Some fans of video games today don’t necessarily play the games before they get caught up in the gaming culture. Movies based on video games abound, t-shirts featuring video game characters hang from store windows, and action figures from popular games line store shelves. While growing up, I watched game-related programming before I even picked up a controller. And of all the ways to immerse myself in gaming without hooking up a console, such shows remain top on my list.
My introduction to video games came from The Super Mario Brothers Super Show, a combination live-action and cartoon program that aired in 1989. Each daily show began and ended with live-action segments featuring Mario and Luigi causing or getting into mischief. Most episodes included guest stars such as Vanna White and Magic Johnson. A short cartoon based on the Super Mario Bros. video games appeared between these two segments. I didn’t play my first video game until several years later, when my babysitter let me pick a game to play on her Super Nintendo. Naturally, I picked Super Mario World, because I recognized the characters from the show.
The Super Mario Brothers Super Show also introduced me to a second video game series, The Legend of Zelda. Every Friday, the show featured a Zelda-based cartoon between the two segments instead of a Mario cartoon. I didn’t pay much attention to these until I saw an episode called “Sing for the Unicorn,” in which the villain Ganon sweeps in on a flying unicorn and kidnaps Zelda. I was instantly hooked because unicorns captivated me during my entire childhood.
Despite my devotion to Mario and Zelda, Captain N: The Game Master, which aired from 1989 to 1991, became my childhood favorite game-related show. Unlike the previous shows, this series was not based on one game’s characters. Instead, this show followed a young gamer named Kevin and his dog Duke as a phenomenon called the Ultimate Warp Zone transported the pair to Videoland, a place where characters from multiple games resided. These included Simon Belmont and the Count from Castlevania, Mega Man and Dr. Wily from the Mega Man series, Pit and the Eggplant Wizard from Kid Icarus, Mother Brain from Metroid, and Donkey Kong from—you guessed it—the Donkey Kong series. I fell in love with this show’s humorous band of characters, and I learned a lot about video game play in general. Armed with a Nintendo Zapper and control pad, Kevin demonstrated how best to blast through enemies and locate power-ups from his surroundings.
My current video game-related television line-up includes The Guild, a Web series that follows the antics of a group of men and women addicted to a MMORPG that resembles World of Warcraft. In game play, they are all members of the same Guild or group, known as the Knights of Good. When the group meets face to face for the first time, hilarity ensues as they discover one another’s strange personality quirks and social habits. The show portrays several exaggerated gaming stereotypes, such as one character who rarely leaves his basement computer, and another who lets her children run wild while she focuses on the game. A rival Guild, the Axis of Anarchy, provides examples of “hardcore” gamers who focus only on winning and destroying their enemies. Since nearly all the show’s characters have some sort of difficulty with social interaction, comic mischief encompasses each episode and leaves me laughing out loud.
While watching television is no substitute for video game play, these shows introduced me to new games. What’s your favorite out-of-game way to celebrate your love for gaming? We’d love to hear your stories!