point a news crew turned up.
Suddenly a shout emerged from the crowd. Someone had a level 99 Machamp. They’d got that first, planning to search for the truck later. They were willing to trade. The crowd of over 2 million children held their collective breaths. A link cable was found and inserted. The trade was made. I approached the truck, used strength and . . . and . . .
Nothing at all.
Looking back on it, this was the least popular I’d ever be in school.
Thank you, Daniel Hardcastle and Random Things Tours.
About the author
Daniel Hardcastle, aka DanNerdCubed, is a YouTube gamer who has accumulated more than 2.6 million subscribers over the course of his 4000 videos. He lives with his partner, Rebecca Maughan.
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