Through a series of unlikely events, Steven Frank was able to master the near-unwinnable Dragon’s Lair when he was a kid. And for one day, it made him a God amongst kids.
I was obsessed with Dragon’s Lair, and its spiritual science-fiction sequel Space Ace. (A true sequel, Dragon’s Lair II, is lesser known as it arrived almost exactly as the last remaining arcades were being shuttered. I only ever saw it in the wild once.) I was an animation nerd, and a video game nerd, and here were these games right at the intersection.
Like everyone else, I wasted a lot of my parents’ quarters playing Dragon’s Lair and lasting for about 2 minutes before losing all five lives. Fortunately, the local grocery store had a Dragon’s Lair cabinet, as well as a couple of other games, so I got many occasions to practice.
One day I was sitting in our apartment reading a video game magazine (nerd!), and in the back was a little section of classified ads. My eye was caught immediately by the words “Beat Space Ace and Dragon’s Lair!” For a few bucks, you could send away for this random guy’s strategy guide, which listed all the moves and when to make them.
Please realize there was no residential internet. We had a computer, but no modem. There was no just going to Google for an FAQ or walkthrough. If you didn’t know the moves, you just didn’t know them, unless you knew someone else who knew them, which of course you didn’t.
I begged my parents. Weeks later, my strategy guide arrived (a few black and white photocopied sheets of paper stapled together), and I began studying.
The feeling Frank had at the end of the story, of awing the crowd and then walking away from that machine like Will Smith walking away from an exploding alien spaceship, is a sensation that 1980s nerds didn’t often feel. When the web came around in the 1990s, it provided a similar, but much larger, opportunity for nerds. On the very public stage of the web, the nerds of the world finally had something to offer the world that was cool and useful and even lucrative. The web has since been overrun by marketers, money, and big business, but for a brief time, the nerds of the world had millions of people gathered around them, boggling at their skill with this seemingly infinite medium. That time has come and gone, my friend. (via df)