The Nintendo Entertainment System is one of the most iconic video game consoles of all time. One of the most memorable (if simplistic) games is Duck Hunt, the light gun shooter that was packaged with certain iterations of the console.
For my forthcoming book, The NES Omnibus: The Nintendo Entertainment System and Its Games, Volume 1 (A–L), which is now on Kickstarter, movie producer Krystle-Dawn M. Willing wrote a terrific nostalgic story about playing the game with her crazy uncle when she was a kid. There are other fun and interesting stories in the book as well from a variety of gaming historians and personalities, along with reviews, history, box art, screenshots, vintage ads, and much more.
Here’s an early look at said Duck Hunt story, months ahead of the book’s release:
As a young girl, I was fascinated and disgusted by my teenaged uncle. He was more like an older brother to me, or a strange creature comprised mostly of gas and junk food. While he took on the serious responsibility of teasing and terrifying me—sitting me on top of the refrigerator so I couldn’t get down and sitting me in front of horror movies for hours on end—he also introduced me to my very first video game.
Neil lived in the attic of my grandparents’ home. I remember attempting to sneak up the creaky wooden stairs, crawling through the tangle of shag carpet, and crouching at the end of his bed to marvel at his Nintendo. I wasn’t supposed to be up there. Not when he wasn’t home. Not when he was home and had friends over. Not when he was home and didn’t want to be bothered. There was some magic coordination of prerequisites that would sometimes align and result in him saying, “Hey! You wanna shoot some ducks?”
Duck Hunt was the first video game I ever saw. I had sometimes watched Neil play from the secret safety of the top of his stairs, feeling like a criminal spy after successfully scaling each squeaky step without being caught. The first time I saw him point the orange and grey gun at the TV and pull the trigger, the first time I saw the pixelated flapping duck—Quack, Flap, Flap, Quack—freeze with a vacant look of surprise on its blocky face and then drop to the eagerly awaiting dog, I couldn’t breathe.
Wide-eyed and afraid of being noticed, I watched in silence as the dog victoriously lifted each dead bird above his head with a beaming smile. Eventually—TWO DUCKS—one in each triumphant paw! And then it happened…BLAM BLAM BLAM, Flap, Quack, Flap, Flap…the duck flew off screen, the screen blinked briefly a light golden orange and then Neil’s trusty hunting companion laughed at him. I was so outraged and astonished that I gasped audibly. Neil turned toward me, but I was still locked on the screen. How could the dog betray him that way? Mock him? And then I noticed how royally pissed Neil happened to be. That 8-bit dog laughing made him angry.
I didn’t cover my mouth and snicker into my hands as the hound had, but I laughed. I laughed even though I knew each joyous burst of air may be my last. And that was when he said, “Oh yeah? You think you could do better?” And eventually I did. After hours of sitting on the scratchy carpet in the stuffy attic shooting two-player Duck Hunt with my uncle, I had my first perfect game. Then another. Each time Neil giving me a “not bad” or a “nice job” before we retreated to the kitchen for a celebratory Twin Pop. Eventually Neil called me up to his room while his friends were there, to show off the success of his training. “I bet my niece can beat you.” And I would. In your face, Stianche! Suck it, Frank!
Recently, Neil asked if we’d like an old tube TV from my grandmother’s house. My husband set it up in our basement, and we set out to an antique store to buy a working Nintendo and guns. Nothing quite compares to the thrill of the thud as a digital duck bites the dust, or the rage brought on by the giggle of that double-crosser dog. Our son now knows the joy and frustration that is Duck Hunt. Thanks, Neil. – Krystle-Dawn M. Willing, Producer of The King of Arcades
You can view sample pages from The NES Omnibus: The Nintendo Entertainment System and Its Games, Volume 1 (A–L) by checking out the Kickstarter.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support!