You’d be surprised how wide the sphere of Donkey Kong’s influence spreads. Just off the top of our heads, we know of at least three films that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Donkey Kong, a number of albums and –most importantly- several thousand video games. Hell, we’re willing to bet millions of people’s lives would be totally different had Shigeru Miyamoto not had that one Gorrila-based brainstorm...
People will look at a game nowadays and say it is innovative or revolutionary for the smallest things. (How did using bikes in Mario Kart redefine the industry?) However, when Donkey Kong came out, it included the biggest ‘new thing’ ever, once you overlook Tennis For Two’s revolutionary graphical display (Not as in being pretty like a today’s games. As in having graphics. At all.). Donkey Kong was the first-ever game to have a jump button. While it’s seen as standard now, back then this was a brand new idea. While technically, it wasn’t the first platform game, (That honour goes to Space Panic.) without Donkey Kong, the platform genre wouldn’t be what it is today.
Just think about how many games owe Donkey Kong a great debt of gratitude for this creation- Around 80% of modern games have some way to jump, and while chances are somebody else would come up with a game that let you boing around, nobody would have ever managed it in the style and with the sheer love Miyamoto gave it.
Development on Donkey Kong started in 1981. Then-Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi approached a young industrial designer who has been working in Nintendo’s semi-bankrupt company for almost five years. This young designer was none other than Shigeru Miyamoto, who, alongside a small team of Gunpei Yokoi and Yamauchi himself, would design and produce an original video game. Miyamoto’s original idea was that of a Popeye game: Bluto would sit at the top of the screen with Olive Oyl, while the player controlled Mr. Spinach himself, who had to avoid obstacles that Bluto was tossing at him.
However, Nintendo failed to get this license, and instead opted for new characters- There was Jumpman, an originally-named carpenter with a knack for –you guessed it- jumping, Pauline, (Who was originally just called ‘Lady’ in order to fit in with the imaginative naming scheme) Jumpmans’ girlfriend who was in need of rescue and then Donkey Kong, a huge ape that was jealous of Jumpman, decided to kidnap the girl and make off to the top of some scaffolding with her. Of course, we all know how this story ends, and what the characters went on to do. Pauline disappears before becoming the centre of attention again in a few Mario Vs Donkey Kong spin-off titles, Donkey Kong soon sheds the jealous attitude and develops a ‘Cool Dude’ mantra and a collection of annoying friends that could rival even Sonic the Hedgehog and Jumpman? He changes his name via. deed poll to Mario Mario and his occupation via. The Job Centre to Plumber, but never seems to do that- Together with his brother, Luigi, he decides a better way to make some income is to jump on turtle heads.
While most of you probably knew this, without Donkey Kong, we would be without the Mario series and all its spin-offs. And just a glance at what that franchise has brought us in terms of now-common innovation is even more remarkable than what Donkey Kong brought us. Super Mario Bros was the first-ever side-scrolling platform: A genre that has been going strong for 20 years, and has seen more realises than any other. Super Mario Kart was the first-ever mascot-based go-cart racer. While you may not miss them so much, it’s still remarkable that just about every family-friendly series now has one of them, and they’ve brought in so much money to the Gaming Industry, that without Super Mario Kart, we wouldn’t have seen any of that moolah.
The little innovations throughout Mario games go on. But the most important part of the inspiration Donkey Kong lead to was the success it brought Nintendo. Without this success, Nintendo never would have realised the Famicom, or as it is known in the west, the NES- Their first home console. Home video games where a dying art form back in the 80’s, and it is in no way an overstatement to suggest that the NES was responsible for the resurrection that lead to most homes containing a Wii or Xbox 360 today. Just imagine how games would be different if you only ways to play them where down the arcade or going online! You could, in a roundabout kinda way, put the fact that games are suitably long down to Donkey Kong.
These days, it’s easy to simply see Donkey Kong as ‘A classic’, or to leave recognition to the likes of South Park and The Simpsons- parodies without stopping to think: This simple little game is responsible for so much of modern pop culture. While Pac-Man and Space Invaders put video games on the map, Donkey Kong put them in your house, and you can’t say fairer than that.