So the world has finally figured out that us Snake People wilfully forgo our livelihoods to relive our childhoods? First we got Pokémon Go forcing hermits out into public worldwide. Now, to cover the agoraphobic market, Nintendo is releasing a mini Nintendo Entertainment System emulator box (like everything Nintendo, it’s adorable. It fits in the palm of your hand. This is just reminding me how much I wanted a Gamecube lunchbox). As a young “professional” with disposable income and few overheads, I can suddenly grasp everything I wanted as a child. At least for the hour before I get bored of it.
Let’s get this straight. I LOVED videogames as a kid. I’d sink endless hours into anything I could get my hands on. I swear a ton of my friendships came from videogames. I truly wish I could say that it was a “like calls to like” impulse, that I sought out other kids who enjoyed the same things I did. Realistically though, I probably made friends with kids who had the systems I wanted to play.
Games were different in those days, and not in some rosy nostalgic reverie manner. The industry was drastically smaller, so selection was limited. I feel like these days I spend more time thinking about what kind of game I’d actually like to play than actually gaming. In those days we’d go to the video store and choose between the twenty or so games that existed. We’d lose a weekend thrashing the game, getting as far as we could before saving your game was a possibility. Even starting the game was tricky. I don’t know who taught us to blow in cartridges to get them going, but we took it as gospel. We developed rituals and superstitions (blow three times to the left, once to the right, half to the left and back. Then say the word “work”), then felt gratified once they worked. In all honesty, we were probably just spitting in the cartridge, affording the metal connectors greater conductivity.
When we weren’t playing the games we were talking about the games. They took front and centre in our non-electronic playtime, whether it was playing with toys or on the trampoline. We’d imagine ourselves as these characters in all types of insane scenarios. We’d scavenge for any snippets of information we could find about them. If there was anything in a magazine, TV show or newspaper about a videogame I’d want to know about it. The show Captain N: The Game Master, along with the rest of the Nintendo Power Hour, seemed too magic to be real. I did The Mario. I watched all the films (The Wizard, Super Mario Bros., Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat) no matter how bad they were. I’d hang out in video arcades in the hopes that some older kid would’ve left a free credit or two in the game. It was a combination of love and desperation, both magical and (in retrospect) terrifying.
I couldn’t count the number of hours lost to the Street Fighter, Final Fantasy and Pokémon franchises. I’m concerned that it’d count up to an entire year of my life.
Still, I’ll be the first to call bullshit on anyone who says gaming was better in the 90s while ignoring nostalgia. The industry is amazing these days. The range of titles and genres, the quality of releases. VR, for once, is actually right aroun the corner. We’re living in a world that delivered on everything we dreamed of and still we’re looking to the past?
The future is here. In this case, I feel like that’s something to be thankful for.