Continuing tales from Counselor’s Corner

I’ll never get tired of doing interviews with former Nintendo Power Game Play Counselors. This being the fifth interview in the series, I admit it gets hard to ask different questions but this time my subject took his time to elaborate like none of the others.

Big thanks to Thomas Zuccotti for taking the time to do the interview (any my apologies for taking so long to get it published). He covers a lot in this interview including Nintendo Power’s transition from the legendary GPC binders to their database system ELMO.

This is Part 5 from the Tales from Counselor’s Corner interview series. You might want to start at the beginning if you haven’t read them yet.

Interview with Thomas Zuccotti, former Game Play Counselor

Morning Toast: Lets start where they all start…how did you end up at Nintendo? What, where, who and when did it all came together for you to land the Game Play Counselor job?

Thomas Zuccotti: Let me see, well Matt Glidden was the one who got me in the door.  I forget if he was the first of us or if it was Paul or another.  I was a huge video gamer from a young age and when I found out my friend was working at Nintendo well you can imagine how I felt.  At the time everyone was hired, at least initially, as a contractor.  Usually the contract agency was to bring them candidates but how it worked for me was that Matt got me an introduction to a guy named Steve Pennington.  He was a manager in the call center and after a conversation with him they said they’d give me a try.

So I called the contract agency and they hired me to shop me to Nintendo.  An odd dance but back then a lot of Seattle companies were doing the contractor before full-time strategy.  Anyway you were hired through this temp agency and then you went into training.  You had something like two weeks to complete X number of games.  I wish for the life of me I remembered all of them, the list was always changing based on what had recently come out and what made up a large percentage of the calls.  The first two Zelda’s were part of the list but I’m not sure I remember the others.  I remember it not being that hard to complete the games in the time limit.  I finished early and had some time with other games like the hot new title Cobra Triangle or Metal Gear.  Man I feel old sometimes…

Metal Gear

Metal Gear

Another curious anecdote is that I had all my interviews before I was legally allowed to be employed in the State of Washington. At the time the law was something like you could only work limited hours until you were 16 and at 16 you could do 20 hours.  Frankly I’m not sure the exact date but I do know that I started at Nintendo before the Christmas before my 16th birthday.  It was pretty crazy. My parents were never into the idea that I work in high school, believing that my “work” was school but after I went off on my own, found a job and had an offer they had a hard time saying no.

The reasons I’d wanted the job was, yea I know get this…I’d wanted an NES.  My parents didn’t believe in video games and so I had to make do with the family PC (Lode Runner for the win!) and a few other games but never an NES in the house.  But when you became a GPC they GAVE you an NES.  Frankly they could have not paid me for the first year or so and the NES would have been enough.  Between that and the games library you basically could play any game you wanted for free.

Another curious thing, and I may be wrong here but, I don’t remember any real training for how to deal with customers.  I mean we had to play the games through in X time and we got some limited instruction but when you think that it was a customer service job you’d think they’d have put more time into making us into oh, I don’t know, better at customer service.  But I really don’t remember any training for how to speak to customers.  All I remember is some time where you got to take calls with some other more senior GPC’s  listening in who would provide advice.  Mine was a counselor named Tony Stanwhyck (probably mispelled), he was there when I took my first call. It was pretty exciting for me, a question about a game no one remembers called City Connection.  I was so nervous being that I’d not played that game.  Back then most of our calls were on a fairly narrow number of games and training was really focused on those.  Tony however had played the games and after I put the customer on hold he gave me the answer and I repeated it back to a happy customer.  I was rather proud when they said “thanks” and hung up.  I was hooked at that point.  Adults were going to ask ME questions and I was determined to have the answers for them.

A side note, Tony passed away driving back from E3 a few years later.  I never knew him that well but I remember the department being pretty banged up for his loss. You’d have to find one of the more senior guys to tell you officially how big we were back then but I felt that we all knew each other and that the group was rather small.  Later on we became so big that you didn’t know half the GPC’s but in the beginning it at least felt like we all knew each other.

