Today, I re-watched one of my favorite video series on youtube, TVandLust's Context Matters, where Craig talks about games from his youth and his life at the time when he was playing that game. A lot of his videos are downright depressing at times, but it really inspired me to talk about Donkey Kong Country, a video games that I love so much but rarely talk about. While my childhood is nowhere near as dramatic as Craig's, it doesn't make all of my childhood video game experiences to be complete happiness with candy and rainbows either.
When I was a young kid, I didn't have any video games, the only time I was able to play games was when I was over my friends' homes. I still remember the first time I ever played a video game; I was in Kindergarten at my best friend's house for the first time (who is still my best friend to this day) and he brought me to his room to play Kung Fu on the NES, and it completely blew my mind. After that, I begged my parents for an NES, which my mom was completely against me having. She thought kids should spend almost all of their free time outside, getting exercise and eating nothing with fat or sugar in it ever. One of my most vivid memories of this time, other than playing video games at my friends' house was all of the screaming. My sister had horrible food allergies that nobody understood at the time, which would cause her to have incredibly painful muscle cramps. My parents were constantly fighting, screaming at the top of their lungs at each other about things that I didn't understand. In the summer after first grade, my father went on a business trip that was going to be much longer than usual, about two months. While my father was gone, one of my neighbors was around quite often. It seemed weird to me, since I didn't see him often before this but he was really nice so it didn't bother me much. Then about a week before my father got back from his business trip, my mom told me that we're no longer going to be living in this house. My parents were getting a divorce and my mom, sister and I were moving to another house, with our neighbor and I will be starting a new school in the fall. Away from all of my friends.
We only moved about fifteen minutes away, but it felt like another world. I was living with a man who was essentially a stranger to me, who ended up marrying my mom very quickly. I didn't know anyone in my new neighborhood, but I eventually made a few friends. One or two of these friends had a Super Nintendo. Holy crap. A Nintendo that's SUPER. I had to have one. I begged and begged my mom for one. I got my best friend talking to his parents about the Super Nintendo too. How could we live the rest of our lives without this sixteen-bit powerhouse of pure power hooked up to our TVs? That Christmas, it came. I got a Super Nintendo with Super Mario World and Super Mario All-Stars. It was without a doubt, the best day of my seven year old life at that point. My mom still has a picture of me holding the box in my hands, grinning est to ear. I was probably the happiest that day than I have been in years. The games just amazed me. I've played the first three Mario games, but never like this, and then there was Super Mario World. Oh my god, it was just so big and there were powerups that just changed everything, and there was Yoshi and all of the secrets everywhere throughout the entire game... I felt like that kid in the Sega CD commercial who was blown onto the wall.
These games kept my seven year old attention for a very long time, but my birthday was in February and I knew that I couldn't have enough video games. That's just how this stuff works. While looking through a Nintendo Power magazine, I saw a game that I absolutely had to have; Donkey Kong Country. The small screencaps that they had on those pages just amazed me. They looked like real apes, and yet this was just a video game! I asked for this game from both of my parents, hoping at least one of them would get it for me. At this time, I was getting kind of annoyed with my dad. He kept on asking if my step father was abusing me, and sometimes asking me to lie about him abusing me to my mother. I used to bring my Super Nintendo with me on the weekends when I saw my dad so I had a way to distract myself from his babbling. Because of this, I think he grew a mild hatred towards that game system for a long time, and refused to buy me any video games, claiming my mother wouldn't let him buy any games. I found out years later that what he said was a complete lie. No doubt though, I got Donkey Kong Country from my mom on my birthday. I remember that day pretty clearly; it was snowing pretty hard and our school was closed. My step dad is a teacher at another school that was closed too, and my mom is a stay-at-home mother so we were all at home.
My mother gave me Donkey Kong Country right after I woke up, and my whole family sat on the couch and took turns playing. I didn't get what Cranky Kong was talking about in his day, but my mom and step dad told me about the original arcade game and how popular it was, despite its crushing difficulty. There were a lot of times like that where we would all play video games together, laughing, or yelling as we lost over and over again at that stupid bee boss. It was the first time that I truly felt like I had a family unit again, a group where I felt safe to be with. I got pretty much every single Donkey Kong game ever after that and it was the same thing. Our entire family would play together. There may have been some cracks in this new family of mine, from the screaming phone calls my mother had with my dad, to the battles that were arguments that I had with my step father in my teens, but we were never broken; and I feel like this one game series is what first brought us together as a whole family.