Video “Games”

It’s the early 80s. Exciting new video games like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man were appearing in 7-11s and pizza parlors. I wanted to bring these games into my home where I could play them to my heart’s content without the need for quarters. I had only a few options to do so. There are the Atari 2600 ports of these games which unfortunately were often lacking in the graphics and sound departments. There were the Coleco Mini-Arcade versions which were cool but not quite. There were other handheld electronic versions, particularly the Game and Watch variety. And then there were the board game versions.

Board game versions? That’s right. The geniuses at Milton Bradley took all the digital beauty of Donkey Kong and Pac-Man and captured it on plastic, paper, and cardboard. Sound lame? It’s not. Not at all. Both board game versions had 3-D interactive pieces that moved and acted. In Donkey Kong, there was a plastic Donkey Kong that actually dropped barrels when his arm was depressed, and in Pac-Man there was a plastic Pac-Man that gobbled up marble dots when he landed on them (actually, there were four Pac-Men; there was not just a yellow Pac-Man but a green, blue, and red one as well). The games then basically played like their pixelated sources: ghosts chased Pac-Man, Mario jumped barrels, etc.

Now both these games really suffered from the Mousetrap syndrome; the game pieces were more interesting than the game play. But that’s not such a bad thing. I had plenty of fun with the Donkey Kong and Pac-Men pieces. In fact, I think there were actually a couple of video game cross-overs; Pac-Man would get into Donkey Kong’s game and vice versa. You can’t do that on Atari.

There is a ton of video game-related merchandise out there, particularly Pac-Man and Donkey Kong merchandise: clothes, stuffed animals, toys, and other games. And I had a lot of it. But these two were some of the best. Hey, they were at least as good as the other versions of the time.


Doug is a child of the 80s who was raised in Ohio and is now living the life of oblivion in the bay area of California.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. I could play boardgames as often as I could play video games when I was a kid. The big problem I had though was that most boardgames where 2 players and up and I wanted to play when I wanted to play. So many times I would just play multiple players by myself, which is never as fun as you hope it will.

  2. We picked up Donkey Kong recently at a flea market but haven’t gotten around to playing it yet. You’ve inspired me to go dig it out of the hall closet.

  3. I loved the Pac-Man board game, and it actually kind of saddens me that the commercial for it doesn’t appear to be on YouTube — I definitely remember seeing it as a kid.

    As much as I liked Pac-Man and others I played (I remember Donkey Kong and Frogger), though, the best board game based on an arcade game was easily Centipede. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember the board game actually made me a bigger fan of the arcade game than I already was.

  4. Great post, Doug!

    I had Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger, and Q*Bert. I still have Q*bert, safely locked away in my Grandmother’s closet. It was the one “board game” that I didn’t really care for…until like two or three years later.

    I really liked reading how you had cross-overs on your board games, Doug. :)

  5. I still have the PacMan board game sitting on the shelf behind me, I haven’t looked in the box for a while so there might be pieces missing but it still makes me chuckle to look at it.

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