DUCK HUNT: LATEST VICTIM OF HDTV

In Business & Technology, Editorial /

Eric Lam

Biz & Tech Editor

I’ll admit this right now: I still have one of those chunky old cathode-ray tube TVs, not the newfangled LCD or plasma kind. But it turns out I’m the smartest guy in the room (and not just the cheapest) because Duck Hunt, the source of nostalgia and fuzzy feelings for twenty-somethings everywhere, doesn’t work on new TVs.

Gasp and shock, I know. What’s truly amazing is that the original Nintendo, that grey-boxed source of joy since 1983, has survived for so long in the fi rst place. In fact, Nintendo of Japan only stopped product support in October 2007, a testament to the system’s longevity and popularity.

But really, it’s all about Duck Hunt, which remains a fi xture of basement rumpus rooms everywhere. From hitting level 99 to trying to shoot the stupid dog that laughs at you when you miss, the game has something for everyone. But alas, the simple, 1980s-era technology of the game’s light gun just can’t cope with the fancy-pants pixel imaging technology of today’s flatpanel TVs.

The problem is in how the gun works. While most people think the gun shoots a beam of light, it’s in fact the opposite.

A photodiode in the gun detects light output from the TV. When you pull the trigger, the screen turns black for one frame. The next frame, the game draws a white square around the duck. If the gun’s diode detects a drop in light followed by a spike from the square, then congratulations, you’ve shot the duck.

Unfortunately, the technology was designed to only work with CRT TVs. Considering the game’s been around for more than 20 years, though, I find it really hard to blame Nintendo.

By the way, there’s a Duck Hunt version for the Wii, complete with 3D graphics and a customizable, trainable dog. But it’s just not the same.

And I’m pretty sure you can’t shoot the dog in this game either, so what’s the point?

I feel it appropriate to take a moment now to stop and consider what Duck Hunt means to everyone. Done? Good.

Now stash a CRT in your basement because you’re going to want to try shooting that damn dog again, and if you try it on your 80-inch plasma, you’ll just be setting yourself up for disappointment.

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