It’s my turn to name my favorite video game characters. And, to be honest, I had a really hard time coming up with some. Finally, I went with the ones I felt most connected to on a completely juvenile level. Because, well, isn’t that the point?
Note: You’ll see that I tried my best to limit this list to characters whose names start with ‘L’…
Lemmings – Lemmings
Oh, Lemmings: I spent so many hours in the early 1990s guiding these guys around obstacles and toward safety. They were amazing little pixel people, and I like to think that they were a wonderful representation of the poor, weak, and downtrodden of the world—but, you know, a much more fun version. If you never met a Lemming—one from this game, that is—do yourself a favor and figure out a way to play the game. It will do good things for your soul.
Lex – Bookworm
The first time I played Bookworm, I liked it. The first time I played Bookworm Adventures, I LOVED it. I was fortunate enough to play early versions and see how the team built up the game and created all the “mythology” within it.
Really, if you’ve never paid much attention to this game, you should—and you should read every word, because it’s hilarious. And Lex represents all that is good and hilarious and fun about Bookworm Adventures. Because, well, he’s the Bookworm.
Link – The Legend of Zelda
Link was — especially in the early incarnations — just a regular kid in a fantasy world. But it was up to him to battle the evil forces throughout Hyrule to save Princess Zelda. He didn’t have clever dialogue or anything, so it had to be that I just connected with him on a basic level: sure, he gained powers as you progressed in the game, but in the beginning he was basically just a normal kid. For me, pretending I was Link was a much easier thing to do than pretend I was an Italian plumber… and probably because it seemed to me so much easier to screw things up in Zelda… so I was always connected to Zelda’s save-the-princess game more than Mario.
Left Paddle – Pong
I don’t think this needs much explanation. Simply put: I was awesome from the left, and only mediocre from the right. And, also, thanks to A.J. for reminding me of this.
Listen: I care what you think about almost everything. But not this. You can argue for either paddle, if you like. But, as all the Democrats say: The left side is the best side. (Granted, they say that about things much less important than Pong.)
The L train stops here. And, can you blame me? Well, probably…
Soda Popinski – Punch Out!!
I’m not proud of this. There’s no good way to justify loving a character that is so clearly playing up racial stereotypes — possibly one of the worst of all the characters in a game 1Up.com called the fourth most racist video game ever. I mean, it’s like Nintendo created Popinski based on an early draft of Drago from Rocky IV — the one they scrapped because he was too offensive, even during the Cold War.
But the truth is: everybody loves a villain. During the Cold War — even right up to the end when Punch-Out!! arrived — America especially loved a Russian villain.
Soda Popinski was magical to me. I thought he was the toughest character to defeat in the original Punch-Out!! I thought the way he did the Kozachok dance mid-fight and guzzled soda (was it soda, or something more distinctly Russian? His name was originally supposed to be Vodka Drunkenski) between rounds was hilarious. And each time I played through the game, my goal was always to reach him — then get really angry when he pummeled Mac.