The first thing I remember of the Nintendo 64 isn’t a game or even an experience I had. It’s a story I heard, a small bit of talk that was meant to amuse. In ways it does, but it also breaks my heart a little bit. A story about a boy we’ll call Scott (and no, Scott is not me).
Flashback, the N64 just came out. My older brother’s friends had lined up at Target to grab one as soon as the store opened. And I say grab because this particular Target store had not done a “first ten in line” or even a raffle. No, they opened the doors, first come first serve. After a hasty sprint and a tug of war match with an eleven year old, these brave young men had earned the right to purchase a Nintendo 64. What does one do in victory but celebrate?
I should introduce Scott. Scott was unliked, and maybe rightfully so for all I know. One time my brother was hosting a party when someone busted through the door with an urgent message to pour into the revelers’ ears.
“Scott found out about the party! We gotta get out of here!”
Within two minutes the house was empty and I was instructed to play dumb about the get-togethers existence. Three minutes later there was a knock on the door.
“Hey, I heard there was a party over here tonight.”
“No one’s been over here tonight.”
“Oh, did your hear anything from your brother about it.”
This moment wasn’t a one-off for Scott. Which brings us back to the excitement of a new game console.
A party was held in the N64’s honor. Everyone was invited by the victors as a way to experience the next generation as well as flaunt their spoils. This time, everyone included Scott.
As everyone gathered round the television to watch this new world, they took turns running, jumping, and even flying in 3D. Eventually, the controller was either given to or grabbed by Scott. As he took control of the little plumber, the other teens in the room began to disappear to other parts of the house. To the kitchen for snacks, the family room the listen to music, the porch to smoke. Eventually Scott was exploring the game’s bold new frontier alone. Now, I’ve had several enjoyable experiences playing games by myself. The sheer fun to be had fighting your way through a hostile environment companionless as a knight, or a detective, or especially a plumber is something that has happened to all of us in hundreds of thousands vastly diverse ways. Maybe this was one of them for Scott, being unencumbered with a new system. To be able to freely play it without being pestered for the controller. Playing on and on with no one to bother you. After years of re-remembering and reviewing this story in my head, I wish he felt this way. But here he was, attached the system that leaped gaming into the future, that everyone was craving to see, to touch, to play. A platform that was built to be the ultimate party machine of its time. And no one wanted to share this experience with him. Because of him.
This rather brief story about a person I barely knew at a party I wasn’t at has not left me. We’ve all been in Scott’s shoes before. We can all empathize with him. Maybe I haven’t forgotten because I’ve been in his shoes several times, but its more likely its because of closed the door on hundreds of Scotts for reasons real, imagined, told, shared, bought, and sold. Sometimes you have to close that door to get what you want, and other times you have to close that door to lead a healthy life. Doors can be shut out of convenience, neglect, forgetting or millions of other reasons and emotions.
My door to Scott was barely open. The longest I ever talked to him was to tell him there was no party at my house or any house that night. If I could go back now and figure out something else to say, I’m not sure it would have changed at all.
LOOK WHO CAME: