Doing a little "Throwback Thursday" here, we are going to see 5 vintage video game related sweepstakes that were sort of a dream come true on their day, especially if you were a kid. Back into the retro era of gaming, there were no such thing as digital downloads, easy access gift cards or redeemable codes, you could either go to the store and buy it or win it on a sweepstakes and get it handed to you. By seen these contests today, you may think that they were simple and naive considering how we live today, but imagine that you are a kid on the 80's and 90's and you see one of these on a game magazine page or on television.You would had flipped and instantly fall into a day dreaming state, thinking about how would it be if you were the one to win that prize. So, now with that mental picture in mind let's begin.
1) Pandemonium Puzzle Contest
On some gaming magazines of the day, there was a page like the one on the picture where you could enter a puzzle solving competition. If you managed to win that competition you would get all the stuff that is shown in the picture. It was all simple enough, but it was also super hype-inducing.
You had to complete the crossword puzzle shown on each page and send it to the corresponding address. Each one you sent was ranked by how fast you solved it and how many words you managed to decipher. The ones with the highest points went up to a knockout stage and so on to the big finale where a final winner would emerge.
Everything you see on the picture which varied between contests and could have a collection of all the existing consoles at the time, a big screen TV with a cutting edge sound system, gaming peripherals and so on.
2) Shadowrun SNES Sweepstakes
Play the game, answer some questions related to it and send it along with an entry form to Data East. Remember that at the time, there was limited internet access at best, so answering the questions really required you to play the game or at least know somebody who did and was willing to share.
Simple rules, just answer the questions about the game and mail them in with the official entry form. This meant that is wall all an relatively easy process with a high chance of winning because not everybody had the game.
The grand prize was a shopping spree at Electronics Boutique (later EB Games before been merged with GameStop) where for a limited amount of time you could just run through the store, get anything you liked and have it all for free. Other prices included Shadowrun jackets, shirts and posters which were also cool.
3) Nintendo Power Battletech Sweepstakes
Have you ever received an advert claiming that they will give you a prize or pay you for filling a survey? Well, this was one of the few occasions where that actually worked, if you were selected.
Filling a survey about the Nintendo Power magazine's content and submitting it on time. After that, you just had to wait and hope that you were one of the winners.
Prizes mostly included games and guides, but on this particular one, the grand prize was a trip for four people to the Battletech Center in Chicago. This virtual reality center doesn't exist anymore, but at the time of these sweepstakes it was a place to dream of.
Discovery Channel's Beyond 2000 - Battletech Center 1992
4) El Rescate del Talisman (The Talisman's Rescue)
This was a Spanish t.v show sponsored by Sega which was an adaptation of another popular program called "Knightmare". On the Talisman's Rescue, a group of 4 people embarked on a magical journey (sort of like playing a physical version of dungeons and dragons, but without all the dice and math). If at least one of your team members survive to the end of the game, you would all go to a treasure room and loot whatever prizes it had. The program never had public openings for participants, so it is rumored that most of the kids who participated were relatives or friends of relatives of the people working on the t.v station. This meant that your only chance to play the game seemed to be sheer luck.
One player at a time would play as the others just watched him and served as guides. The playing persons would wear a knight horned helmet that left them blind so they really needed their partners help as they moved through "pre-rendered" chroma key based fantasy-based places while the other members of the team (as well as the audiences at home) could see it all. The thing was that if the player fell on a hazard (like pits, traps, enemies attacking) or fails a life saving riddle, he/she would be trapped by the enemy and one of the remaining players had to continue from that point on. If all the players failed then the villain would win and they would get no prizes.
If the team manages to get to the end of the "chronicle" they got access to the treasure room and there have a little free for all looting of Sega products including home consoles like the Sega Master System and Sega Genesis, handhelds like the Game Gear and lots of games and peripherals to choose from. Video games were awarded on the first season, but this was changed to home computers on later ones.
An example of one episode of "El Rescate del Talisman" (In Spanish)
SwordQuest was a series of games released for the Atari 2600 console that were part of a big contest. The game was sort of the equivalent to modern adventure games, which featured cryptic puzzles that you needed to solve in order to compete. The game also included a comic book that was also a tool used to solve the game's main puzzle. There were supposed to be 4 games with worlds based on the elements (Earth, Fire, Water and Air) and each of those worlds would be separate competitions that would end up in a final fifth one after Airworld. Sadly, only the first 2 of them happened as the final Waterworld competition was not held and Airworld was never released.
First you had to get a complete copy of the game (with the comic book and all), play it and solve the puzzle by finding the hidden 5 clues that made the "puzzle sentence" so you could mail that sentence to Atari. Then Atari proceeded to select some of the players who gave the correct answer and they would go to a new live competition in which they would compete for the grand prize of that "world".
The prizes featured in the SwordQuest competitions were extreme:
- For Earthworld, the prize consisted of a talisman made of 18k gold, having 12 diamonds and the stones for each of the signs of the zodiac. This prize was valued in $25,000 dollars of the time.
- For Fireworld, the prize consisted of a chalice made of gold and platinum, embedded with citrines, diamonds, green jades, rubies and sapphires. The chalice was also valued at $25,000
- For Waterworld, the prize was supposed to be a crown made of gold and embedded with aquamarines, diamonds, green tourmalines, rubies and sapphires. This one was valued at the same value as the previous prizes and was never awarded because although the game was released, the final competition never happened.
If the Waterworld final competition had gone through, the next and final installment would had been Airworld. On this one, the prize was going to be a "Philosopher's Stone" which was made of gold and embedded with diamonds, emeralds, citrines and rubies and was also valued at $25,000.
The final showdown of the SwordQuest series would had been a final competition between all the previous winners for a final prize which would had been a sword with its handle made of gold, embedded with various jewels and its blade made of pure silver, all with a value of $50,000. This of course never happened as the contest was cancelled before it got that far.
Wrapping it up
Be it some cool consoles and games, a visit to awesome gaming related places, or even prizes worth several thousand dollars, vintage sweepstakes and contests were something worth dreaming for back in the day. These kinds of things just doesn't happen that often anymore, especially because most of the contest systems would be broken by things like the internet, but they remain as a good memory for those who lived through them and a cool thing to think about for those who didn't.