Category Archives: Moments of Clarity

Remember Malls?

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If you lived in a rural area, going to the mall, especially in a bigger city, was reason enough for a trip in and of itself.  I remember about once a year our family would load up in the 1988 Chevy Astro van and take a 3 hour drive to Wichita just to make a weekend out of going to the mall.

In the 90’s, malls were the pinnacle of the consumerism experience.  Climate controlled self contained eco systems, with something for everybody, and for every emotional or biological need.  From clothes, to electronics, food courts, and jewelry.  I would venture a guess that if you were a girl growing up in the 90’s you got your ears pierced at the mall.

So as were were walking around the Hays mall this weekend, it was an all too obvious reminder that those days are all but gone.  Most malls now are seen as dated, weathered old places that’s hardly “cool” any more.

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If it weren’t for the few workers in the stores that were open staggered between the long closed and forgotten shops, you could have mistaken this place for abandoned.  As far as shoppers, Andrea and I may have possibly brought the total mall patronage up to 20.  It was eerie, and weird.

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A few stores remained much as you would have remembered them 20 or so years ago.  And I suppose that really says the whole story about the mall doesn’t it?  We get bored.  Tired of the same old thing.  Eager for a new experience even if it’s not better it’s different.  Today malls have been replaced by mega outdoor shopping centers and Amazon.

Dotted between the legacy stores like JC Penny or Hallmark, what were once slick shops like GameStops, or Hot Topic.  Now either vacant, or replaced by flea markets, card shops or sad empty arcades.

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The experience just left me feeling old.  That society had really moved on from a world that was was once for me second nature.  This is why old people are so grumpy.  Life is just a steady stream of things you’re familiar and comfortable with being forgotten and taken away.

 

Convictions

Change is good.  I’ve pretty much decided.  Don’t get me wrong, nostalgia is by far my favorite drug.  But as time goes on, the more I realize every change brings about a more firm resolve in the area the change took place.  This is not to be confused with stubbornness.  Rather a commitment to the choice, and a new line of thinking that makes future decisions rudimentary.

Change in my life seems to go in and out like the tide.  Things are either changing all around me, or life is pretty much status quo.  When you leave your parents house for the first time, your life is full of change.  New settings, new objectives, new friends.  For me, when Andrea and I got married, we had the ceremony, moved and started new jobs all in the same weekend.  Three years later, within 9 months, we’d just bought the Cutlass, moved to a new house and were having a baby.  Most recently I’ve started a new job at work and we’re buying a house.  In between those eruptions of change I know there were things of consequence.  Perhaps it’s just the magnitude of the big events that makes the things that happen around it seem more significant (most likely).  Nevertheless, I look back on the big decisions and life, and I feel like I’ve really grown, emotionally and spiritually.

Not just the good changes.  When I dropped out of college, I decided on a career path that has ultimately been rewarding both personally and as a provider for our family.  At the time it wasn’t an easy… popular… or a fun decision to make.  What it did though, is make me commit to making it work.  When I was in school I was constantly making terrible money choices.  When the bottom finally fell out, it was dark times.  The only choice I had was to move on and make the decision to never go back there again.  Even the unfortunate change has resulted in firm convictions that lead to more positive thoughts and actions.  Now when a credit card offer comes in the mail, it goes straight to the trash bin.  I have no need, or use for it in my life.  I don’t have a single credit card.  Infact my credit score doesn’t exist.  (So the bank tells me).

Now, I can’t imagine ever having a car payment.  Not knocking anyone who does.  If there’s one thing I truly believe in, it’s that what’s best for me, isn’t necessarily best for anyone else.  To me life is all about sacrifices.  What are you willing to give up to get “X”.  In order to not have a car payment, I drive older cars.  I fix older cars.  In exchange for that sacrifice I have a few hundred bucks every month to toss at something else.  Or nothing else, and put it into savings.  Luckily… I like older cars.  Although I’ll be honest.  I like new cars too.  I’d love to be driving a new Dodge Charger.  But I’ve made a choice that I have committed to making work.  And if I stick to it, someday I’ll be able to go buy a new car, and still not have a car payment.

And that’s what’s completely awesome.  You can make it work.  Whatever it is you want.  But you have to truly believe it WILL work.  Could be a relationship, a job, a lifestyle choice; the moment you start to second guess yourself, you’ve taken the first step towards giving up.  When life throws change your way… it’s an opportunity to search within yourself and decide the path you’re willing to take.  An opportunity to really confirm what it is you believe in.  It’s the choice that helps bring you to that self-realization.  Once the choice is made, and you’ve committed to it, every change like it which follows brings with it an answer which is automatic based on your convictions.  And each change brings you closer to the center of who you are as an individual.

So I welcome change.  It is not always easy.  But so far, I’ve usually been better for it.

