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May 6, 2011 / jwaxo

Disney’s Coaster (Scholastic Book Club)

Yes, the wind rushing through your hair, the stomach-wrenching turns… Such realistic virtual reality!

It’s funny how thinking about all of these events and parts of my life have been making a wave of nostalgia and unknown memories suddenly surface. Back with the injuries post, I had forgotten about a bunch of those until I was trying to remember, well, more subjects for the actual post. This entire blog was conceived when a memory of RBI and the ridiculously cartoony batter materialized in my mind, and I instantly remembered the argument about almost vs. barely. These random associations are pretty much what makes up the majority of this blog, and there are way too many of them for me to make actual posts out of those. Sherbet Island from WarioLand? Makes me think of Dumb and Dumber. Mount Moon from Pokémon? Mother’s Day. And a billion, kajillion others.

This weekend I was driving with a few friends and we were talking about, shoot, I can’t even remember. You know how car trips are. In any case, Disney’s Coaster came up, which myself and a passenger had both played, and the floods of memories about the circumstances of getting Coaster came rushing back to me in a flood. The ordering of the game with my brother, the waiting for the game, the excitement of booting it up and playing it, the crazy coasters we made, the gradual understanding of physics.

Good thing I’m such a good driver, or that flashback might have killed us all.

I knew that, as soon as I was done with my boringly long saga of Klik ‘n’ Play was done, I would be telling you people about Coaster. And not just Coaster, but the Scholastic Book Club, our key to getting it.

You see, back in elementary school, they shove reading down your throat every chance they get. Whether with that STAR program, where you can take quizzes on the books you’ve read and earn points that do absolutely nothing (although I will never forgive you, girl in my same grade that always had more points than me!), or with book fairs, or even just with a bunch of cardboard boxes filled with different books that classes trade between each other, which was how I found and became obsessed with Animorphs way back in third grade.

Probably the one of those strange methods I hold the most dear (other than the STAR program, of course; WINNY CHOW I WILL HAVE MY REVENGE) is the Scholastic Book Club. For the uninitiated, it was a simple paper catalog, only two or three pages, with lists and promos for books that Scholastic was selling. You could go through and put little checkmarks in the tiny boxes next to which books you wanted, then total up the amount at the end and either attach one of your parents’ checks or an envelope filled with your hard-earned change. In a few magical weeks you would find, either on your desk or in your cubby, a small stack of the books you had ordered.

But oh, there weren’t just books. There were computer games.

It was through this system that I received almost all of the SimWhatever games that so peppered my childhood, from SimCity 2000 all the way to SimAnt. There were also more than a few Magic School Bus games that would appear on that fabled back page of the catalog.

One week, though, my brother brought home a Scholastic Book Club catalog that didn’t have either of those. No, instead it advertised Disney’s Coaster. This wasn’t your average elementary schooler’s catalog, but one from the middle school that my brother had to take a bus to get to.

We read the description. We grew extremely excited. We pooled our moneys and sent off the envelope. And we waited.

Stupid dog, you’re not as exciting as virtual roller coasters.

Now, I had never been one for thrill rides, back then. We had gone to both Disney World and Disney Land and I had chickened out of Space Mountain both times. But Coaster, or at least the Coaster I imagined, would help me get over those fears. I would be able to make my own rides, ones that would be both way more thrilling than Space Mountain and easier for me to take! I might even go upside-down!

As the weeks passed, my imaginings of what the game would be like grew and grew. It would come with a fan that blew in your face to simulate momentum! It would have a chair that would vibrate and tilt to simulate turns and angles! It would be a full-on motion simulator that would probably upset Mom, but I would use all the time, even if it went upside-down! Heck, I would make coasters with loops just so I could go upside-down!

This went on for five weeks. There was some kind of delay with the shipment, with both my brother and I growing more and more anxious with every passing day that he didn’t receive it.

I told him my theories on what the game would be like, but he blew them off as stupid, and I blew off his blowing off. After all, he would find out who was right, wouldn’t he?

“Sorry, it’s hard to hear your apologies over how much fun this is.”

Eventually the game came. It was definitely fun. As I said, it taught me a lot about physics and what goes in to making a good roller coaster, lessons that I would later take into Rollercoaster Tycoon. It also featured, strangely, five cartoon judges that all had very particular tastes when it came to rides, and it was easy to make them all extremely happy by just making a completely ridiculous roller coaster that pulled 10 Gs or something. It even came with all three versions of the Matterhorn, sans-mountain, so that you could ride gently down to the ground in graceful curves.

It wasn’t anything like I imagined it would be.

There was an important lesson learned on the day we got it, and probably not about the importance of computer requirements or patience. It was probably something about expectations. It’s hard to remember what you learned, though, when the lesson was clouded with horrible, world-shattering disappointment.

I guess the unicorn was a bit unrealistic.

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9 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Sean / May 6 2011 12:28 PM

    For some reason, this has all reminded me of the time we crashed your parents’ computer with Monopoly by setting ALL of the players to Computer AIs. Good times.

    • jwaxo / May 6 2011 2:57 PM

      “Crashing” is probably an entire subject on its own. Man, we had some stupid crashes back in the day.

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