The Winter Olympics draws to a close this Sunday, and while I'm typically not much of a sports guy, I love the damn Olympics so damn hard and I've watched approximately 650 damn hours of it over the past couple weeks. I prefer the Summer Olympics over Winter, but really any old Olympics will make me happy, and as always I'm not quite ready for it to be over.
So I thought I'd keep it going—for a few extra minutes—by playing Winter Games, a sports game developed and released by Epyx (RIP) way back in 1985. I have hazy memories of playing this on my Apple II as a lad who, at the time, had probably never watched the actual Olympics.
I no longer have an Apple II, but thankfully you can find an emulated version of Winter Games at Archive.org and play it in a browser. You can play alone or compete with friends (locally—this was the 80's, remember). The game lets you practice each event, one by one, before playing through all of them in a row in a simulation of the Winter Olympics (and instead of two weeks, the whole thing only takes about ten minutes). I decided to practice the events a few times, then go for the gold.
I found some keyboard controls online, but they're a little hit or miss. Particularly in ice-skating practice, where my skater will sometimes turn when I tell her, sometimes jump and land when I tell her, but often will do whatever the hell she wants, and what she wants is to fall on her ass a lot. Maybe this just demonstrates you need years of training to become an Olympic athlete instead of, like, the three minutes I spent tentatively tapping keys.
In addition to two ice skating events (they're the same, except one is twice as long), there's the Hot Dog, in which you can score perfectly if you complete two different tricks in the same jump and land cleanly. During my practice runs I discover I can complete one trick, sometimes, and land, sometimes, so I'm not counting on bringing home the gold in this event.
Bobsled is actually pretty easy, once I figure out that tapping the arrow keys, rather than holding them down, will get me through the turns. After wiping out a few times, I feel pretty confident I can ace the course. There's also speed skating, which I blast through (again tapping arrow keys) and biathlon, that sort of weird sport where you cross country ski and then shoot at targets with a rifle. It's not simply hitting the spacebar when the target is lined up, you also have to load the gun between each shot with the up and down arrows. Realistic! Also, this event lasts so long my wrist begins cramping up and I quit before it's even over. My athletic resolve is already wavering.
Finally, there's the ski jump, where you need to keep your skier from leaning too far back or forward or having his skis cross, by adjusting him in midair with the arrow keys. You also need to remember not only to tap a key to start him down the ramp but also tap a key at the end of the ramp, or he'll just fall off the edge with a wet plop.
After a few minutes of practice at each event, I figure I'm ready to complete in the Olympics. Finally, my life-long dream of the past fifteen minutes is coming true. And I'm happy to say I completely crushed it! With the exception of the Hot Dog event, in which I completely forgot how to land, I crushed it. Okay, relatively speaking, I crushed it, given that I was playing alone and thus simply finishing an event without wiping out guaranteed me a gold medal.
I did genuinely do better at ice skating than I ever had before (except for maybe back in 1985), and I even landed a few jumps. You can watch my own personal Winter Olympics, which is twelve minutes long, in the video below. Don't forget to turn on the sound so you can hear the music (including the stirring Olympics theme) and sound effects, where everything from skiing to skating to landing to falling basically sounds like a fart.