A Game I Missed

I know I’ve written here before about how weird life was back in the Gamecube days.  As far as gaming is concerned the result today is that I have a rather large collection of games for that system that have been barely played.

F-Zero GX was my choice tonight for retro night.  I’ve actually been thinking about this game for a while, ever since the 30 cent sale Nintendo had on the Wii U Virtual Console that featured the original F-Zero on SNES.  I could have swore I’d played GX more, but when I popped it into the Wii tonight in the Retro Room, what I ended up playing was MUCH better than I remember.

First off, this game made me re-affirm my love for the Gamecube controller.  What a well crafted, comfortable and precise instrument.  I still would have preferred a more traditional button layout, but everything else is just about the pinnacle of controller design.  It just melts into your hands.  And this game, F-Zero GX really highlights how precise and solid the analog stick is.

Maybe I approached this game too much like Mario Kart.  F-Zero is more about course memorization and well timed flicks of the stick than it is racking up power slides and cutting corners.  I remember being absolutely terrible at this game when it came out.  Apparently I haven’t given it another chance until over a decade later.  What I discovered tonight is the smooth and polished controls, AI that really fights back, and some really creative course design.  It didn’t take long though before the tracks started kicking my butt.  I need to spend more time with this game and learn the tracks, I’m convinced that’s the ONLY way to win the later stages.

All of a sudden I’m smitten with this game that has literally been collecting dust for ten trips around the sun.  I really hope to spend some more time with it this weekend and finally break it in.  If anybody wants to come over for some split-screen action in the Retro Room, just make the call.

Back at It

One of the reasons I love vacations is that they are a great way to hit the “reset” switch.  You get time to get caught up on those things that have been piling up and you head back into the working world with a resolve that you aren’t ever going to let that happen again.  Of course it always does end up happening again, but I do enjoy this time where all is right with the world.

I totally hit the ground running today.  Literally even.  I got out of bed to a pot of coffee that I remembered to get ready the night before.  Enjoyed one cup then headed for my Wii Fit U workout.  I like that you can customize your routines for the activities you want to do and how long you want your workout to be.  I started with some warm up stuff like bicycling and hula hoop.  Then a 10 minute jog, some push ups and jacknifes, then a short run.  It took about 35 minutes, which isn’t too bad for a morning workout I think.

I had a lot of setbacks at work today, but I approached them with a much more positive attitude.  It all just seemed a lot easier.  I dunno.

Then I came home to my 2014 Nintendo Calendar from Club Nintendo!

It’s pretty cool, but a lot smaller than I thought it would be.  Hey, it was free!

Catching Up

As usual… the blog has gone neglected. Man, I never really thought when I had a kid that so much of my free time would be completely soaked up. Existing parents feel free to laugh it up in the comments. But seriously. After Luke is in bed at 8:30 (when things go smoothly) that leaves me 2 hours to get what I want and NEED to do done.  That’s just about enough time to start something and not finish it.  Work has been pretty exhausting the past few weeks as well, and when I do finally get a chance to relax I’m really only in the mood for something completely passive, and writing isn’t it.

Was that an excuse?  An explanation?  I don’t know.  I feel a bit of regret that I don’t put more of my thoughts here these days.  Seems like if I don’t write it down, it’s a day that can be lost forever, and if that’s the case what good was it?  Good, bad, tough or easy, I really need to remind myself this is one of my favorite places.  It’s the place I feel comfortable talking about anything other than bitching about work.  That’s just not a practice I recommend for the internet…

So what have I missed?  Well if you follow my Twitter you’ll see I’ve got the Christmas lights up on the house.  Did that the weekend after Thanksgiving (appropriately).  The two weekends preceeding Thanksgiving were absolutely gorgeous.  Just knock down beautiful days.  That would have made the most sense to put them up then, but I just can’t do it before the holiday.  Not because it’s tacky… but because I refuse to dilute my joy of the Christmas season.  I really love Christmas and all the traditions surrounding it.  But I don’t want to be one of those people that as soon as Halloween is on the horizon, it’s Christmas time.  I prefer my holidays to be potent and rare enough to be savored.

So I spent one of those weekends working, and the other one I spent Saturday being productive otherwise outside of the house, raking leaves, cleaning out the garage.  Got the black car tucked good and away for the winter.  And that Sunday I was a total bump on a log.

Thanksgiving itself was very nice.  We drove out to Cimarron and spent the holiday with Dad and Carrie’s family.  Then we stopped by Mom’s house briefly and Luke and Daisy chased Mom’s cat around.  It was good to see everyone as usual, but it’s just so hard to see everyone in a day.  I’m glad that Mom is coming up for New Year’s so we can hang out and do some level 5 relaxin’.  Some people’s idea of thrill is zip-lining over a forest canopy (read: Andrea), my idea of an absolute blast is sitting with some good company, enjoying a beverage, and soaking myself in the lack of urgency.

