Thanks to Mr. Conrad Zimmerman
and his Retrose Corrective Lenses Competition
I've been given an outlet to explore the deeper parts of why retro-games have always and will always be apart of my life.
To start things out, my family have always been athletes. My grandmother was a race walker, and even won an olympic gold medal in the senior olympics. My father grew up as the prodigal football quarterback for the Miami Wardogs back in '69. Even still today, I get that the '69 team with my dad as the quarterback should have won state that year. After an injury, he was forced to give up playing football, but went on to coach a state championship football team in '91. My mother was a cheerleader first for Miami, then attended Oklahoma State University where she continued her career in cheer. She went on to become a gymnastic coach, running her own small business. She even took on the area cheerleaders, helping them out when ever she wasn't taking national qualifying gymnasts to competitions. My older brother Derek, born in '82, was very talented in basketball and soccer, even at an early age. At 9, he competed in a three-point contest at a local basketball camp, and won.
I was born on October 3rd, 1987. Those athletic genes? They manifested in a way every parent dreads. I was a climber. At the age of two, I was found on top of the refrigerator, hiding from my parents to escape a spanking. I still remember the route to get on top of the fridge too! (chair, counter, microwave, fridge)
. At four, I was found on top of the roof of my house, preparing to jump off onto the trampoline. At any given moment, I could be found on top of the counters, inside the shelves on a bookcase, on the top shelf in the closet, on the roof, stuck in a tree, etc. And let me tell you, I kicked ass at hide and go seek (still do too). But, I was never developed enough to play with my older brother when he went out to play basketball or football. That didn't stop me from trying though, but I'm pretty sure Derek got sick of me always crying when he'd shoot a basket over my head, or run past me for a touch down. I never really had a chance to be considered his equal in anything. He was always going to be better, faster, smarter, and stronger than I would ever be.
It was 1991, and fate conspired with luck. My mother bought Derek a front loading Nintendo Entertainment System with a Metroid sticker on the top. She also bought him a game I always heard Derek and his friends talk about, Super Mario Brothers 3. I remember looking at the grey cartridge with the yellow sticker and some guy that looked like my dad with a raccoon tail.
For a long time, Derek hardly ever touched it. He would go out and play with the neighborhood kids, and leave me at home with the parents, who were expecting my little brother, Blake, at any moment. So, after watching my favorite show, I decided to go and start playing through the first few levels of the recently purchased game. It was awkward at first. I didn't know that you could jump on the enemies and they'd die. I didn't know that after jumping on the turtles, you could kick the shells left behind and kill more things. I didn't know that after getting the raccoon tails, you could fly. But, from then on, I was hooked. It was exactly my kind of game! I could run and jump and climb and fly as much as I wanted to, and I'd never get yelled at, I'd never get spanked, nor would I ever be in trouble!
And, eventually, Derek started playing the game too. Not only that, but we'd play the two player game, and we were on the same team! We never fought about whose turn it was, we never were annoyed by the other's lack of trying to get past those damn bloopers in the water levels. Any time either of us died, the other would reassure that we'll get that part next time. We were actually loving to each other, where as before, I was always the "little brat" tag along. We'd play for hours and hours and just enjoy the time we were together. He wasn't just my brother anymore, he was my friend!
Soon, even the neighborhood kids came over! Derek's friends would come over and want to play, and he'd let me play as Luigi and Derek and his friends would share turns with Mario. It was so wonderful! I could play with Derek and his friends and they actually liked me around! Not only that, I was always the one to beat the really harder levels! I had finally found something that I was good at! I was on an equal playing field with all the other kids! My muscles didn't matter in that world, and I could actually be better than Derek in something!
In 1993, my little brother Blake was born. Soon after that, we moved from our home and the neighborhood kids. Not too long after that, my brother stopped playing Super Mario Brothers with me. I'm sure it's because he was finally getting into middle school, and didn't want to do anything considered, "kiddie". Maybe it's because of his new friends that didn't like video games as much, because any time I tried to get them to play too, they would just laugh at me.
Derek went on through school, playing sports until his years in high school, where he picked up a paintbrush and began dreaming of become a great artist. He attended the Oklahoma State University where he had to give up painting as his major in favor of something much more secure. He had grown up. But, I never really did. I kept on playing video games, even though I had no one to play with. I'd play through the two player part of Super Mario Brother 3 by myself, and would remember how me and Derek used to play and have fun together.
Then, when I was in Middle school, my little brother Blake was old enough to pick up a controller and start playing. And ever since then, I never had to worry about not having a friend to play video games with.
I'm now 20 years old, and looking back on all the experiences video games have afforded me, I can't believe how much of an impact they really had on my life. I'll always have them to thank for leveling the playing field for kids who maybe aren't as talented or as coordinated to play sports with the other kids. I'll always have them to thank for bringing my brother and I closer than I had ever thought possible. For a while, he wasn't just my big brother. He was my equal, and he was my best friend.
Epilogue: Just because it's not long enough already.
Derek recently got married in August of '07, and for a gift for him and his fiance, I bought them a Super Nintendo with the Super Mario All-Stars Collection. From what they say, they've beaten all the games a few times, but they loved that it reminds them both of their days when things were much simpler and newer. Every so often, even my girlfriend and I play the All Star Collection on her SNES, but we both love that it reminds us of the days when our older siblings became our friends for the first time. read