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Gamer Tuesday

September 25, 2012

Pap the Disney Gamer's Highlights: Video Game History at the Pop Century Resort

Having just been to Walt Disney World for the first time ever, one of the things I loved the most about it is how every single place at the resort tells a story. Whether it is a classic Disney story such as Cinderella or Dumbo or a brand new one created just for the resort, the folks at Disney put all their heart and soul into making sure guests from around the world feel like they are partaking in a wonderful narrative. The Pop Century Resort is no exception to the rule. The story of Pop Century is that you are surrounded in the greatest moments of American pop culture history as defined through the decades. You start from the classy yet fun 50s and end in the technological 90s.

Each building housing the guest rooms is modeled after a different era. The design of the buildings consists of giant Disney character statues that best represent the era (such as Mowgli and Baloo in the 60s section), handrails that feature designs such as flowers, and giant dancers that represent the dances that were popular during that specific era. For a value resort, Pop Century certainly goes all out with its theming.

Today I will be talking about the video game references one can find in the resort as celebration of pop culture. Video games have always been part of the innovations one could experience in the different eras on display at Pop Century. The 70s saw the birth of gaming through simple yet addictive games like Pong, while the Atari 2600 made history by being one of the first home gaming consoles, featuring a vast library of games. While in the lobby of Pop Century you can find an Atari system on display alongside other memorabilia of the different decades.

But that's not all! In the lobby there is also a display that features toys from the 80s and 90s. The 90s in particular features two very popular gaming systems. The very first is Nintendo's Game Boy handheld. While it was released in 1989 in North America, it received a great push during the mid-to-late 90s thanks to the blockbuster release of Pokemon in 1998. During this era, the Game Boy was re-released in different colors and models, including the very popular Game Boy Color which finally added a color screen to the games. The Game Boy name would become one of the longest lasting names in the industry, finally ending with the release of the Nintendo DS in 2004.

The Game Boy on display at Pop Century is one of the original models, which has been lovingly dubbed the big grey brick. Alongside the Game Boy are two games: Tetris and Super Mario Land. Tetris needs no introduction whatsoever. One of the first Game Boy pack in games, Tetris was also one of the games that propelled the Game Boy into pop culture history. The game is shockingly simple in its execution, yet it was quite challenging and very hard to master. There have been hundreds of releases under the Tetris name, including a Disney version.

Super Mario Land was the very first Super Mario sidescrolling game ever released (not counting the previously released Game and Watch units). The game itself was very simple, especially when compared to its Nintendo Entertainment System counterpart. Yet, it was this simplicity that made it perfect for short bursts of gaming. Super Mario Land introduced Princess Daisy from Sarasaland. Princess Daisy would remain largely forgotten until 2000 when she was re-introduced as a playable character in Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64. Since then, Princess Daisy has been a recurring character in the expansion Super Mario cast.

On this same display is a Sega Dreamcast system. The Sega Dreamcast was released on September 9, 1999 (or the more cryptic 9/9/99), signaling the start of a new era in gaming. To this day, the Dreamcast is considered to be one of the best gaming systems ever thanks to a very eclectic selection of games that includes both 2D and 3D arcade fighters, platformers, sports games, and online RPGs. In fact, the Dreamcast was one of the first systems known for its expansive online capabilities. Unfortunately, the much hyped PlayStation 2 was just around the corner, and people largely ignored the Dreamcast, making it the absolute last system Sega would release. Afterwards, Sega became a third party game developer, providing its intellectual properties to various gaming systems and companies.

Let's travel over to the 80s section of Pop Century. As with the rest of this resort, this section is adorned with everything that made the 80s an unforgettable era, including break dancers, the phrase 'YUPPIES' and the one and only Roger Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The buildings here are surrounded by elements of the very famous arcade game, Pac-Man. Pac-Man, developed by Namco and distributed in North America by Midway Games, was released on May 21, 1980 to massive success. The existence of Pac-Man shaped the American arcade scene in the 1980s, releasing in the process a slew of video game staples like Donkey Kong, Q*Bert, Frogger, and many more.


This orange ghost may later become familiar to Disney fans as he becomes one of Ralph's counselors in the upcoming film 'Wreck-It-Ralph'

The famed Pac-Man ghosts surround the buildings, alongside pieces of the Pac-Man mazes and the ever elusive pellets and power pellets. The font featured on the phrases is the Pac-Man font. But with all the Pac-Man references sprinkled throughout, just where is Pac-Man himself? Well, Disney Imagineers have cleverly hidden him in a way you wouldn't expect to see him. The word 'RADICAL' is in one of the buildings in pink. The 'C' in the word has eyes and a very familiar shape. That right there is Pac-Man!

Even if you are a big gamer or the most casual gamer in the world, there is no denying that gaming has defined several generations of people in some way, shape or form. The designers of Pop Century knew that they had to pay tribute to them while keeping the attention to detail Disney is known for intact. The way the buildings are presented beautifully show us just how a simple game of a circle man eating ghosts made not just gaming history, but whimsically represents a bygone era. If you are a gamer that is going to Disney, a stay at Pop Century is recommended. Even if you don't get the 80s era, gaming's presence will be felt throughout.

 

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