Wednesday Column

1989: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Growing Up as a Gamer and the Tyranny of Bedtime)

InfernalMage “The following is a contributor column by the Infernal Accountant Mage.”

Young me didn’t really have his head wrapped around the concept of time. For a kid, I guess it really doesn’t matter all that much. Hours would blend together into days, in turn blending into weeks, in turn blending into months, on and on for as long as I could remember. Oddly, time seems to pass more quickly as an adult, years slipping by in the blink of an eye where as a child each summer vacation seemed endless.

That’s not to say that time didn’t impose itself on me. Bedtime, in particular, was something of a daily disaster. It never arrived when I was ready. Begging and pleading would only get one so far. At some point, always sooner than I’d like, the NES would have to go off and I’d be marched up to bed. Sleep, of course, represented the road to another day where I’d desperately try to navigate the hazards of school life without too much pain and suffering. I wasn’t especially great at that, so video games were by far the preferable option.

This was an era where, for the most part, games didn’t have a save system. This included a perennial favorite of young me: Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You might be surprised to hear that a young boy growing up in the 1990’s had something of an unhealthy addiction to the heroes in a half shell. My daydreams were filled with reptilian assassins dishing out justice to robo-ninjas.

That affection for the franchise was often all that kept me hammering away at this stone wall of a game; like many releases of the era, TMNT’s difficulty emulated coin-guzzling arcade games. Failure was common and mercy was in short supply. Progress meant repeatedly restarting the game and hoping to claw just a little bit further next time. I loved it regardless.

It had the Turtles – especially Donatello, the smart one, who wore my favorite color, wielded the most interesting weapon of the group and was by far the most powerful choice in-game. Victory in the tougher parts of TMNT was often thanks in no small part to judicious use of Donatello’s mighty bo staff. (Modern me would probably prefer Raphael. His attitude more closely mirrors who I’d like to be. His weapons, a pair of parrying daggers called sai, are also much more cool than the staff. I can say this because I am enlightened by the clarity and wisdom of age.)

My fondest memories of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, then, were late nights bathed in the pale light of a CRT television. Bedtime was coming. I couldn’t tell you when, but it was always going to be sooner than anticipated. Maybe, just maybe, if I tried my hardest and employed every ounce of my skill, I could stop Shredder before the game was turned off and I was sent packing to dreamland. At the very least, maybe this time I could get past the dam level, a maze of twisting passages filled with bombs that had to be disarmed under a strict timeline.

Today, I am proud to say that I can decide when I go to bed. That’s no longer a concern. The underlying fear, though, of a fast-approaching moment of reckoning remains. I beat the dam level long ago; at this point, I could probably do it blindfolded. What I didn’t know is that life would have its own set of bomb-rigged dams to navigate. While the path might change, the fact would remain that I only have so much time and so many tries. Sooner or later, time is going to be up and the NES is going to have to go off.

Unlike TMNT, though, there’s no restarting, no do-overs and, miserably, you can’t even hook up a Game Genie for infinite tries.


The Infernal Accountant Mage believes the pen is mightier than the sword…well, depending on how sharp the pen and sword are. A child of the ’90s and a prolific writer, he strews his work about like Legos made of words, just waiting for your brain to step on them. He enjoys a devilish challenge, so when it comes to talking about some of the more difficult games out there, you might just run into the Infernal Accountant Mage. Some advice: hold on to your soul around this guy, and don’t sign anything. Read more at


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11 replies »

  1. I was in Jr. High during the TMNT craze, and I was still a big fan of the toon, the comics, the games, and toys. I didn’t have many of the toys. But I played a lot of the games. I preferred the Beat ’em ups over the first game though (Which was also on a ton of computer formats).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Partying is indeed a useful skill in “adulting”. Just ask Link! This game made me bonkers by the way. It was incredibly difficult and I died countless times trying diffuse the bombs in the water. I got as far as the eyeball tank.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This was supposed to say PARRYING, as in reference to Raphael’s use of Sai…. but partying is pretty cool too though…

      I hear…


  3. Pffft. “As a kid”, “Back in my childhood”

    42 years old, watched some TMNT yesterday. Still love those shellbacks and always will. In fact, I think Ill pull out my old Palladium TMNT books, write up a scenario and live stream a run with my kids.

    As if one could give up TMNT just because they are older! Pffft! PFFFT I SAY!

    Good article, though. 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was all about Michelangelo when I was a kid, and the cartoon was my dutiful jam to consume on a regular basis. Couple the TMNT fanaticism with pizza with the Chuck E. Cheese (originally Show Biz) that was near my house and my fetish for food is easily explained. More importantly, I too had a fairly strict bedtime when I was very young. The most I remember protesting was when I got to play Mega Man IV and I crawled out of bed after hours and sat by my dad where he was sleeping in an armchair, and I cried for the NES as vehemently as I could before being sent back to bed. In retrospect, that was doubly stupid considering there was no electricity on at that hour. We lived in a forest clearing on a generator which was off.


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