MT: You mentioned in e-mail that the Nintendo Power call center where all the GPCs were was a mixing pot of people. Old…young…gamers…non-gamers…what was that like for you? Did that create problems or was it not a big deal?

I’m not sure any of us were non-gamers.  Sure there were people who weren’t as into games (Matt and I used to go to the arcade on our lunch in a 10 hours shift and play games…man that’s sad *grin*) but to do the job you really had to play and understand games.  Later in my time there they tried to make it a job anyone could do. Like when you call Dell or someplace today and get a guy on the phone who clearly has no idea what he’s talking about and is just reading from a script. Back in the early days we all really knew our stuff, there was no real training on the games and you just had each other for help. It was pretty bush league but also pretty special.

As I said above I was pretty young, 15 or 16, but there were people there who were so very old to me *laughs*.  They were probably in their mid-30s.  There was a career path for some, be a GPC, then a lead (someone who managed GPC’s) and then maybe into product development.  It was a serious career for people and in truth I’ve run into a number of folks from Nintendo over the years who later worked or still do in the game industry.  For me it wasn’t meant as a career. I was going to go to college and be an attorney. The time at Nintendo was pretty special though, getting paid to play video games was pretty much a dream come true.  Sure there were downsides but overall it was an amazing job.

As for tensions or problems, there probably were some that I wasn’t as aware of.  I’m sure some of my “peers” thought some of us pretty immature and as I think Matt mentioned in his interview it was very much a toy company.  There were some pranks and hijinks that went on and certainly having some kids from high school gave the place a certain feel.  It always felt a “young” place to me. That said I also remember having adults as “friends” there. Some of my first real friendships with people not my age. As I mentioned we all had to have some interest in games so this was a good basis to build a relationship on. Sure I may be 20 years your junior but if I’ve got the info on Snake Rattle and Roll and I can give it to you efficiently and effectively you’re not gonna care a whole lot how old I was. The same was true for me. If you were an adult and was good at games you were still pretty darn cool in my book.

MT: I recently interviewed Matthew Glidden about his GPC days and you mentioned that you guys were somewhat of a running crew back in those days. Talk a bit about your GPC posse and how it came about. Did you guys have a rival gang?

*laughs* Yea…we were. There were a few “groups” as I recall, and they were somewhat stratified by age but more so when you came into being a GPC.  Who trained you as a GPC, i.e. who was running training when you went through was a question we used to ask each other, or what games did you play in training was another.  They were shorthand for how long you’d been there really.  Groups that came in at the same era tended to know each other better than you knew guys before or after you.

Anyway Matt and I, well we were friends before Nintendo, though not hugely close. I met him through a mutual friend in high school and we became very good friends through our Nintendo days.  There was a time we were pretty inseparable and at work there were various names for us.  “The Dust Bowl” twins was one, “Squash and Zucchini” was another.  We were the two younger guys on our team (we were broken up into teams managed by leads) and even after we didn’t work on the same team we hung out a lot together.  Paul, Caesar, Shane and a few others were part of the group.  We tended to sit near each other in the call center as well.  I think we also tended to group around types of games.  I remember we used to plug 1 NES into several TV’s (via splitters) and we could play “multiplayer” that way.  There was a crew of us that played the old Koi games like that.

MT: Getting a job as a GPC when you’re a teenager in high school had to be awesome. The 16-year-old in me thinks that getting paid to play games for eight hours a day would never get old, but did that job kill gaming fun at all, even as a kid?

It was pretty awesome.  Still is when I think back to it, I often say it was the best job I ever had.  There were hard days, 10 hour shifts on Saturday with no game you really wanted to play and question after question about where that last heart container was (always hard because I bet you don’t remember where the first 23 you found where do you?)  Or maybe you’d also like to know where the hammer is in the Adventures of Link.  I swear if I ever meet the guy who designed that game I’m going to have a few words about usability and user testing.

