The Activision Decathlon

The Activision Decathlon
Company: Activision
Model #:
David Crane
Year: 1983
Also released for the Atari 400/800, Atari 5200, Colecovision, and C64


Often referred to as "Spankathlon", Decathlon is very similar to Konami's Track and Field arcade game but with slightly different events (following the real Olympic Decathlon).  Decathlon was known as "The Joystick Killer" due to the way the gameplay quickly wears out joysticks.  Maybe Activision was getting kickbacks from every Atari Joystick Repair Kit that was sold?  They probably should have included one with each copy of the game!


The control scheme of Decathlon was a stroke of genius.  Not only did allow for great variations in speed, but it made the player (their arms anyway) feel as if they just competed in an actual Decathlon (i.e. extremely tired).  To make your character run players must rapidly move their joystick left and right.  Players quickly learned that by holding the joystick between their legs they could stabilize it better and get faster movement.  After watching people rapidly jerking a joystick between their legs back and forth the game quickly became known as "Spankathlon".



During the course of the Decathlon, the player competes in 10 different events: The 100-Meter Dash, Long Jump, Shot Put, High Jump, 400- Meter Race, 110-Meter Hurdles, Discus, Pole Vault, Javelin, and The 1500-Meter Dash.  While most of these events are great fun, the 1500-Meter Dash is a pointless arm killer that really ruins an otherwise fun game.  Activision had to include this event otherwise it wouldn't be a true Decathlon, thankfully they made the fist 1300 Meters of the race easier on your arm by having your athlete run faster with less effort.


Following the events of the Decathlon has its ups and downs.  On the upside players get the feeling of competing in a real Olympic test of skill with ten grueling events.  The downside is that many of the racing events are boring (there's no difference in running 100 or 400 meters), and the player must bear with them to get to the good stuff.  Track and Field solved this problem by having almost the same events minus all the repetitive running.  Atari solved the joystick problem by including a special controller with Track and Field that had buttons to simulate left and right (as was done in the arcade game).  It turns out this controller works with Decathlon as well, making the game much more enjoyable.

If you're ready for a joystick busting endurance test then Decathlon is the game for you.  Just make sure nobody sees you playing "Spankathlon" or it could lead to some embarrassing questions.


Version Cart Text Description
?????? The Activision Decathlon Prototype Final Version


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