SUPERJUMP
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SUPERJUMP

Inside the Arcade: Joust (1982)

Flap, flap, flap boom!

Being near an arcade without any money to play was just about the worst thing in the world. My brother and I would see the machines. We needed quarters, badly, and at 9 and 11 years old, we sometimes found them hard to come by.

However, my 16-year-old brother, the oldest of the bunch, had a job scooping ice cream, and, more often than not, he had money on him. But he wasn’t giving it away to his two knucklehead brothers, not for nothing. So he gladly used our insanity to entertain himself on more than one occasion.

Source: Ultrace.com.

In true oldest brother fashion, he would make me and the 11-year-old “earn” the quarters he might dole out. One time after dinner at a hamburger joint that had a few machines in the back he said, “Go outside and run around the restaurant three times screaming as loud as you can and I’ll give you each a quarter.” We both took off like a bolt. Nobody in the parking lot seemed to mind. It was the 80s and I guess people weren’t prone to be overly concerned about two young boys running around a restaurant screaming.

When we got back he might have made a plate of leftover food from the meal and dared us to eat it for a few more quarters. I had a lot of pickles a la gravy in those days. But the moral of the story is we’d get those quarters.

Entering any arcade back in those days one of the first games my 11-year-old brother and I would look for was Joust. It was a pretty popular and common machine, so we found it a lot.

Joust was one of the first two-player games that allowed you to play as a team. You weren’t competing against each other. You would each control a player and battle the AI opponents together. Playing Joust gave the two of us a break from fighting each other, and we loved it.

Side-by-side team play awaits. Source: rentmyarcade.net.

Before we got started though, my brother (and jousting partner) would always go to the bathroom to wash his hands so “no grease or ketchup” would interfere with him hitting the “flap” button. He took the game that seriously; it was like he was scrubbing up to perform surgery.

My brother preparing to joust. Source: grainger.com.

Once we dropped our quarters in the slot and we hit start, I’d take the guy atop the ostrich and he’d take the guy atop the stork. From that point on it was a flapping melee chock full of finding the high space above the flying computer knights, collecting eggs, and dodging that goddamn buzzard-like bird that came out to speed things along if you took your time or got stuck chasing the eggs that would fly all over the screen.

Later waves of fighters also added fun challenges like the flaming hands that could reach out from the lava and pull you under. There was nothing worse than sleeping on the job and getting yanked into a pit of fire when you weren’t looking. But like any good game, Joust got harder as you went along.

Joust would get nutty if you got far enough. Source: YouTube (Hector Chavez).

The funny thing is my older brother and jousting partner would often lose all his lives first. As seriously as he took the game, he just wasn’t as good as me. When he’d die he’d wander off to play other games and I’d finish up alone. I’d make it one or two more waves but eventually it became too much and I’d go down as well. Then I’d go out and search for other games to play on my own. And that would be it for Joust, at least for the day.

In the end, Joust wasn’t one of my favorite games of the era, but it will always have a special place in my heart. ‘Cause every time I play it at a classic arcade, I get to remember how this console was able to bring my brother and me closer together. And anyone who has a brother knows, that isn’t something that is always easy to do.

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Billy Hartong

Billy Hartong

Founder of the kid’s music group The Jolly Pops. Unofficial expert on all things that happened in the 1990s. Father of 3 daughters. Proud Minnesotan.

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