When I was a lad, many moons ago, my parents forced me to get a job as a paperboy. It was a daily task that involved me delivering no less than 6 newspapers to houses within a ¼ mile radius of my home. I was so unmotivated to earn the life changing £2.50 a week, that my Gramps did the job for me instead, in his car, before I finished school. What a guy!
Years later I was forced into working another route, this time delivering several hundred newspapers one day a week for £13.50. It was a lot harder work and I was considerably older; old enough in fact that I was ashamed of having to do this as a job. There was no chance of getting Gramps to do the round this time so instead I used to go out very early, deliver to every other house and then dump the remaining newspapers in a bin. Yep, it’s fair to say I was one of those paperboys – more commonly referred to as a tosser.
But it isn’t my fault. You see I’d been given a false impression of what it was like to deliver newspapers. I thought you could just speed along on your bike, cap on backwards looking all cool, lobbing rolled up dirt sheets into people’s windows. The source of this misinformation? Paperboy, the classic video game about – you guessed it – delivering newspapers.
The game itself was developed hundreds and hundreds of years ago, in 1984 by a mysterious stranger named Keith Furey. Little is known about Keith, except he had an incredible porn mustache and could often be heard yelling “Let’s unleash some Furey” during office meetings. Alongside Furey was his loyal team of disciples: Eoin, Carl Bedard, John Salwitz, Dave Ralston and Russel Dawe. Collectively they became known as Keith Furey and the Furious Five.
After what seemed like a lifetime, the game made its first appearance as an arcade stack in 1985. The game was so popular – as per the prophecy I totally forgot to mention earlier – it was quickly ported to every console imaginable. Appearing first on the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron in 1986, it was quickly followed by the Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Apple II, TRS-800, and DOS before jumping ship to the big boys in 1988 with an appearance on the NES, Game Boy, Atari ST, Amiga, Master System and Mega Drive. It even appeared on the N64 and the Xbox Live Arcade. It’s likely that no other video game of its era has been enjoyed by so many in so many ways, which reminds me of your mother. Show me a game that is more universally loved than Paperboy and I’ll smack you in the mouth and call you a liar.
Despite all its success though the game does have a dark side. A nefarious underbelly where child labour laws are violated each day, and health and safety is not only ignored but forbidden. Who thinks of poor Julio (that’s his name, look it up) while he risks being mauled by loose dogs, or cut to ribbons by a rogue lawnmower? The poor kid even had to deliver a newspaper to the Grim Reaper! Imagine what that does to a child? Looking Death in the face every day. It changes you, man! It changes you!
Occasionally a gamer would come along, pure of heart enough to complete the game without causing poor Julio a life changing injury. In doing so Julio would be afforded the chance to retire from his job and return to the life he once knew. Unless of course the whole end sequence is a metaphor for Heaven because Julio is dead. Julio is brown bread, and doomed to repeat his route over and over and over for all eternity. Show me a game that is darker than Paperboy and I’ll smack you in the mouth and call you a weirdo.
Cut to 32 years later and Keith Furey sits atop a huge sum of money, just like Scrooge McDuck. The Furious Five are missing, presumed dead, their bodies likely hidden in Furey’s mountain of money and cocaine. And Julio, poor Julio? – I guess we’ll never truly know. But there’s one thing that’s for sure he was one paperboy that always delivered.
I’ll get my coat.