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Activision Decathlon


Company: Activision
Year: 1983
Plataform: Atari 2600
Controller: One-button Joystick.


Running AND jumping was not exactly my best skill in this game.

Activision is a prolific company with legendary titles for different playforms during early 80s. One of its programmers, David Crane, of great fame for the fabulous Pitfall! tries his luck in the sports scene with a wonderful title which release close to Olympic Games surely helped in its popularity.

Choosing an olympic event with enough variety, playing the Olympic Anthem at the start of the game, and allowing multiple players to compete, the company created a videogame with enjoyable features to videogame sports fans at the time.

Specially for those who also happen to know how to fix broken joysticks.


It’s a good jumpstart for this event.

As already mentioned, the videogame is based on the event Como ya se mencionó, el juego está basado en el evento Decathlon, which belong to the sport Athletics. It’s a competition that demands speed, strength and stamina to win, because basically it’s competing in 10 different Athletics events. Of course, it’s logical to shine in certain events while struggling in others, but it’s mandatory to perform in all of them.

The sensation of stamina is reflected in the videogame, because all of the 10 events require moving the joystick horizontally at fast intervals to get more speed in race, or thrust in throwing or jumping. While pressing the fire button has different effects according to the event, like throwing or jumping.

Throwing event.

Every event has a duration closer to their real counterparts, so a full play of the videogame can be a bit time-consuming, specially between many players, up to 4 in many versions. You see, at least in the Atari 2600 original port, all of the videoplayers had to take turns per event. For example, the first one is 100m running, one videoplayer finishes, then the second one takes turn and so on, until all of them played the event before advancing to the next one.

Graphically Crane reused Pitfall animations, so the virtual athletes have fluid and natual animations. The stadium is well drawn and the videoplayer has the sensation of competing in one.

After finishing an event, points are awarded to the videoplayer according to the time or distance obtained. Getting 800 or more points in an event is quite a feat.


The videogame has 10 events, grouped in three types.


I won’t tell if this is 100m, 400m or 1500m event.

4 of the events are considered of speed. In all of them the control schema is moving horizontally the joystick as fast as possible, with one exception:

  • 100 mts: The fastest event in the videogame.
  • 400 mts: A bit longer in time, and it’s a bit harder to maintain top speed all the time.
  • 110 mts hurdles: Like the first one, but the virtual athlete has to jump hurdles using the fire button. If not jumping on time, it reflects in the final elapsed time.
  • 1500 mts: The last event, and the most demanding by far. Take into account that is not necessary to shake horizontally the joystick at top speed during all of the race. When reaching 1200 mts, it appears a sign at the bottom saying “SPRINT!!!” and yes, you have to shake the control at top speed. If you forget this, you’ll get tired easily.


3 of the events belong to this category, the control schema is similar. Get top speed shaking the joystick, and press the fire button when the virtual athlete is closest to the finish line, so the thrown object travel the farthest distance. In each event the videoplayer has 3 attempts, and the one with the farthest distance is used for scoring.

  • Shot Put.
  • Discus Throw.
  • Javelin Throw.


The remaining events are jumping. The control schema is similar to the throwing ones, sans the pole vault.

  • Long Jump.
  • High Jump. This one has a different rule, for scoring. It starts with the athlete jumping above certain height. It has 3 attempts to do it. If successful, it tries again but with a higher height. Repeat until 3 missed attempts in the same height.
  • Pole Vault. Similar to the previous one, but the control is different. First with the button if must land the pole at certain point, then the athlete is rising, and next press again the button to release the pole. At the right time, it will go thru the height. Pressing the button too early or too late will become a missed attempt. Againt 3 attempts to get thru the height, repeating until missing 3 times at the same height.

We’ll let the reader finding out the proper order of the evetns when playing the videogame.

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