If you’re not super into video games, you may not know that Nintendo began as a playing card company way back in 1889. Or that the NES, home to Super Mario Bros., was NOT the company’s first gaming console—It was the Color TV-Game (of which there were five iterations), introduced in Japan in 1977.
You can learn these arcane facts and much more by watching Playing With Power: The Nintendo Story (2021), a five-part series currently available on Crackle, a streaming service that is similar to Netflix, but is free of charge (unless you consider having to watch commercials a form of payment).
Why am I mentioning this? Because I’m actually in the documentary. That’s right, little ol' me appears periodically throughout all five episodes, talking Nintendo history amongst such luminaries as Wil Wheaton (“Wesley Crusher” in Star Trek the Next Generation), Tommy Tallarico (legendary video game music composer), Howard Phillips (former Nintendo spokesperson), Nolan Bushnell (Atari co-founder), and Tom Kalinske (former president and CEO of Sega of America). Sean Astin, famous for such films as The Goonies (1985), Rudy (1993), and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003), is the narrator.
I was in Playing With Power because I’ve written several books about Nintendo, and it probably doesn’t hurt that I know the director, Jeremy Snead, and that I live about 30 minutes from Dallas-based Mediajuice Studios, the company that produced the documentary. Regardless, I was extremely flattered to be asked, and it was a fantastic and rewarding experience, especially after being interviewed for two other video game documentaries—Video Games: The Movie (2014) and The Bits of Yesterday (2018)—and not appearing in either. (My appearance in the former was cut due to time constraints and the latter because the sound quality for my interview was poor.)
Well, I’m going to be in another Nintendo documentary, but this one was filmed in a place far, far away.
Earlier this year, I received the following email from Lucky 8 TV and The History Channel:
“I'm producing expert interviews for a new show that's unpacking the histories and business dealings of iconic companies. I'm in search of experts, historians, and journalists that could speak to the history and product line of Nintendo, and I'd love to connect with you for a potential on-camera interview. Might this be something you'd be into?
If so, we could schedule an introductory call this week and dive into some details. Thank you in advance and please don't hesitate to reach out at your convenience.”
After considering the proposition for about half a nanosecond, I said that yes, I would love to take part. A few weeks later, they flew me out to New York City to interview for a "snack-sized" episode of The Machines that Built America, a series debuting on The History Channel this summer. I’m not exactly sure when the Nintendo episode will premiere, but you can bet that I’ll be too nervous to eat popcorn while I watch myself on the small screen, trying to sound like I know what I’m talking about. In all seriousness, it was a wonderful trip and a great interview, and they treated me very well.
Lucky 8 TV hosted me for two nights at a hotel in Manhattan, but I decided to stay an extra night because I LOVE exploring New York City. My favorite way to do so is on foot, because you miss a lot if you travel by subway. Two of the four days I was there I walked nearly 20 miles, exploring the sights and sounds of a robust, multi-borough town that appears to be recovering very nicely with Covid restrictions finally being lifted.
I trekked across the Brooklyn Bridge, got a slice at Joe’s Pizza (twice), ate some amazing falafel from a food truck, rode a bike through Central Park, caught a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, hung out with the crazies in Times Square, saw a cool grunge band at the historical Café Wha?, checked out the new releases at Midtown Comics, and even did a little thrifting, antiquing, and used bookstore shopping. One thing is clear: vintage collectibles cost a lot more in New York City than they do in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, likely because real estate is much more expensive in The Big Apple than in Big D.
I also visited Nintendo New York, a two-story retail extravaganza in Manhattan loaded with memorabilia and swag, much of which you won’t find at Target or Walmart. The store even has a little museum featuring such items as a Famicom (the Japanese equivalent of the NES), some Game & Watch handhelds, a Virtual Boy (a failed 3D console), and a Color TV-Game console. You can watch my walkthrough of the store HERE.
So, while the interview was only an hour-and-a-half or so, I got the full New York experience, at least as much as you can in four days.
Now that I’ve appeared in Playing With Power: The Nintendo Story and will soon be seen on The History Channel, I’m ready to quit my writing job, move to Hollywood, get an agent, and lobby for a star on The Walk of Fame. Well, maybe not, but both experiences were fantastic, and I’m already looking forward to doing something similar in the future. After all, I love talking about video games, and if there happens to be a camera on me when I’m doing so, that’s a bonus.
If you haven’t already downloaded Crackle—which is, as I mentioned, a FREE app—you should do so. Not only does it feature my TV debut, it hosts a variety of movies and television programs, including the first two seasons of The Partridge Family. Groovy!