Legend of Zelda 2

The hammer

But by and large it was a pretty great job.  My favorite times were when we’d get a new game and be playing it as the same time the customers were.  It was pretty cool to feel like you were in a race.

As for killing the fun, no it never really got old to play the games.  Heck at lunch we’d play games generally.  Sure you might get tired of a certain game, or maybe a type of game but the NES had a huge range of titles, action, RPG, strategy.  A pretty amazing catalog and they were generally quite good.

The games were never the hard part, being on the phone with little break could be.  A 10 hour shift with an hour for lunch and two 15 min breaks could be really grueling.  The calls kept coming, literally as you hung up you’d have about three seconds while the next one connected.  It could take a lot out of you but never enough to make you dislike games.

MT: Were you told what games to play as a GPC, or did you get to pick and choose from a list or something? Did senior staff get first dibs on games to play?

When I was there it was amazingly unorganized.  We all played pretty much what we wanted. For the older more obscure games we’d have say one to three guys in the place who knew them (As Matt did with Solomon’s Key or I did with Mighty Bomb Jack).  Raid on Bungling Bay was another Matt game as I recall.  But for the big games we all played them.  I think every counselor cursed his way through Faxanadu.

New games came in and there was a guy in charge of the library you could maybe sweet talk into giving you a copy.  There wasn’t a formal process I remember, and there were never enough of new games at first.  Generally I think four to eight copies of most games came in, but they were played pretty fast and I don’t remember waiting that long for any game I really wanted to play.   Actually I think we had a sign-up sheet once a game was in, sort of how a library hold list works. Some of the publishers were more generous.  Nintendo games (as in made by Nintendo) we’d get early and many copies.  We’d really be ready for a new Nintendo release.  Other times it was an 11th hour thing.  It wasn’t all that uncommon when I started (it got better over time) for a consumer to call and ask a question about a game we’d just gotten that day.

MT: In your original comment you said about working as a GPC that “you [had] to be pretty damn good to be looked on as one of the best players”. What qualified for “being good” amongst your co-workers and supervisors? And where did you fall on the totem pole of video game awesomeness around the office?

I can’t speak for everyone but my memory is that two things got you noticed by the other GPC’s (managers valued other things), game skill and game knowledge.

Side note on things published in Nintendo power.  Eventually it got fairly out of hand regarding what we claimed in Nintendo power.  Most claims were real but as you can see it became funny to think up impossible things and see how far you could go.   Other times people wanted to claim things that we obviously couldn’t print, I remember one lady wanting to claim “boned link.”  So yes, some of the Nintendo power claims were made up.

Anyway, game skill got you noticed.  Finishing Mega Man on 3 lives, no continues (try that it’s NOT easy) or even just finishing games.  Matt, as I recall finished Battletoads, a feat that I never came close to achieving.  Before we had things like Street Fighter (fight games were big in the department once they hit, I honestly think we had some of the best players in the world for Killer Instinct, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat)  or head to head games you competed with your colleagues by doing things that everyone thought was crazy hard, etc.  After all we had 20 to 40 hours a week (I worked 20 in the school year and 40 in summers and on break) to play games so.. why not?  One guy beat Final Fantasy (original NES version) using four white wizards named “no”, “way”, “to”, “win” and that type of thing.  A lot of the achievements were more notoriety than skill really.  Finished Dragon Warrior using only the a “stick” as a weapon and the like.

mighty-bomb-jack-usaThe other thing that got you noticed, and my recollection is that this was actually more important than raw skill, was knowing the games.  You see we didn’t have a central repository of knowledge so if you got a call on say, Solstice, there were three maybe four guys on the whole team who could actually answer the question.  To get an answer you’d have to put your customer on hold and go find someone who knew the game.   The great counselors all had some arcane knowledge of games that very few of us knew.  Matt and I actually went through a phase where we played all these crazy ass old games like Athena and such.  No one really played them anymore but maybe once a week or a month we’d get a call and other GPC’s would know we knew the game and come ask.  It felt really good to have game knowledge about some game that was rare.

