My Atypical Upbringing as a "Gamer"
Around 5 years back, almost right down to the month, I walked into a local game store that had just barely opened up. Apparently it was one of the franchises that GameStop hadn’t absorbed yet, so I figured I’d give it a look. The nearest GameStop was a good 30-45 minute drive away, and it really wasn’t all that impressive, so I figured this new store would likely be even worse. Hey, but at least it was closer.
I stepped through the doors and almost immediately I marveled at this store’s library. It was nothing like Gamestop. It not only had all of the hot new releases, but it also had everything you could ask for from previous generations. Oh, and the employees didn’t harass you to preorder shit, either. That’s always a plus.
This new store was, in many ways, the store I always imagined going to when I was a little lad. The mythical and ever illusive, all encompassing definitive “game store”. It had several NESs,SNESs, Powergloves, a 32x, Saturns, Dreamcasts, and goodness knows what else. Oh, and they were all in box, with original documentation intact. That blew my fucking mind.
Since this was a much better time, way before I became a starving art student, I actually had money to spend on things. So, once the employees shook my little body out of its awe-induced coma, I purchased a boxed 32x, as well as a boxed copy of Virtua Fighter. I also picked up an FC Twin and an orange NES Zapper, since I had a gray one and I wanted to hang the two on my wall like a total fucking nerd.
The cashier was older than me. Easily 25-28, but he seemed like a cool dude. I, myself, was 14 at the time.
“Is that all for you,today?”
“FC Twin, Zapper, 32x... I take it you’re an ‘old school gamer’?”
“Ummm.... Not exclusively. I play plenty of newer games, too. But, the NES and SNES... they’re kind of what I grew up on.”
“Oh, yeah. Me, too.”
This was the exact moment when I realized how atypical my upbringing was when it came to games, and how odd it must have been for this 20 something year-old guy to see this kid walk in and geek out about a fucking Boxed 32X.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I was badass because I knew what a 32X was... That statement would actually be pretty funny, if you think about it, though. It’s just, when most people picture a 14 year old gamer, they think of this...
Within gaming circles, age tends to play a huge roll in how other people initially view you. If I were to tell you guys right now “I’m 28 and I’m a gamer”, considering the fact that most of the examples I use in my videos tend to sit around 8-16 bit eras, it would be a safe bet to assume that I was most likely one of the many kids who fell in love with that large, gray box called the “NES” in the ‘80s and essentially grew up with it as part of my childhood.
If I were to say “I’m 15 and I’m a gamer”, your mental picture is likely to be different. Perhaps a kid who discovered the joys of the past through emulators. Or, even worse, perhaps a “poser” who just pretends to know what they’re talking about. Or even worse yet, one of those pubescent kids you find on Xbox Live, shouting the word “Fag” as if it’s the new “Marklar”....
Yeah, nobody is going to get that reference....
It is due to the above reasons that I’ve never been a huge fan of talking about my age within gaming communities or forums or what have you. So, in case you haven’t already done the math based on what I said earlier, I turned 19 last March.
If that last sentence didn’t shatter that last bit credibility I had with you, then please, read on. I'll shatter it eventually, I assure you.
While most gamers around my age might look back at something like the Nintendo 64 as their first console (And that’s if they started early), it was actually my 5th.
What was my first console? The Atari 2600. I got it when I was 2. It was so far back in my life that I don’t even remember my Dad getting it for me and playing it with me for hours at a time whenever he came home from work. But there are pics. It happened.
He would then go on to get me an NES, an SNES, and a Genesis before my limbic system was even developed enough to form memories. With the exception of the Atari, I still own those very same consoles. The SNES is Yellowed, the NES’ pins are far past their prime, and the Genesis gave out long ago.
By the time my little hippocampus was strong enough to do that whole memory formation thing, my library probably sat at around 70-80+ games scattered across those 4 systems. I fondly recall playing games like Millipede, Pitfall, Star Wars Jedi Arena, and E.T on the 2600 (Well, Star Wars and E.T. not so fondly...) On the NES I can recall playing Super Mario Bros 1 and 3, as well as Doctor Mario, Zelda 2, Megaman, and many others.
Some of my fondest memories before the age of 6 come from playing SNES games such as Super Mario RPG, Illusion of Gaia, Super Street Fighter 2, Super Mario All Stars+World, 7th Saga and Genesis games like Lemmings, Dynamite Headdy, Sonic 2 and 3, and Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude.
Judging by the list above, I feel that I was a fairly well-rounded gamer before I even lost my first baby tooth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be like one of those kids you see commenting on classic rock videos on YouTube. Y’know the guys.
Everybody my age played video games, but I always found myself a bit more fascinated with them than a lot of my peers because they took up a huge chunk of my childhood and the bulk of my earliest memories. As early as grade school, I identified myself as a “Gamer”. I remember “Playing Power Rangers” on the playground with a group of kids in First Grade. Everybody would choose a ranger color and pretend to fight badguys. I somehow managed to get kicked out of the group during one recess. Why? Because I didn’t want to be a Power Ranger... I wanted to be Mega Man(He was the closest gaming analogue I could think of for a Power Ranger... and he had a mothafuckin’ gun for a hand.)
