A screenshot of the original 'Super Mario Bros.,' taken from an NES Classic Edition.

A screenshot of the original 'Super Mario Bros.,' taken from an NES Classic Edition.


Editor's note: Take a look back into the archives of The Dallas Morning News.

The Fair Park automobile building was abuzz with excited tweens and overwhelmed parents during the Nintendo World Championships, one of 30 Nintendo competitions that took place throughout the United States in the spring of 1990. Reporter Dotty Griffith and her son, Kelly Stephenson, both attended the event and gave their takes.

Nintendo brought the Championships back for a flashy but more subdued event in 2015. They will take place again in 2017, and Dallas is among the eight cities hosting qualifier rounds.

At the original 1990 event, players paid three dollars a ticket for each round of competition. Each round consisted of three games: Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer, and Tetris. Kids between the ages of 12 and 17 needed to score 150,000 points to advance, while competitors that fell outside that age range needed only 125,000 points. Although the pressure was on, participants were happy just to be there. Competitor Jeb Ory, then 9, told The News that if he "had to describe the whole thing in one word, it would be 'radical.'"

Finalists from the three age groups (11 and under, 12-17, and 18 and older) won a trophy, $250 and a trip for two to the Nintendo World Championship finals in Los Angeles. 

A competitor from Carrollton, Thor Aackerlund, went on to be the overall winner in the 12-17 age division. According to a December, 1990 Dallas Morning News story, he won a Geo Metro LSI convertible, a $10,000 savings bond and a big screen TV.

Aackerlund had finished 8th in the Dallas event, but the day after that he bought a Nintendo Entertainment System, practiced, and traveled to Houston where he won his chance to compete in the finals.

"I was really surprised I pulled it off," Thor, then-13, said of his finals victory during a telephone with us. 

Aackerlund would later appear in the documentary Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters, which follows the attempt to find the world's greatest Tetris player.

Comparisons were made to the movie The Wizard, a 1989 movie starring Fred Savage. The final scenes of that movie (which has Nintendo product placement all over it) took place at an event that could be seen as the blueprint for the Nintendo World Championships.

Overwhelmed or nervous parents were welcome to visit the Konami booth and speak to the "Konami Mommy," a Chicago-area therapist and mother of two Nintendo-fanatic sons. Echoing the opinions of the company that hired her, she told worried parents that video games can be part of a "balanced diet."

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