Donkey Kong and the archival record

There is a great article over at Gamasutra regarding the development and production of Nintendo’s Donkey Kong arcade cabinets. The concept of uncredited “ghost” developers isn’t new, but it’s rare for it to invade the history of such a thoroughly-canonized game as Donkey Kong. Lots of food for thought across disciplines: it cuts right into concepts that are by no means unique to games, such as historiography, authorship, and the cultural privilege assigned to archival records over embodied knowledge.

There’s also just a lot of “who’da thunk?” design goodness in there:

The game the two companies created communicated quite a bit without the need for words. The decision to show the giant ape as he scaled the building’s scaffolds, to show Pauline crying for help, and to show the gorilla’s escape at the end of the level was a bold one at the time. Normally these things would just be implicit, but Miyamoto wanted to make sure the whole story, simple though it was, could be told on screen in a way that could be instantly grasped by players.

Interesting lessons to be learned from a time before introductory tutorials became standard fare.


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