Once upon a time...
Nintendo Power Pad
By Aron Yeomanson
As my grandmother lay writhing in pain on the family room floor,
she couldn’t help laughing at my younger brother’s
lack of hesitation in continuing her quest to be the world track
“No Gramma, you’re gonna beat Horse!” he exclaimed,
wasting no time in taking her place running and jumping on the
seldom remembered phenomenon that was Nintendo’s Power Pad.
Paying little attention to our grandmother’s injury, he
concentrated on the task at hand. His six-year-old eyes were wide
with the anticipation of every hurdle while his legs pumped in
an indescribable fury. After all, we had never beaten Horse before.
The year was 1991, the game was World Class Track Meet, and my
Grandma’s pain was the result of suffering one of the only
video game related injuries of all time. After having thoroughly
impressed her grandsons, she had broken her ankle after jumping
on the ill-placed rectangular piece of plastic that served as a
housing for the power cord.
Created in 1988, the Power Pad was Nintendo’s attempt at
combining the wonderful world of video games with physical fitness
(there was no such thing as the Atkins diet back then). The square
mat had a series of circular ‘buttons’ on which players
placed their feet in an attempt to make their on-screen counterpart
mimic their actual physical moves.
Unfortunately, very few games were created for use with the Power
Pad. Titles such as Athletic World, Eggsplode, Dance Aerobics and
Street Cop gained some praise, but the most popular game was the
aforementioned World Class Track Meet.
The object was simply to beat your opponents head-to-head in various
track events such as long jump, triple jump, the 100 metre dash
and my grandmother’s nemesis — the hurdles. Possessing
two different play modes — the multi-player Elimination Mode
and the single player Tournament Mode — World Class Track
Meet had something for everyone.
Elimination Mode allowed up to eight players to compete against
each other in various events, making the Power Pad a viable party
time activity. Who wouldn’t want to watch their friends jump
up and down like idiots while trying to achieve greatness in Nintendo
Tournament Mode, on the other hand, was for the player who couldn’t
resist the prospect of challenging the game’s best characters
for a crack at the World Title. Competing in the legendary Nintendo
Stadium against such aptly named athletes as Turtle, Cheetah, Bob
Cat and Horse, you were forced to ignore the characters’ lame
text phrases, put your head down and hope to be the first to cross
the finish line.
For those who can’t fathom the awkward combination of sweating
and video games, you could always avoid physical activity (and
broken ankles ) by simply pounding the Power Pad with your fists.
Like Nintendo’s Power Glove, Power Pad never really caught
on. Likely failing due to a lack of compatible games and the sheer
wackiness of the concept of exercising while gaming, the Power
Pad will undoubtedly go down as the closest early video games ever
came to actually being sports.