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Right, now that only the actual readers of these blog posts are left, it's time to talk about a game I've been wanting to play for quite some time now, for no real reason other than the idea of it - Paperboy. It's been years since it was first released in the arcades, and it's been years since I first heard of it - somewhere - and thought 'that would be interesting to play'. I don't really know why; I never was nor wanted to be a paperboy in my youth, but playing Paperboy - yeah, that'd be interesting.
Sure enough, Paperboy is interesting to play.
It's also damn tricky. I'm making things harder for myself by accidentally selecting the Hard Way, rather than Easy Street or Middle Road, and then fumbling with keyboard controls, rather than anything close to resembling the original arcade handlebar joystick for that authentic feel.
The idea is simple though. You're a paperboy tasked with delivering papers to the houses that want them, preferably without breaking any property, and not delivering papers to the house that don't want them, preferably while breaking property. All the while, you're dodging seemingly every single hazard known to man.
The streets are littered with things to cycle into, often appearing at the last second which makes your speed as important as your direction. Fall over and you'll lose a life, miss a delivery and you'll lose a subscriber, lose too many of either lives or subscribers and you'll lose your job.
There are bonus points for accuracy, both in terms of delivering papers and destroying property, and you simply have to make it through the seven day week.
I didn't make it through the week, but I certainly am glad I got around to playing it. After a while you get the hang of the controls a bit more, and while I didn't get the timing down for accurate shots, I at least learned to not spam newspapers every second - it's not as helpful as you might think, and you'll run out of papers. Unless you've a long stretch of houses that aren't subscribe, and live in hope for a resupply of newspapers to be just up the road, in which case hurl all the newspapers, break all the windows, cycle over all the flowers.
Watching someone who knows what they're doing really allows you to see how great Paperboy looks. When you're playing your focus is on only a few things at a time, usually whatever you want to hit (a postbox or front door), whatever you want to avoid (cars, people), and whatever you end up hitting (everything, eventually). When you're watching though, the details are incredible.
Burglars jimmying open side windows, people fighting each other, construction workers digging up the road... I swear I saw a zombie shuffling down the street at some point too. Paperboy is great to look at and, once over the initial control grumbles, great to play.
Making the mundane interesting is sometimes a challenge, but if you slap on some game mechanics, all sorts of tasks suddenly become worthwhile. Fitness, for example, is often gamified because nobody wants to get fit for health reasons these days. When compared to blowing up spaceships or competing at the Olympics, Paperboy shouldn't have succeeded as a role we'd want to see in a game - it's a job, jobs aren't fun. Gamify it however, and Paperboy becomes a classic.
But you can't gamify plumbing. Ask Nintendo.
Paperboy should be played on original hardware, but we can't all be that fortunate. Most of us will have to be content with a good deal of ports or emulation over on the Internet Archive, meaning we've no excuse to not see what it's all about.
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This game was the first NES game to be developed in the US and the first Sega Master System game to be developed in the UK. To my knowledge it was also the first game to be about a bicycling boy delivering newspapers.
Paperboy, developed by Atari Games, first released in 1985.
Version played: Arcade, 1985, via emulation.