Games have always been a big part of summer. From baseball ("the boys of summer") to NFL training camp, the hot months are popular among the sporting class. There's even the occasional summer Olympics, where athletes from around the world come together and sweat their collective asses off in the name of competition and nationalistic pride. (Not to mention lucrative endorsement deals.) There's no need to shed pounds of water weight just to compete against others, however. Video games have been providing hours of entertainment to the sedentary and immobile for more than three decades now. These days, anyone with a good broadband Internet connection can play all the games of the past and present. In this spirit, I hereby declare open these first games of the Weekly Planet Video Olympiad open.
Opening Ceremonies: Some Pomp
Every Olympics needs an opening ceremony. For our olympiad, visit the Video Game Music Archive (http://www.vgmusic.com/). The VGMA has thousands of tunes from games old and new. Set up an iTunes playlist with music from Battletoads (a cheesy Ninja Turtles rip for the original Nintendo), Bonk's Adventure (Turbo Grafix anyone?) and the "Ragtime Medley" from Super Mario Bros. 2. That should get you in the mood.
First Event: Simon
Remember Simon? This blast from the past wasn't a video game at all, but rather a handheld toy where players attempted to mimic the pattern of flashing lights Simon displays. (Like Simon Says, remember?) Simon has been reborn in digital form at http://www.80smusiclyrics.com/games.shtml#null. Follow the flashing lights and consider yourself warmed up.
Second Event: Ms. Pac Man
Ms. Pac Man is the superior sequel to the game that put video games on the map. The mighty Ms. has been an arcade staple since it first appeared in the mid-'80s. These days, you can save your quarters and play the Grande Dame of games in one of its online versions, which closely mimics the arcade original. Check out 1980's Arcade Games (http://www.1980-games.com/us/); its version is the real deal (if a little slow). One warning: Ms. Pac Man's later stages may cause you to sweat.
Third Event: The 1980s Decathlon
After funning with '80s throwbacks Simon and Ms. Pac Man, go all out and get that "me-decade" thing out of your system. A website called Triplets and Us (http://www.tripletsandus.com/80s/80s_games/arcade.htm) has a large selection of 1980s arcade games, all lovingly presented as close to their arcade originals as possible and ready to be played with no downloading. Space Invaders, Asteroids, Frogger, Centipede, Duck Hunt (pre-Dick Cheney). Even Tapper, the game that taught young kids to tip their bartenders, is on hand. Pick nine, then play a game of Tetris for the medal.
Fourth Event: Bar Games
Online gaming encompasses more than just old arcade standards. Pool, darts and bowling are also represented in cyberspace. Shockwave games (www.shockwave.com) has all of these, plus chess and fishing as well. If you can get the fish in Big Mouth Bass 3D to bite, you're a better angler than I. The games on Shockwave are available in demo form, with complete versions available for download for a small price. The demo's all you need.
Fifth Event: The Apprentice
This can't be officially licensed material. Yes, even The Donald is online at a site called Arcade Town (http://www.arcadetown.com/theapprentice/game.asp). I was unable to preview this one (It's PC only, and you'll have to download it), but the screenshots are hilarious. If you never thought Trump's hair could get any worse, just wait until you gaze upon his digital doppelganger. Worth it for comic relief alone.
Sixth Event: Play some new games!
Enough with all these geezer games. It's time to get your hands on the new hotness. Check out Gamefly.com, a service that delivers games for all the current systems (including the new X-Box 360) straight to your mailbox, a la Netflix. Their selection is great and they offer a free trial membership, so you can try before you buy. For the Planet Olympics, get in touch with your international brethren by shooting them in the forehead in Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, and gun down intergalactic scum in Halo 2. Kill Kill Kill!
With Olympic glory now yours, wipe those Cheetos off your chest, give yourself an Office-worthy yogurt lid medal, reopen the window shades and head to bed to the celebratory music of The Legend Of Zelda. It's available at the Video Game Music Archive.