I Played The World’s Largest Donkey Kong Arcade Game And Lived

I Played The World’s Largest Donkey Kong Arcade Game And Lived

You would never guess it, but The Strong National Museum of Play in the great, gray Rust Belt city of Rochester, New York houses the world’s largest operational Donkey Kong arcade machine. It’s almost 20 feet tall, says a press release from this spring, and intended to act as a “playful, whimsical installation” in a museum dedicated exclusively to those kinds of things—whimsy, toys, and the imagination people tend to have when they’re kids, or in college five beers deep.

I recently visited Rochester, where I once lived and drank, cumulatively, a lot more than five beers, and decided I had to play the Donkey Kong machine while I was there. It is as large as I expected (much bigger than me) and as interesting as the 1981 arcade game could possibly be (with my TikTok attention span), but it did its job well, reminding me of what it felt like to see myself as smaller than the expanding world, filled with possibility.

Me and a giant Donkey Kong arcade game vs. the world

Donkey Kong is considered the first real platformer. It also debuts playable character and Nintendo’s wonder boy Mario, who stars in a handful of the highest grossing games and, more recently, a box office-breaking movie. Mario—who gets to climb aquamarine ladders and hop over malicious barrels—outshines frowning Donkey Kong in his own game as caged Pauline’s pudgy knight in red overalls. But with the Donkey Kong franchises’ 65 million unit sales globally as of 2021 and, as Nintendo’s initial global success, its irrevocable impact on over 40 years of narrative games, Donkey Kong persists, an important game to remember and keep playing.

The Donkey Kong machine watches over you.
Photo: Kotaku

But The Strong Museum seems to have created a giant version of it mostly for fun, which is an underrated reason for doing anything. It was helpful, metaphorically, that Donkey Kong “is a true titan in the video game world—both in terms of character size and the iconic status of the game,” Strong’s vice president for exhibits Jon-Paul Dyson said in the aforementioned press release. But the machine, which is almost 370% bigger than a standard Donkey Kong arcade cabinet, acts primarily as an introduction to The Strong’s 90,000 square-foot-expansion that debuted on June 30, which includes the World Video Game Hall of Fame.

You see Donkey Kong before you see any of that other stuff. The blue tower, formed by an aluminum frame and MDF fiberboard, is wedged between the museum’s second floor walls like it’s a clipping asset or a wisdom tooth, so it watches over you while you buy an admission ticket.

The machine is big and bright, which motivated me to skip up the staircase to reach it. I noticed, pleasantly, that it’s free-to-play despite being equipped with coin slots large enough to fit a hamburger puck. It has a joystick controller that was bigger than the palm of my hand, too, and an orange JUMP button as pressable as a damp dog nose, but it’s actually played through a standard, replica control panel.

The Strong Museum's giant Donkey Kong arcade game features a massive control panel.

The giant, shiny control panel doesn’t work, but that didn’t stop me from poking it.
Screenshot: Kotaku

I stared up at the game unfolding, exactly how it did in 1981, except maybe with more sour-gummy crispness, and guessed that the machine sticks through the ground so that its huge screen would be more forgiving to third graders’ little craning necks. In any case, I’m 5’4, and I had to stretch to see Donkey Kong stomping at the top.

It made me feel, in that moment, tiny and timeless. After poorly playing two rounds and ultimately acquiescing to the family waiting patiently behind me, I realized I was playing a 1981 game in 2023, but from the low height of not even a child—more like a fingertip on the edge of a teacup, or a butterfly on thin hair of unmowed grass.

It was exciting to feel that small while having fun, like I did the first time I jumped in a pool’s deep end, or graduated school in the city I had returned to for the first time in years. As an adult, every day, work and taxes make everything feel like it’s suffocating me. Giant Donkey Kong didn’t save me from that, or, thankfully, topple over and crush me like a can. But it did help me remember that life is long, and there’s always an opportunity to play. I sometimes forget, but there’s still so much time for dreaming.


Source link

Leave feedback about this

  • Quality
  • Price
  • Service


Add Field


Add Field
Choose Image
Choose Video