Growing Up Nintendo #01: The Nintendo Kid
May 03, 2009
Not long ago, randxian posted in the greeting topic on the forums that he found the site by way of a series of editorials I once posted on the site during its infancy. I think it was from a few months or even years before this site became widely used by the GameFAQs crew!
Anyway, those editorials are still hanging around even though the standard 'editorials' feature fell by the wayside. Now that I've added the feature back to the site, I thought it might be fun to look back on some of the old content I wrote. I actually drafted 8 of these things before moving onto other things.
Below is the original editorial in all of its glory, complete with stupid typos and bland writing and everything! I may touch it up someday and re-submit it, but for now the blog should do just fine. If you want to hear the story of how I discovered Nintendo and got sucked into the world of video games, there's no better starting point!
First of all, I suppose I should start by saying that this is part of a planned series of editorials. For some time now, I've had this odd urge to drop into a pool of nostalgia and to not leave it for a long time. This series is a natural result of that. It's a blow-by-blow reminisce, if you will, a recollection of what it was like growing up with Nintendo, from the early days of the NES onward to the present. I don't know if the series will ever come to an end. If it doesn't, that's fine. If it does, that's fine, too. But before you read, be aware that I'm likely to make no sense at times. In the same token, I'm likely to give you a good description of what life was
like for the Nintendo gamer, back in the day. Maybe you experienced something different. You probably did. Or maybe you didn't even know about Nintendo back then. The ultimate goal is that with each installment of this series of editorials, you will come away with something you didn't have when you began reading. Maybe you'll be tempted to pull out the old system, dust it off, and relive the good old days. If anything I write in this series accomplishes that, well, I've done something good.
With that said, I should begin.
In the summer of my 2nd grade year, I moved from near the city of Salem, Oregon to a backwoods sort of town called Ashwood. It's only claims to fame were that it was an old-western style mining town, and that it was located near Antelope, a town made notorious by the occupation there of one of the most famous cults in United States history. So in my childhood, I grew up giving directions to the abandoned cult compound. Great way to be raised.
It goes without saying that I didn't have much exposure to the outside world. Trips to the 'real' town of Madras were infrequent, about once a week for church and seldom for anything else. So it's a wonder I even heard of Nintendo in the first place. It just happened that my cousin visited from locations unknown and told me that the Apple IIe games I enjoyed at school were nothing (by then I had started third grade), that there was more.
''More?'' I asked, amazed. ''Is it better than Mario Bros.?''
You have to understand that in the old days, a lot of arcade titles made it to the Apple IIe computer in improved form. One such title was Mario Bros.
, which Atari took most of the credit for. It was an odd mixture of what we now know as the old Mario Bros.
arcade game and Ice Climbers
, and it presented me with endles hours of fun.
''More fun than Mario Bros.?'' my cousin asked. ''Yes. In fact, there's SUPER Mario Bros.''
I was dazzled, and I listened as he described the game to me. Instantly, I knew I had to play it. When he left, then, my cousin had planted a seed that would continue growing, that would grow into what it has today: a solid addiction to gaming, this website, and much more.
Of course, how was I to play Nintendo? My parents weren't precisely rich. I couldn't get much of anything, really. Christmas was still months away. Well, two months is a long time for a 3rd grader to wait. I was undeterred. I went to school that next Monday armed with the knowledge that I must experience this wonder. As it happened, there was another local torch for Nintendo. A boy there happened to have a NES. He was a neighbor. I'm not sure why it never came up before, but now I learned he had one as I preached that Nintendo would rule the world. Or something like that.
Christmas came closer and closer. Ashwood had this tradition, I soon was reminded (I had lived there briefly before, long enough to go to Kindergarten) involving Christmas plays. Well, we had a very progressive teacher who must have sat through one too many boring plays. He decided to focus on music almost exclusively. We acted out music videos for rock 'n roll Christmas songs. And we did a skit or two, and we were each taped saying what we wanted for Christmas. My parents still have a video somewhere of me saying I wanted a Nintendo for Christmas. From that point onward in the community, I was known as 'the Nintendo kid.' I'm convinced some people didn't even remember my name, but knew I liked Nintendo. All of this before I had even played the darn thing!
Christmas came. Christmas went. I still had no Nintendo. I guess even back then, consoles became scarce around the time Christmas trees began sprouting in living rooms across America. I was so disappointed. I must have looked the most depressed child in the world for weeks on end. The teacher even announced a party, and the kid with the NES would bring his so I could play it. And more time passed.