Oddly there was never a culture of hoarding knowledge. I remember GPC’s being really generous with their notes and maps etc.  I remember taking calls while copying other counselors maps.  We didn’t always play games on the phones actually.  There were all kinds of distractions people used but I digress.

Anyway, game knowledge was really important to us. We took pride in “knowing” the games inside out, backwards and forwards.  When you called and asked a question you really were getting an expert.  I’m sure we knew the games better than some of the designers that built the games.  This used to shock me but given that I work in the industry now I’m used to it, the testers ALWAYS know the game the best *grin*.

As for my own claim to fame?  Mighty Bomb Jack was a game that I can say probably only one other guy was my equal at.  I rocked Snake Rattle and Roll, one of Rare’s early games and a personal favorite.  I was pretty damn good at Street Fighter but certainly there were those that could beat me.  Hmmm, what else.. I wouldn’t say I was one of the best game players but I like to think I was in the top 30% or so.

My better claim to fame was game knowledge.  As I said I went through this period where I was super diligent playing all these old Nintendo games, games that were there in the first year or release that I can hardly remember now.  Later on at Nintendo, when I worked part time in college, I remember being more valuable in a way.  I’d been there back in the early days and still remembered all the old odd games.  As time went on the volume of calls shifted to the newer “big” games.  So when we got an odd call on some early game the new guys didn’t know the title, and they came to ask me.  When the emulator craze hit on the pc 10 to 12 years ago I remember wowing my team with knowing how to finish all these games on the NES *laughs*.

Geeky but hey, it’s still up there in my head if I play the title.  I was surprised how much I remembered once I started playing through some of the old NES games.  One wonders what great things I could have accomplished if I’d put more of my time and effort into learning something like math or music.  *chuckles*

MT: You talk about “getting noticed” with game knowledge and skill. How were the GPC’s evaluated by supervisors? Were you given some sort of test or asked to finish a game within a time limit? How much did they consider your customer service ability?

Reviews consisted of your manager, unknown to you, tapping into your call and listening in how you handled yourself with the customer.  I vaguely recall them happening once a week or so.  Not sure.  Anyway they’d listen in on your call and give you a grade on things like how courteous you were, how you answered the question, etc.  It wasn’t that hard really.   Though to be fair there were times late at night where counselors could get, how shall I say, mischievous?  Telling customers that yes they could do something that they couldn’t or putting them on hold for a while we “checked” for a continue code that we all knew didn’t exist, but this was generally only late on a shift and exclusively to folks that were being rude or difficult.  I mean you tried really hard to help but when you offered the advice and the person on the other end insisted that you were wrong it could be frustrating. Anyway, so you were monitored by your manager a few times a month and rated on a 1 to 5 scale on various things.

There were also a collection of stats about your average call time, how much time you sat “idle”, meaning at your desk but not letting calls come through, and some other things.  These were a bit more draconian, especially the average call time as you really didn’t have much control over that.  If someone wanted to find that last heart container in Link to the Past you had to walk them through pretty much all of them.  Still I don’t remember anyone really failing on the stats badly.

As for your game skills they sorted you out in training.  Again, I don’t think many failed out but some did.  You had to finish a set number of games in a set number of days.  If you were pretty good at games it was pretty easy.

Obviously the core values Nintendo wanted out of the call center were a bit different than what the counselors valued.  It was a customer service arm for Nintendo and ultimately they wanted the most customers helped in the least amount of time.

 MT: I assume being Counselor wasn’t exactly a dead end job, so what types of promotions were there for GPCs? Did you ever move up the ranks at Nintendo?

 It was an entry job to a lot of folks, similar to how “testers” are today at a lot of games companies.  Some really stayed at the Big N for a long time.  The first and easiest was to be “cross trained” so that you could do raw customer service calls about setting up your NES or returning it for service, etc.  This netted you some pay bump and a lot of counselors did it.  We even had a title for it, made you a Super Counselor!  The downside was you got calls that weren’t about games, and those were generally less fun.

