Crispy Gamer

Mister Rogers Got Game

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You might have seen this video of Mister Rogers chatting with a boy about Donkey Kong. I stumbled on it yesterday through some idle "Related Videos" clicking, and I was charmed.

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The clip shows why Mister Rogers was such a unique force in kids' TV. His approach is straightforward: He talks to Brandon about games. There's no moralizing; we're not railroaded into a lesson. Nobody worries that Brandon is going to play video games too much, that he'll never go outside, that he'll go on a barrel-murdering rampage because of Donkey Kong's pernicious influence. As kids, we loved Mister Rogers because he engaged us with unadulterated respect and honesty, as he does here.

And then they open up the machine! "We're interested about the insides of things," Rogers says, so Coin-Collecting Keith flips over the joystick board on the mint Donkey Kong cabinet. If I had seen this episode when I was a kid, I would have been in rapture. As an adult, my reaction was pretty much the same, with one difference—I think kid me would have been wowed by the complexity of the game's inner workings, but now I'm impressed by how simple the electronics were. A handful of contact switches fueled a timeless arcade classic. Bite it, Sixaxis.

By the way, Coin-Collecting Keith? That's Keith David, who went on to roles in Crash, Platoon and a slew of video games including Fallout and Mass Effect. Given the intensity of his later work, you have to admire the restraint David shows when little Brandon snaps, "DOWN isn't really used in this game!" I think my response would have been a little less like David's "Heh-heh, not very much," and a little more like, "Heh-heh, keep shooting your mouth off and I WILL DESTROY YOU, DEMONSPAWN." Anyhow, moral of the story is, I can't wait to have kids.

Oh, and before any would-be sticklers complain in the comment threads, Mario was indeed a carpenter in this early stage of his career, so Brandon has that part right. Shigeru Miyamoto invented the plumber backstory for the later game Mario Bros.