Then, one night, the unexpected happened. I was riding home with my dad at the time, in his semi. See, his job for a good portion of my childhood was as a truck driver. He halled logs to portions of Oregon, and my sister and I didn't see a whole lot of him. Well, he was home this evening, and I rode with him in the truck while my mom rode with my siter either behind us or just in front of us. So there I was, a little third grader, dreaming of Nintendo as usual while we came over the top of this massive grade that drops for about two or three miles into the 'valley' where Ashwood is located. It was winter, so of course it was dark already. Felt pretty close to my bedtime, but it wasn't. Not really.
''So, you're pretty interested in this Nintendo thing?'' my dad asked from his seat.
I was looking out the window, dreaming of that very thing. I was a very singularly-minded child. The collection of G.I. Joe dolls waiting at home was proof of that. But when he mentioned Nintendo, it snapped me instantly out of my reverie. I spun around in my seat, ready to spread the Nintendo goodness on my father's uncharacteristically open ears.
''What makes it so great?'' he asked with a sly smile I didn't notice.
''It's--it's everything.'' I spoke in a lot of absolutes, back then. But to me, Nintendo really was
everything. I certainly had enough dreams of owning one, even if I didn't know what it looked like. So I can't really say what stupid trivia I babbled off, but I know I was very excited about it.
''Well, I'm not going to buy one,'' Dad said finally.
I was crushed. I can still remember it, the ache that developed instantly in my throat. I fell instantly quiet and stared straight ahead in my seat, trying not to cry. This was it. The absolute. I would not
be getting a Nintendo. I might as well crawl into a cave and die.
Then we got home and my dad pulled out the package.
Suddenly I had a reason to live again. Premature thoughts of suicide or whatever else vanished, and I was alive. My mom and sister joined us from the car, my sister really not all that interested in this thing except that she saw it had me excited. We went inside to the kitchen table and my parents set about opening the packaging.
I still have the packaging. They do, rather, at their house. It shows this family playing the Nintendo together, enraptured by Mario jumping over that first pit in Super Mario Bros.
while Goombas approach. Quite the picture. We looked a little bit like that, my family, hovering over the box.
''How's it work?'' my mom asked. She's not technically savvy, and my father is only a few steps ahead of her.
''Well, we'll figure it out.'' My dad was trying to figure it out as he spoke, and we moved to the kitchen.
''You're going to love the Mario game,'' I promised my mother. ''You'll just love it.''
I meant it, too, though I'm not sure how. I didn't know much about it at all, really. It was just some vague, unrealized concept for me. Somewhere in the background was my sister, trying to get a peak at this weird object. We set it up on a TV tray in front of the television. What felt like hours later was probably only a half-hour or so. The television came to life. The red button glowed on the machine. And a black screen appeared, with the two games on the cartridge sliding into focus. Super Mario Bros.
and Duck Hunt
. We had the light zapper handy, of course, but only the plumber would do for now.
And so it was that we as a family discovered Nintendo. We stayed up for a long time, then. My whole family played, seated around the living room, me on a white rocker that was so-worn it belonged in a trash heap, my parents on the couch, and my sister on the love seat. It really was a tiny living room, but suddenly it could have been the most magical place in the world, tattered puke-green carpet and all.
''Look at Jason,'' my dad would say as we played.
And I must have been quite the sight. I'm not sure I'd ever in my life been more excited about something. I was living my dream. I was playing horribly, laughing when my dad ran into the first mushroom, jerking my leg when I pressed the 'a' button with hopes that Mario would jump. Took me a while to overcome the leg-jerking thing, but I blame my age.
Eventually, it was time to go to bed, though my mind didn't want to let me. So off I went, my mind racing. This was the best night of my life, I was sure of it. And to this day, few others have come close. There were many nights back then when we would gather around the television as a family, enjoying those games. It was rare for us. And it doesn't happen now, hasn't happened for years. But I can still look back at when the Nintendo bonded our family together. There are many good memories, and also memories of waking up late at night and seeing that my parents were still playing after sending us to bed early.
For me, that night was the start of a million things. When I look back on it now, I'm not sure there have been more than two or three other nights in my life that matched it. And you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. Nintendo was, is, and always will be a magical thing for me. As it should be.