For those of you unfamiliar with the arcade classic Paperboy, it was originally released by Atari in 1984. The game allowed you to assume the role of a boy who dished out newspapers along a suburban street on his bicycle. With a unique control scheme and layout, Paperboy was successful in convincing kids to shell out quarters with the hopes of making it through an entire week without getting fired for crashing too frequently into the many obstacles along your route.
Like many popular arcade games, Paperboy was eventually ported to various computer systems and video game consoles in the ensuing years. Though I have virtually no memory of ever playing the original stand-up version of the game, I actually bought and played the Commodore 64 version 20+ years ago. The cool Dennis the Menace-style artwork on the cover was intriguing, spurring me to bring home the 5 1/4 floppy and pop it into my noisy 1980s disk drive. As fun as the game was, I found it to be overly challenging. Though I would play it from time to time, I recognized that I would never actually complete the week on Easy Street (the main objective for a standard game). A year or two later, my friend Jimmy (who is coincidentally getting married this weekend) got the game for the original NES. He was better than I was, but, as far as I know, he never actually completed the week on Easy Street.
Nearly two decades later, having not thought about the game since the early 90s, I found out that it was to be released on the Xbox 360 for just $5 via their download service (Xbox Live Arcade). So a couple years ago, I gladly purchased Paperboy once again. This time, it was a direct port of the arcade game, meaning it was even more difficult than the already seemingly impossible versions I had been accustomed to. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the nostalgia, played it a few times and basically just let it sit on my hard drive.
A few weeks ago, out of the blue, I felt like giving the game a try again. This time I noticed that there was an Xbox Live achievement for actually completing a week on Easy Street — the impossible dream. I thought that with a little practice, I might actually be able to beat it. The thing is, I would typically just play the game for about 15 minutes or so, and that would be it. It would be different now because I’d actually dedicate a significant chunk of time to getting good.
At any rate, after a few attempts, I was still resigned to the fact that it was probably just never going to happen. However, I had friends over last weekend, one of which was Ham City Kev. He saw that I had been playing Paperboy, and he told me of a time in college that he managed to complete the week on Easy Street. Sure, he struggled mightily with this arcade version, failing to complete a single day, but I recognized he was rusty and that it really didn’t matter because he already did what I had forever failed to do. Naturally, being the mental patient that I am, I was jealous and now more motivated than ever to find a way to do it myself. In fact, this time I’d have a tangible record of it, thanks to the Xbox achievement system which would put on record the date I officially slayed the dragon that is Paperboy.
So it was my goal this past week to “beat” Paperboy. As one might imagine, I found myself getting progressively better as I played between one and two hours a day. Within the game, you start out on Monday and have to successfully complete seven straight days of deliveries. Though I was improving, I was still consistently dying on Saturday or Sunday, raising my video game frustration level to obscene heights which included minor temper tantrums of pounding my fist against the couch and the occasional curse word. It was driving me nuts because I’d be playing flawlessly and then make a stupid mistake to blow the game. Finally, after about 10 hours of game time during the week, in a game where I wasn’t even happy with my performance, I reached Sunday with NO LIVES left — so there was no margin for error. Miraculously, I pulled it off, and I felt a ridiculous amount of accomplishment when the completion achievement showed up on the screen. The monkey was off my back. It was probably the most satisfying video game victory of my entire life… whatever that means. Sure, it’s worthless in real life, but damn was that a rewarding moment!
Now I never want to play that fucking game ever again.