The year- 1985 (I think).
I am in kindergarten and absolutely cannot wait to let my best friend that I have a Nintendo Entertainment System. I start spouting about the awesome light gun and shooting ducks. I tout ROB, my robot operating buddy, and how he helps me play a game called Gyromite. I also talk endlessly about a game with Goombas, Cheep Cheeps, and King Koopa.
Surprisingly, he also has a NES, and he wants to try this Super Mario Bros (pronounced bros with a hard 'o' sound, similar to prose, because I am 6, and have no clue about contracting words) that I am talking about. I tell him he can come over to my place and try it if he wants. He tells me no, he wants to try it at his house, and that he will let me borrow one of his games if I let him borrow one of mine. Ding ding.
At that exact moment, the lightbulb turned on.
My first experience with borrowing videogames. The experience of commodity sharing that everyone has been a part of. It is deeply ingrained in every child's brain, the need to see what the other person has. This is also a child's first chance to determine supply and demand, worth of assets, and whatnot.
Before going to school that next morning, I try something devious. I had not yet beaten level 1-2 as of yet (those stupid moving platforms), and I didn't particularly trust my best friend with my stuff, so instead of the agreed upon game, I do the switcheroo and bring Duck Hunt to school instead. When I see him, he shows me a game that would eventually end up being one of my all time favorite games, Pro Wrestling. I exclaim "Awesome!" and then proceed to tell him that I "forgot" to bring Super Mario, and instead brought Duck Hunt. No dice. He puts Pro Wrestling back into his backpack. The exchange will have to wait another day.
I think around this time that I learned that not everything is worth the same. Duck Hunt does not equal Super Mario. In later times, I would tell others that my Mortal Kombat does not equal their Super Double Dragon.
The next day, I stuff Super Mario Bros (box, instruction manual, black cartridge case, styrofoam filler, warranty info slip, everything) into my backpack and bring it to him. I gave him the box, he gives me his game. Transaction complete. Simple. Easy. A process that I would go to do for the next 20 years with other people.
I did learn one thing with letting my best friend borrow my game, and that is to not give people anything but the essential game, because when I got Mario back, it was missing everything but the cartridge. He could not explain where all the other pieces had gone (in all fairness, he just learned to walk about 3 years before).
Based on this simple hand-to-hand exchange, I have been able to play numerous games that I could not afford, or would never have thought about playing. It was through borrowing that I was able to beat Final Fantasy II in five days (got the game on monday, had to give it back on friday). Its so economical too.
I started thinking about this last night, why people I know (myself included), no longer borrow games, or at the very least, it has left my circle of influence. I do think fondly of the beautiful process that goes on between passing off a game to someone and getting one in return, and lament the fact that I no longer do it.When I want to play something in particular, I'm in generally no rush, so I just jump right onto the Amazon marketplace or ebay, and wait the couple days for the game to show up. It could be because I have had a disposable income for the past ten years and can afford whatever it is I want to play. It could be the finicky nature of disc-based games, and the fact that I am pretty OCD about their condition, so I have little trust in others' grubby little hands getting grease and scratches on my games.