I've touched upon this tale before to varying extents, but here's the full rundown on the Christmas that got me into gaming, and/or how my parents ruined me for life.
As far back as I can remember, I was regularly exposed to games to varying degrees, from my uncle's Atari 2600 to arcade cabinets at restaurants and bowling alleys (Hogan's Alley
and Pizza Hut - two great tastes that go great together), but it wasn't until kindergarten that I got to spend some quality time with a home console. Back in the mid-80s, the Nintendo Entertainment System was the new king of the gaming hill, and one of my first friends amongst my new classmates just so happened to have one and a decent selection of games. We bonded over ageless classics such as Super Mario Bros
and Duck Hunt
, as well as more niche titles like Tiger-Heli
, and Stinger
. Thankfully, my mother and father noticed just how positive a reaction I was having to these "TV games," and put in a call to Santa Claus for me.
December 25th, 1986. Insert your standard, "wake up early and rush downstairs" little kid's Christmas story. Already a curious cabbage, I began going through what was to become a yearly routine of trying to guess what was in each package under the tree by their sizes, shapes, and the results of shaking them. One box in particular, addressed to both my younger brother and I, was especially large, heavy (to a four year old), and mysterious, and neither of us could puzzle out its contents. Another hour and a half agonizingly trawled by before the sun started to rise and with it, our parents. We were specifically instructed to save the beastly mystery for last, and especially anticipatory by that point, I began plowing through the wrapping paper on everything else as fast as todller-ly possible.
At last, it was time. One final task stood before us. Taking up opposite ends, my brother and I attacked the wrapped colossus, and in no time at all, found us basking in the glory of an NES Action Set (the one with a Zapper, old-school grey style). Even with an obligatory church visit looming in the near future, I couldn't wait and continued my unboxing quest, tearing away shrink wrap and piling components around me as I tried to puzzle out the instructions. As my parents went upstairs to shower and change, I found a trial and error approach more effective as I figured out what adapters plugged in where, and by the time they'd come back down, I had the entire setup ready to go on the spare TV they'd set up for us in the livingroom.
Alas, there was still an hour and a half of Jesus to sit through before we could test drive the newest member of our electronics family, and before I could protest, I'd been bundled in corduroys and an embarassingly festive sweater and stuffed into a car. Wiling the time away with dreams of Goomba stomping and canine harassment was almost painful, but there was the small mercy of living all of two minutes away from the church in question, so the travel back once it was all said and done was mercifully un-grueling. At last, it was time...
...time to lob the boring, grey, pack-in cartridge aside and jam shining, glorious gold into that taunting, enticing slot. I'd had my fill of Super Mario Bros.
from my friend's library and the machine at the local roller rink, a birthday party favorite for us little'uns. The Legend Of Zelda
, on the other hand, was something new. Something different. And something that would stick with me as my number one gaming franchise fandom to this day.
Contrary to the baseless studies of some, becoming a console jockey proved something of a social revolution for me; having games proved a nice conversation starter with like-minded kids, and I made a lot of new friends around my neighorbood and nearby developments, becoming part of an elaborate trading network that kept us all full up on pixelated love without costing anyone's parents piles of money. It also led to a years-long, Nintendo-dominated console dynasty in my house, running on a schedule of year-after-release acquisition that wouldn't be broken until Final Fantasy VII
put me in dire need of a PlayStation. I'll reluctantly admit to being a fanboy for a while because of this, but thankfully, my brother and I both befriended Genesis-owning classmates in the 16-bit days, and that taste of blast processing kept our eyes open to other gaming horizons as they came along.
So yeah. If you ever want to blame someone for me being an enormous dork, prone to subjecting you all to massive walls of text, blame the man with the bag and his legions of elven slaves.
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