Another path was to become a “lead” and manage other teams of counselors.  Some even moved into product development or what later became known as “The Tree House” which were basically dedicated games testers.  Matt Glidden would know more about that as I left to go to college rather than advance at Nintendo.  I did a bit of testing before I left, but for me it was really a job before college.

I know it sounds crazy but I had no ambition to really work in games.  I loved them but it was something that I did before becoming an adult.  I cried on my last day and figured I was done with games.  I came back to do some work in the summers but after two years of that I found other gigs in the summer.  Ironically though after college I got a job in games largely on the backs of my Nintendo background.  Crazy world.

MT: Other GPCs I’ve interviewed have touched on how “low tech” everything was but I still find it fascinating that the GPCs were doing the same thing I was doing as a kid…writing notes and drawing maps! Was there any effort to standardize how people took notes or maps? Who around the office had the best notes and maps? What were the crown jewels of your game binders?

Well, you’re interviewing a lot of guys that started in the late 80s or early 90s.  Back in the early days it was fairly bush league but it did become more organized, and sadly more corporate, over time.

But yes, when I was there we literally had graph paper and colored pencils (all of which we bought ourselves actually) and we collected information as we went.  For new games we sometimes gave people “off phone time” to play through the game with more focus and had them pass out notes on the game.  There were guys who took really good notes or made really good maps that we tended to copy.  But it was really primitive.

Basically we had…four or six “green manuals” that had standard information in them.  Copies of things that counselors had made.  We all added to these our own stuff and sometimes when a new game came out we’d pass around some map someone made but there wasn’t a lot of standardization.  Some guys had great maps of some games when you didn’t.  When you found out you asked if you could copy them *Grin*.   Later we tried to do a cover sheet for each game with some standard Q & A for the game but I don’t remember that ever getting very far.  Some of the notes were pretty darn cryptic!

There were totally people with better maps and note skills.  The counselor you interviewed earlier who talked about Solstice made beautiful maps.  I had copies of his maps as I recall.   I made some very detailed maps of some games, I think we all did.  It was fun and a way to pass the time.

My crown jewels?  Hmm, I had a color Xerox of the map that came in the manual of Legacy of the Wizard.  Remember, color copies were rare back then but it was VERY helpful in figuring out where people were stuck in the game.  I remember some neat cheat sheets about heart container locations and the like.  I had a really obscure collection of maps on things like Mighty Bomb Jack that I put WAY more time and effort into than that game ever needed *chuckles*. My wife tells me I saved some of them, I will dig some up in a few weeks maybe and I can send you what I have.  I don’t think Nintendo would complain at this point.  Technically the maps were the property of Nintendo and some counselors even got in trouble for quitting and trying to publish parts of the green manuals.  However, given the time I don’t think anyone will mind.

Nintendo Power Game Binder

MT: You mentioned in a comment that eventually everything switched over to a database named ELMO. Talk a bit about that transition from paper to bits. Did you have to transcribe all your binder notes? How were maps handled? And what happened to all the hand-written notes and binders?

Ahh ELMO, the cursed computer!  This was NOT a popular decision by Nintendo.  I think some of it was a fear of being replaced by a machine (somewhat ironic since eventually the GPC’s were replaced so maybe not an irrational fear).  But more than this ELMO was disliked because it was sucky.  It was all text so it had no maps, it was all standardized so it didn’t have all the information you wanted.  But in time it came to replace the manuals as the first line of defense.  When I was there it was never anything more than a first line, to really help someone with a hard questions you needed maps and more detailed notes.  Nintendo phased out the green manuals and used ELMO but most of us had our own binders with other information not in ELMO.

