Life Through Video Games: Part 1
This morning, just because I felt like it, I tried to remember the first thing I could, the one memory that defines the beginning of my cognizance. I kept thinking back to year one, and year two, and year three before realizing that my young brain didn’t categorize things that way. There was no real way I could set my brain to my 3rd birthday party and remember it, and while this is not an unusual or groundbreaking discovery, I was saddened nonetheless.
But I was able to remember playing Donkey Kong Country on the Super Nintendo shortly after it came out. I was only four years old, but I can still recall where I was sitting in my grandma’s house when my cousin first showed it to me. I now know the secret to unlocking my deepest and oldest memories: video games! I’m sure a lot of you have played these, so maybe your memories will be jogged.
My mother and I are sitting in the living room and I’m tinkering with a little handheld videogame, not quite as powerful as a Game Boy but suitable for my budding mind: the Sega Pico. I only had one game, Richard Scarry’s Huckle and Lowly’s Busiest Day Ever, but damn was I ever good at it. I spent most of my time in the bakery and mixing up paints in the paint shop.
I also had a Sega Game Gear around the same time, which was a gigantic monstrosity of a system that required around 40 AA batteries to operate. It was fun though. I had two games: Sonic and The Berenstein Bears’ Camping Adventure. I wasn’t too good at Sonic but I was an absolute terror at Camping Adventure. I probably poured 50+ hours into that. The creatures of the forest feared my net and cowered in my presence.
This is probably when my video game addiction started, as my clearest memory of playing it involves conning my mother into more game time: I would protest that I could only save at certain “spots,” which of course was absolute crap. If she tried to get me to stop, I’d casually mention that it would only be another 20 minutes until the next save point. I was pretty slick.
As I mentioned before, my cousin had a Super Nintendo and towards the end of the year he got Donkey Kong Country. We’d played Super Mario World a bit but I never cared for it all that much. He popped in DKC and I was never the same. I still play it on the SNES in my living room. Obviously, I had to have a SNES and nothing could stop me.
Except my lack of income. I finally conned my grandma into buying me a SNES and she also bought me The Lion King, which is a totally awesome game. I couldn’t ever get past the monkey swinging level, but I was great at the first two. I remember my mom even tried to play it once, but I made her stop after getting frustrated with her lack of technical prowess.
I had a few other games but the only other one that really sticks out is Zombies Ate My Nieghbors, and partly because of the circumstances surrounding its acquisition. My mother and I were walking to the old Blockbuster on South Street in Philadelphia (it’s a thrift shop now, I think) and she bought me ZAMN. On the way back, a large truck with several “extreme” looking guys was passing out a new soft drink, the one and only “Surge.” They gave me two free bottles and I drank them at home. Thanks to their absurdly high caffeine level, I was cracked out and finished half of ZAMN in one day. God I miss Surge.
My mother played a cruel trick on me around my birthday and pretended I’d gotten nothing, only to reveal, later that night, the Nintendo N64. My reaction looked something like this. I had Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey and Super Mario 64, which has been covered enough at this point. Wayne Gretzky was the superior game in my mind, at least it’s what I had the most fun with in those early days. I was the Flyers every time, just so I could play with the Legion of Doom. And Lindros was a beast in that game.
The summer of 1997 will always be the best of my life, no matter what, for the following three reasons:
- I had the scariest Super Soaker on the block
- I had two or three friends over every day
- Killer Instinct Gold and Shadows of the Empire
Well, maybe not the best, but I certainly have a lot of fond memories. My friends and I would play KI Gold in my basement for a few hours, go to the pool for a while, and then play some more. I was always Fulgore or TJ Combo, but none of us were really that good. Not this good. I loved Shadows of the Empire as well. I spent countless hours exploring the darkness with Han Solo rip-off Dash Rendar, and I’ve probably beaten in ten times. Good stuff.