Anyway, I digress (doo hoo hoo! =D) In the Christmas between ‘99 and 2000, I finally got an N64, and a few months later, I would absolutely fall in love with a little game called “Ocarina of Time”, which would go on to help me with my reading, memorization, problem solving, and much later on, with music.
But that’s a whole ‘nother blog in and of itself...
This blog was brought to you by:
great story .i found it to be what true video gaming is all about ,the comrodery, the knowadgle that someone else also shared in these experiences and valued them as unforgetable times of their youth, and can look to the future of what how good yet to come can be..
I have a local play n trade up here in Canada, but it doesn't have any of those retro consoles, bit of a shame.
Haha, yeah. I was quite spoiled for a while. I am super thankful that I actually had so many great games and experiences available to me during my childhood.
Yeah, man. I know exactly where you're coming from. It does seem like the '80s was a truly exciting time to be a young gamer, and it has a unique "feel" that you and I never got to experience, and that's a shame.
No matter how well we know the classics, or how young we were when we played them, we simply weren't around when they came out, and thus, we missed out.
That being said, we can still appreciate those games and try to imagine what it was like when they came out.
Some people might say that we aren't, and can never be "true" gamers, because we simply weren't around for those golden ages, and we never got to experience that particular era first hand. However, I feel that we should not be looked down upon, but instead commended for, at the very least, having curiosity and appreciation for that decade.
Oh, yeah, no doubt. Definitely kudos to you for helping to keep the classics alive in a young one's mind.
Hey, man. Perhaps you could write your own blog about your experiences. By the looks of it, you had some pretty excellent games on your hands, so I'm sure a lot of people could relate.
It was a Play 'N Trade. As I understand there are quite a few of them in the US, but it's the only one I've ever been to. The one I mentioned in this story has since changed a bit and lost some of its retro-charm, but I still managed to get a really, really good deal on my Pre-ordered 3DS on Launch-Day.
Mind telling me the name of that store?
Great blog, and great hearing about other's upbringing with games in the comments too. I had a NES from the time I was born in 1991 until my dad gave it away to my cousins when I got a SNES. My dad was always a gamer too so he would try to keep up with the latest system, but he would keep giving the old ones away. I wish that I still had my old NES, SNES and N64, in fact when I visited my aunt and uncle a few years ago I saw them all sitting in their basement and had a huge nostalgia trip. The pattern continued until the GameCube and PS2 fiasco. Then it was goodbye to Nintendo.... Until Wind Waker came out. I've always had a Playstation and an Xbox right when they came out, and I buy each Nintendo console when Zelda comes out for it. For me 70% of my love of games came from Zelda, but my other favorites growing up were Super Mario All-Stars, Super Conflict, Super Metroid, Mario 64, and Perfect Dark/GoldenEye (Come on, they might as well be grouped together even though they are both legendary) Maybe one day I'll get my consoles back, and my gold first edition cartridges of every Zelda..... Probably the biggest influence on my life out of any piece of entertainment.
Well I turned 21 in May. I don't feel old or young I just feel what I feel. Anyway I started out on the snes first game was donkey Kong country 2. Still good to see you have played alot of the old consoles. People these days just don't appreciate what they have with all of the new consoles not to mention with some of the old school games people are missing out on.
You sir, are a gamer.
I've brought my nephew up on the classics and he loves them (he's currently playing through Super Metroid). He just turned 13; I'll be 30 in December.
His conversations with gamers of comparable age must be pretty interesting . . .
I'm a really young gamer, my first console being the N64. When I tell people that, they just seem to think that I "don't understand retro games", despite the fact that I went out and learned about and bought a Genesis, SNES, and NES on my own. I feel that it's a bit sill that I can't be taken credibly as a gamer just because I wasn't born in the 80's, and the NES wasn't my first console.
He does have a motherfuckin' gun for a hand. I feel the same way. Early age, had the NES, then the SNES, Genesis, Sega CD, and Phillips CDI. For the fifth generation of consoles, i will go on to a Playstation and N64. Most kids only choose one console.But I always had two or more consoles from the same generation of consoles. I am also 24. So, my development of as a gamer is a little different from yours. lol You were a fucking spoiled gamer. Born with all the great stuff that came before you. I'm a little jealous.
Awesome read! I feel the same way as you. I'm 22 and my first console was an N64 (well I guess gameboy) in 97, but I remember getting hooked on SNES, NES and Genesis at my friends' houses. I remember playing kirby's dreamland at my uncle's house for hours on end when I was getting babysat.
And as for Ocarina of time, I attribute alot of my intellegence to it and old school games like it that had a lack of pushing and direction. When I finally beat that game at 9, I had no one thank but myself. I think it says something about how games can help development when a 9 year old has the perseverance and skills to beat a game that I've seen fellow 20 something year old's struggle with...
Looking forward to the next blog!
Unfortunately, games cost more than your typical Armani, so we gotta get by with what we can.
I'm pushing 28 and telling people I still game a lot. I look like the type too. Always wearing VG garb, etc. I SHOULD be in a suit working at an office. =/ Life is funny sometimes.