News Article

Nintendo World Championships Finalist Looks Back

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

The only female finalist

Nintendo may be in a battle for supremacy in the gaming industry at the moment, but there was a time when, in North America at least, the company was truly on top. With NES and Game Boy flying off the shelves in 1990, this period of pop-culture dominance was perhaps best represented by the Nintendo World Championships 1990. This was an event that attracted plenty of attention, with the finalists receiving a limited edition game cart that has since become one of the most expensive items of gaming memorabilia available today.

Video game historian Patrick Scott Patterson recently caught up with the only female finalist, Heather Martin. Now Heather Ireland and mother of two in Texas, she looked back on the experience and explained how it almost never happened, and the low-profile aftermath.

It was one of my cousins that lived in Gainesville, TX that actually learned about the Nintendo World Championships. Our parents took us both to the competition in Dallas and neither one made it through. Our parents decided to take us to the Oklahoma City competition for one last chance.

I went to school afterwards and chose not to tell anyone at the time. Weeks went by until one of the boys at school brought the Nintendo Power magazine that it was in to school and asked me about it and showed everyone. They all asked why I had not said anything about it. Honestly I don't know why.

The famous gray NES cart was part of the prize, though Ireland was surprised by the reaction when it became available for sale years later.

I don't recall playing it once I returned home. My parents put it up because they recalled someone saying these carts would be a collector's item someday. The response I received from people interested in buying it was somewhat overwhelming.

Although the game cart has been sold, Ireland has kept her trophy and name-plate from the event, though thankfully she took the chance to pose with the game before it departed for an undoubtedly keen collector. The only female finalist in a gaming competition in 1990, an accolade to enjoy.


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User Comments (30)



ogo79 said:

she didnt get as much as she could have got for it but thats how it goes.



Lobster said:

I can understand her selling the cartridge, I mean she's a mom of two and these days with the world economy being what it is, I can understand if she might be strapped for cash.

Anyway, this was really cool! I'm glad there was at least one lady gamer who won. She'd be my 90's hero, if I had known about her then!

EDIT: Wonder how old she was at the time? I know it's not polite to ask a woman her age, but I'm curious. All we get is "11 & under." I wasn't quite three when this went down.



Millenia said:

Aww that is too cute. I'm kind of sad that she departed with the cartridge... I hope it's in good hands!



nba4life said:

does anybody know what game it was. it looks like it has the superman symbol on it.



KingMike said:

About the copy listed above... You know, putting that game in a plastic box to protect it doesn't really matter when they removed the labels from the EEPROMs.



New_3DaSh_XL said:

NEVER SELL IMPORTANT CARTRIDGES! It makes you cry, just like Luigi up there above me in the comments.



Capt_N said:

I can understand her selling, if she needed money. Unless I'm needing cash, I've learned not to sell games, or systems (that) I'm not willing to never own/play again.

Edit: @Lobster Generally, you have to be 5, or 6 to start school. 11 being the ceiling of the contest, she was between 5-11yr.s old. I would venture a guess, & say she was in 2nd, or 3rd grade. Maybe 4th. Some ppl start school at different ages, for usually various reasons.



XCWarrior said:

Very cool feature, but how could she sell that cartriadge. Pretty hot as well, all things considered.



Lobster said:

@Capt_N Haha, yeah, I didn't mean to imply she was my age. She's obviously a little older, but probably not too much. The most she could be is just over eight years older, but it's probably less.

The main article said she started playing video games around the age of two, which seemed impressive to me until I remembered I was actually playing computer games at the same age. No Nintendo in my house until I was 11 or 12. Of course most people didn't have computers when I was two. It's interesting to look at things like the likelihood of owning a particular piece of electronics in that time period, just to see how the opportunity to enjoy gaming has changed over time. Kids these days can play games on their mom's iPad at 18 months, easy. Unheard of back then.

That's probably a subject for a different article, though.



hYdeks said:

I seen AVGN's review of the cartridge and I would have sold it too No offence, but by selling that ONE cart you can make up to $27,000?!?! I'ld SOO sell it and be set for life on my video game expenses, and buy a car, and hell put down a payment on a house.

Honestly, she was smart and her winning that "childish" competition would have helped out ALOT.



hYdeks said:

@Lobster my parents bought me a Nintendo when I was a age 3! And I can remember playing Atari 2600 at my grandparents before that...sure I might not have been great at it, but I still played it lol

Only problem with me going into the the Nintendo World Championship 1990 was that I was literally only 4 when it was going on lol



XCWarrior said:

@hydeks $27,000? Set for life? Where are you living, 1920? The down payment on my house was $40,000 alone. Even a cheap car is going to cost you $12,000. I'll give you the "set for video games for life comment," but 10 to 1 says you blow all the money at gambling, booze and women.



the_shpydar said:

Also, that $27,000 number is for one of the Gold carts, not the greys, which would be closer in the neighborhood of $10k.



Wowfunhappy said:

@XCWarrior His numbers were a little off, but his point was completely valid. No matter how you look at it, $20,000+ is A LOT of money. $20,000 for just that ONE cartridge.

Don't get me wrong, it's a special cartridge and all, but I'd sell it to.



hYdeks said:

@XCWarrior really now? Things where I live are SUPER cheap compared to yours cause what I said, out where I live, IS TRUE!!!

I bought my car used for $1500 (and it's in REALLY good shape) and the house I live in right now cost a total of $98,000.

EDIT: Used cars where I live range from $2,000 to $8,000 ($8,000 usually for like a 2010 truck)
Houses out where I live range from $45,000 to $110,000

So yay, what I said is true, at least where I live...



StarDust4Ever said:

There's not enough lady gamers in the world...

I was nine at the time in 1990. I begged my mom for a Nintendo for years, and it was all I ever wanted for Christmas. Finally got one at age 21 and fell in love with it.

Take a hint, people:

20+ thousand for the gold cart.
10 thousand for the grey cart.
55 bucks for a translucent blue reproduction cart at

Guess which version of Nintendo World Championships I have



hYdeks said:

@StarDust lmao, THE BLUE ONE!!! Yay, I completely agree there isn't enough true girl gamers out there, but I do admit I've met girls that could hand me my butt on a plater O.O Especially in Soul Calibur 4, met a girl online that I could barely get a kick in on!!!



Ecstasy_of_Orde said:

Hey Thomas,
Heather wasn't the only female competitor (finalist). There were at least 3 more. Check wikipedia NWC for name list. Or just look at the NWC footage on youtube to see one of them in the promo. I think the 3 I'm thinking of were in the adult category (Colleen, Donna and Cassandra). Robin Mihara wasn't a female.

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