Actually that’s an interesting digression that I’m not sure I or anyone else covered.  So like most customer service the vast majority of our questions were from a very narrow set.  I’m sure the managers had stats on this but my recollection is something like 50% of our questions were from a pool of say 10 questions.  Nintendo had big hits like we have in games today so when the Adventures of Link came out it made up a lot of our questions.  And inside that game there were a few common places to get stuck.  A grand example is “where is the hammer in the Adventures of Link” or maybe “Where are the three flutes in Super Mario Brothers 3.”  Elmo was good at these types of questions and you could cover another 30% of pretty standard questions from a wider range of games.  But the last 20% where crazy stuff that was uncommon, for these  questions ELMO hadn’t a prayer of being helpful.

But back to your questions about ELMO.  As I recall it started like this.  We were told that ELMO (which stood for “ever lead made obsolete”, or at least that was the joke) was coming. Several people were used to populate the database but it was a fairly small team.  ELMO was really limited, remember this was the DOS world, all text, no mouse, 4 colors etc.  It was a folder system of sorts and they tried to sort the information logically but it could be hard to find information in the database.

But yes they transcribed some information from the Green Manuals into Elmo.  No maps to speak of which was really the terminal flaw in my opinion.   Answers were also written out so that you could maybe read the info to the consumer even if you had played the game.  In many ways ELMO was a precursor to what you see in recorded voice trees just with a person doing the search and giving you the information sometimes without the benefit of having played the game.  I really hated it.  I kept my manuals to the bitter end.

I think the target for the launch of ELMO was 800 games or something.  A few of us tried to race to see if we could master more games than ELMO. Again Matt did it, I think I did but my memory is foggy about that.  There was certainly a smugness I remember for having “better” information than was in ELMO.  Maybe in some ways ELMO did make us lazy.  ELMO gave you a lot of base info on a lot of games, and as I mentioned above you could really get by on that for most of your calls.  But at least in the early days we scorned the thing and really stuck to our old school ways.  I suspect as newer councilors came in and the old guard left this changed things.   I’d be curious if you can find a GPC from late in the day.  I think Paul or Matt may know of some.  I wonder how it changed from when I was there.

MT: Technology has a way of being a double-edge sword. Did ELMO actually help, or was it more a pain in the ass than having your binders handy?

Yea, as I said above ELMO wasn’t really helpful to us.  It was a lowest common denominator thing.  It brought up the bottom of the department but didn’t really help the vast majority of us.  At least that is my memory.  I remember hating the thing *grin*.  May have gotten better in time but when I was there it certainly wasn’t the preferred method of getting knowledge about the games.

I should call out that this is in NO way a ding on the people that entered the info, more just the tool and the clumsiness of it.  No mouse, no pictures, you forget how bad computers were before the web for making information easy to find.

MT: I sense that when you (and others) started as GPCs that there was this fun feeling of “anything goes” because after all, you were young and the first people to do this type of thing. So was that type of spirit killed a bit when things like ELMO came along and applied some rules and structure? Was there a rejection of change around GPC HQ?

Yea, I’d say that’s a fair summary.  It was pretty seat of your pants, Nintendo was a big hit, we were expanding like mad, trying to figure out how to give good service etc.   Later on things did change.  I can’t be sure of why but I believe the call center was a huge target for its cost and no clear line of revenue.  The feel of the place certainly changed and became more corporate and less “fun” in general.

I think that happens to most businesses I’ve been part of though, in the big N’s defense.  When you start everything is possible, the world is new etc.  Then something happens that’s bad, business turns south, someone steals something etc and you have to put rules in place. Each rule changes the place a little and slowly over time you end up with a very different feel.

But all my caveats aside certainly my impression was very much what you outline.  When I started it was  a pretty zany place, we had pranks  and a certain lack of maturity that, sure it wasn’t professional but it kept the energy up.  We did our jobs with full focus and seriousness even then and I think we were “better” at our jobs back then.  Once they tried to formalize what advice we gave, how we gave it etc, I think the level our  service  dropped off, certainly the general passion of the place slowly left.  You saw more people less passionate about the games etc.  Elmo was a symptom of it but not really the driving factor.

