It's December, 1988, and I am about to fall in love. It's name is Nintendo Entertainment System. I call it NES for short. We were introduced by my older brother.
It's...*cough, hack*...ugh, sorry, I had some Dr. Manhattan stuck in my throat. Where do I even begin? The vast majority of good memories throughout my life are tied to gaming in some way. My earliest memories are of playing Super Mario Bros. with my older brother. I was only 4 years old when we got our first NES, so being 5 years my elder, he was naturally better than I. I remember once we sat down to start two player mode and he was of course Mario, because he would just punch me otherwise. He beat the entire game without dying... The game then refreshed to show my tiny Luigi waiting at the beginning of World 1-1. Even my 4 year old brain was smart enough to say "Nah...maybe later", and I just turned the game off.
Fast forward at least a year (or maybe two, it's hard to keep track at this point), my mom has hidden Faxanadu and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the bottom drawer of her dresser. They're supposed to be for Christmas, but my brother quickly discovers these (not sure what he was actually looking for) and apparently we MUST play them now. Hey, I was only the little brother, what do you want from me? I was a sheep!
The funniest part is my dad, one of the smartest men I've ever known, paid so little attention to the games we played he actually walked in on us playing them and was none the wiser. We still don't let him live that one down. Of course my older sister ratted us out, AFTER she played with us, so we didn't exactly get away with it. Can I also take a moment to shout out Faxanadu? How awesome was that game? Can we get a re-release please?
Photo courtesy of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faxanadu
Fast forward several years, my best friend and I rent Final Fantasy II (That's JP 4 if you're keeping track) for the Super NES. My god! We were enthralled! And guess what? I'm still enthralled! I still play it almost yearly and I've even got a pixel art of Cecil and Kain hanging in my office that he got me for a wedding present. It's not the "best" Final Fantasy, but it sure is my favorite. In no small part because of the memories I have with my friend. He's still my best friend after 30 years. I don't get to see him as much as I want to but I'll always be the Cecil to his Kain if he needs me. Don't judge, of course I'm the main hero in my own story!
The years fly by and Zelda, Final Fantasy, DOOM, Mario, and countless others have new or first time entries as we move into the Playstation and Nintendo 64 era. Two special places are reserved in my brain for Mario Kart 64 and GoldenEye 007. Countless hours were poured into these games by my brother, our friends, and I. Amazingly all of this was usually done on a 13-inch TV split 4 ways. When my parents would leave the house and we could go out to the living room, we'd hook up to the 21-inch TV. Ah...screen real estate nirvana! These games also led to lots of arguing, fits, and some extreme laughter that I thought for sure would be the death of at least one of us (you know who you are!).
In more recent years, it's been all about Playstation for me. The Last of Us and the latest God of War being my favorites. Maybe it's because I'm a father now, but these games with dynamic well characterized parent/child relationships move something inside of me. I honestly don't remember if I cried or not during the finale of the first TLOU, but I'll bet damn good money I had a lump in my throat at least. I may not be Kratos or Joel, but if pushed to it, I would kill for my child. I can relate to these men.
I remember shortly after my daughter was born, one of the only ways I could get her to stay down for a few hours so my wife could get some much needed sleep was to lay her on a pillow across my lap while I sat on the couch. I was essentially held hostage for at least 3 hours. What was I going to do? That's right! Playstation!
I'm sure you can see a pattern, most of these memories aren't even really about the game. They're about who I was with, where I was at in my life, or who/what were important in my life at the time. It's like when people associate a certain smell or sound to a particular memory in their life. That's what video games are to me. I play a game now, and I'm transported back to that time, with my friend(s), with my daughter, with my brother...
There are so many games and memories that I didn't mention. I could write all night and not get to them all so I'll just wrap it up. Not all of these games stand the test of time, but the memories, like a fine wine, only getter better with age. The fantastic difference is I can drink them as much as I want, and they'll never run out.