So I’d just like to start off by saying I’m not writing this to piss anyone off, step on anyone’s toes, or to point any fingers at embarrassing third-nipple-like appendages that readers may or may not have. I’m simply stating a different way of looking at the universe. I try to remain as objective as possible when I think about writing and reading editorial material from myself and others. I believe this makes a harmonious and intellectual basis for discussion once the subject matter has been analyzed. Sometimes I check objectiveness at the door though for the sake of a passionate article. I’m going to share some personal stuff in this about how I came to where I stand on gaming, and hopefully it’ll help you guys understand where I’m coming from in future articles.
I am an avid video game enthusiast. But I cannot stand Mario or Zelda, or any of the games associated with them from the nineties, and I believe sometimes that this disconnects me greatly from a vast number of the gaming populous.
As a child I grew up on a lot of things like oven baked chips, re-runs of Sabrina the teenage witch, and my Gameboy advance. A couple things I did NOT have, were a Nintendo sixty four, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or any other real console to speak of. Actually, that’s a lie, I had a N64 for a bit, but only rogue squadron and turok and it broke very quickly after coming across it. Because of this, I was not exposed to games like Mario 64, Super Mario, The early final fantasies, Crash Bandicoot, or any of the goddamn console based Zelda games. I took what I could get my grubby little hands on for the GBA and went about my business.
I was always relatively disinterested in Nintendo from the start. I found the premise of the games boring, and anytime I went over to a relative or friend’s house to play Mario Tennis, or Link to the Past, I found myself inundated with meaningless color and sound I simply wasn’t excited by. Why this was, I don’t know. Possibly my future self-had called back to my mind at one point to alert me of the near future in gaming. I probably told myself to save my christmas wishes, because even though my parents were too absorbed in other financial responsibilities to purchase a console for me, I would never really move beyond the games I played on my Gameboy until my early teens (but more about that later).
Now I have a theory. As a youngun' playing only on a game boy kind of stinted my realization of the gaming multiverse growing up. This is some fringe science here, so bear with me, but I’m almost positive, that even though I played almost all of the Zelda, Metroid, and Mario games that were available for handheld, my mind never made that solid connection with those icons and franchises. I believe that kids who saw that giant stupid plumber face on their colorful screen were more stimulated by their experiences in regards to that, then my dumb ass was seeing the sprite based green hat walk around the screen.
The way I see it, is that our consoles when we are growing up are like our parents. From a young age, we latch on to a system we’re comfortable with, and the franchises associated with that console. Things were a lot more bound to the system they were made for back then. You had your fighting and “X-TREME” games on sega, your super solid platforming and otherwise 1rst party Nintendo games on the NES systems, and everything else was relegated to the small PC gaming population or handhelds. This is a slight generalization but you get my point. The idea is that as children we begin to take hold of the values here-in. Some children’s mom and dad are Nintendo, some are sega, some are the PS1… mine…? Mine was the single mother that is the game boy color and advanced systems. I realized this and I felt a distinct pang of jealousy towards any child who had two healthy loving Nintendo home-console parents.
After coming into my early teens I began to lose touch with my portable-game-bound-maternal-unit. I drifted slightly away from gaming for a spell, but rushed right back as when for my thirteenth birthday I received a brand spanking new PS2. Boy was I thrilled. My aunt and uncle of all people bought it for me along with a Dance Mat, (back before the boom when they were still pretty pricey) DDR 2, Baldurs Gate 2, and a couple other titles I wouldn’t really latch on to. It was ecstasy, it was bliss, it was… fleeting. I played my PS2 all throughout my high school years. Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid, and Kingdom Hearts were all close to my soul, but nothing seemed to get as close, to me, as the people who were on Mario’s jock 24/7. I didn’t understand, what was so great about Mario? I had played a few of his games more extensively by that point and I wasn’t enraptured the same way so many of my peers seemed to be. I began to feel adopted.
Like, maybe there was something I was doing wrong. I began once again to drift from games as a whole and lose interest. During early college it was difficult for a game to keep my attention for more than fifteen minutes. I had become convinced that if I didn’t have a strong back-log of passion and information about a character or a franchise that I was doomed to feel lost and cold in the embrace of what so many others saw as a familiar guardian. It was at this point when I learned about a concept called “nostalgia”. The feeling brought on from fond memories and past events. I pondered this idea for a long time, the notion that someone would love a feeling brought on by simply remembering a past event. More than just looking back and remembering something fondly. No, this was on a different level, past a cognitive reflex. This was like something of chemical nature, something in our brains.
And I was right. Funnily enough, strong sensory emotions pass through something in the brain known as the Amygdala, which processes not just MEMORY, but our emotional REACTIONS as well. So when you feel that strong pang of sensation from a smell or familiar visual image, just blame good ol’ Princess Amygdala.
But anyways, after I found this out, I realized something. These people who have these connections to these games didn’t just experience pure bliss when they witness news or information about their icons. The emotions ranged from anger, to sadness, remorse, and everything in between. I began to think of how unfortunate it must be to have been so mercilessly tied to the back of the carriage like that and dragged through the dusty streets of unrequited love so many times just from seeing one simple Nintendo press conference.
And so I began to see my position in regards to nostalgia not so much as a wound, but a boon. Something I could use to my advantage. Those who become flustered when seeing someone from a video game they grew up with maintain a level of what seems like near-unbearable expectation they cannot overcome in most cases. My limited exposure to a range of characters, genres, and series growing up heavily accelerated my comprehension of similar tones, rough patches, and glimmering moments of bliss between games without having my Amygdala get in the way. I could draw the similarities between games that others would only scoff at, and embrace icons from a range of time periods.
I could play a sequel to a best seller that was nothing like its predecessor and judge it on its own terms. I could obtain an unbiased love for all the mascots and parental-console figures I had no taste for during my childhood.
After letting go of my fear of not belonging anywhere, I immediately belonged everywhere.
I wasn’t adopted anymore. Or what’s more, I was, but by over a hundred thousand different faces and feelings. I began to see this industry for what it was, and not what it WASN’T. I began to judge games on the terms they deserved to be judged on, and I stopped being afraid: Afraid of being left out of the “bigger picture.” By that point, I felt like my finger was on the pulse of this “bigger picture” and every single game I picked up I fell in love with. My "console family tree" is now as big as you could imagine, and I'm loving every second of it.
So, next time you’re angry at the color of Dante’s hair, the fact that “they’re” rehashing your favorite game for the 10th time, or that you simply just “want them to make games the way they used to.” Consider how far we’ve come, and how society makes progress in the first place.
And if you’re like I was, and you’re still waiting to find your nostalgic “console-parents.” Stop looking. You’ve already won the battle by surviving this long. Just sit back and enjoy the scenery.
I’m curious though, did any of you ever feel the same? Or the opposite? I’m interested to hear about your stories of love and betrayal throughout your lives in regards to your favorite video game mascots!
(Also, my apologies for the terrible photo quality.)
Thanks for reading!