MT: It sounds like most of your time at Nintendo was a lot of fun, but overall, what was a good day for Thomas Zuccotti?

Yes, as I mentioned sometime before, I skipped my high school graduation to work a night at Nintendo.  I cried when I left to go to college.  I was very into the place, in way I think you can only really be when you’re young.  I’m sure my older self would look down at me, my idealism and the like but, certainly I enjoyed working there.  I still often say it’s the best job I’ve ever had.

So  a good day.  Let me see, a new game to play, people who were into cool games (and not the ones that everyone else played!) and sometime between calls.   I remember loving a particular Saturday morning playing Crystalis.  It was out a bit ago but I’d not played it.  I didn’t feel I had to rush through the game and was really just playing at a normal pace.  I got there for my shift at 10am, things were a bit slow and the calls were coming in say every 30 seconds or so.  I remember thinking “I’m pretty damn lucky.”

MT: And what constituted a bad day at Nintendo?

A bad day was one where the calls just kept coming in.  Calls on the same game or worse calls on games like Legacy of the Wizard, a game SO hard they shipped a map with the damn game to tell you where to go and it was still massively hard to finish.  Hard calls with people who weren’t really patient could take a lot out of you.  Or customers that were belligerent.  One of the lessons I learned from my Nintendo time was that even when I’m angry when I call customer service I try to be very clear that I am NOT angry at that person, but at the policy or something their company had done.

But yea, the callers really controlled how good the day was for me.  Cool games were fun but the interactions with the customers generally made the day good or bad for me.

MT: Now lets hit on some games. What NES game do you consider “your” game?

Oh let me see.  I am probably one of handful of people on the planet to finish Snake Rattle and Roll without a continue.  Equally so of my knowledge of Mighty Bomb Jack and  Nobunaga’s Ambition. I was pretty proud of my skills at, a soccer  game called Goal .. a few others maybe.  *smiles a bit in self mockery*  Funny, at the time this stuff really mattered, now I can hardly remember.  I played through all the Mega Man games what felt like 1000 times.  I could do some of the jumping timing puzzles almost literally with my eyes closed.

MT: What was the single worst NES or SNES game you had to play only because you were a Game Play Counselor?

OMG, we could do an interview on this.  Ok, first off you have to remember how HARD old games where.  Seriously go play some of the old games if you can.  Take Battletoads…when I finished the first area of Battletoads I thought “Ok, I’m near the end of the game” and there are like 16 levels!  And that game isn’t nearly as hard as some.  I played Mega Man the original on the DS a year or 3 back and couldn’t beat the first boss.

Ok, so with that basis.. Athena has to be on this list.  Just a horrid game and to boot crazy hard.  Legacy of the Wizard, should be encased in concrete, eldritch signs carved all over the surface and people told never to go near.  It was nominally a puzzle game side scroller but it was actually sent from hell…just to torment me *grin*.

Almost anything based on a movie IP from acclaim.  OH!  Who framed roger rabbit was certainly a game that was pretty horrid, and because of the movie tie it sold reasonably well and we got a fair number of calls on it.

That was really where they bad games cropped up.  I mean Athena I played because hardly anyone had and I wanted to have knowledge others didn’t.  Legacy of the Wizard and Who Framed Roger Rabbit are examples of the other type of games.  Namely, those that sold well and you kinda felt you had to play so you could answer questions but you wondered will the while as you played why you hated yourself so much!

I could go on but I think only I and other counselors would get the jokes really.  Remember there were a lot of titles, and we got them all, even the sucky ones!

A look behind the curtain

Again, I want to thank Thomas for taking us down his own personal memory lane. While kids like me where trying to complete the best games the NES had to offer, guys like him were living the dream of playing them all day, every day…along with a few other things.

If you’re interested in hearing more stories from the glory days of Nintendo and Nintendo Power, check out the complete Tales from Counselor’s Corner series, as well as personal letters that I received from Nintendo Power.