I don’t think Andrea gets that sometimes.  How much, when I’m sitting at home, beer in hand, staring at the firepit… that inside I’m going out of my mind nuts with joy.  There is literally no place else I’d rather be.  God bless her, she wants to go everywhere and do it all.  And I’m up for it from time to time, but it takes a toll on me, because it’s not a release for me.  I think we do a fairly good job balancing each style though.  I don’t always get what I want, but then again, neither does she.

Post Thanksgiving has been a blur.  I really couldn’t tell you much of anything specifically that’s happened in the two weeks since.

Yesterday I took one of my last vacation days.  No particular reason other than it was use it or lose it by the end of the year.  I pretty much hunkered down in the basement for the entirety of the day.  After breakfast with Luke we went down stairs and he played with his toys.  We built a scale model of Albert out of his blocks and then I installed Morrowind on my computer from an old disk I had while he continued to play.  I also played a significant amount of Guild Wars 2 and made some considerable progress with my character, something I haven’t been able to say for months!  I’m up to level 72.  Only 8 more levels until I can finally start investing in my “final” gear and progress towards beating the storyline.  After that I hope to play some World vs World… but I don’t know if MY real world has time enough for what I know that game could occupy.

Adventuring with Andrea and Mom through the Norn area.

Today was another nice day.  I spent the morning in with Luke doing our usual “weekend” routine since today was a day off too.  Breakfast, Care Bears then lots of hard core playing!  It was actually almost 60 degrees outside this afternoon so I decided I needed to get the salt washed off the Cutlass and give it a good wax to keep it protected for the winter.  Luke and Andrea hung out with me while I had the tunes on in the garage.  It was a job that was over due, but an enjoyable task with the company I had.

There’s a lot looking good in this picture!

I’ve started “playing” Wii Fit U.  I use the quotes because I’m not so much doing the games as I am actually trying to use it as a fitness tool.  Andrea got a Wii balance board ages ago that she apparently had been keeping tucked away for some reason.  So upon the realization that we had a balance board, we downloaded the Free Wii Fit U trial.  It only last a month, but here after Christmas I’m planning on buying a Fit Meter and registering it, then we’ll get the whole game.  I like it so far.  I use it mostly for the “Free Run” to get my heart rate up and burn some calories.  I think it’s pretty need to “jog” through Wuhu Island.  It’s been in so many other games from Mario Kart to Pilotwings, that getting down on the ground level and taking a slow jog brings a really neat and immersive perspective for me.  It has really exposed how out of shape I am though.  I’ve been aching for the past few days from all the workouts, which I guess is a good thing.  I’ve been trying to get in 30 minutes to an hour a day with it.  I’d love to find a good Wii Fit U Community to help keep me accountable.

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Back in the day, as I’ve written here before, I used to spend a lot of time on the IGN forums.  Well… lately I’ve been kinda sucked back into the forum life.  Not on IGN.  Sadly it’s just a husk of what it once was.  But I’ve found two new more niche forums that I am really enjoying thoroughly.  The first is N64Forever.com.  As you would assume, it’s a message board focused on only the N64.  It’s not a huge community and the topics don’t move very fast compared to the old IGN days, but they are all good mature people.  Many with families of their own like myself now.  It’s fun to share with a group of people that’s as passionate about those old games and system as I am.

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The second is the new ClassicGameRoom.com forums.  CGR has recently put a lot of effort into their website since some YouTube policy changes, and it is really blossoming by the day.  The forums there largely center around retro gaming, but also touch on modern releases, just as the show does.  But much like N64Forever.com the demographic skews a bit older, and with that, a bit more mature.  Lots of good folks.  Guys that just love old games, love beer and are just there to relax and have a good time.  If that’s not right up my alley… I don’t know what is.

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So that’s it.  That’s everything I could have been writing about this whole time.  It feels good… this writing thing.  I’m so rusty. Just like Wii Fit… I need to keep exercising this skill.  I really have plenty to put on here.  It’s just getting the uninterrupted time to do it.  Here’s to making it important enough that I find time to keep it up.

Predictable People

I like to think that one of my more refined (and useful) skills is the ability to figure people out rather quickly.  For the most part people are very simple creatures, largely predictable.  Once you figure out how they respond to certain inputs, it’s safe to say they’ll usually respond similarly in similar situations.  If you’re able to pick up on those tendencies, you can go as far as to emphasize certain inputs to… erm… manipulate the outcome.  For the most part people are inputs and outputs.

I’m not saying I’m manipulative… I usually choose to just observe.

Honestly I find it disappointing that most people are so simple and 2-dimensional.  Feed them something they love, and they’ll re-regurgitate it right back to you.  Ask them why they love it and they say “I don’t know, I just always have.”  Feed them something they hate, and they’ll parrot every opposing argument they’ve ever seen, heard or read on the internet.  Ask them about something neutral, and they just don’t care.

All of the most interesting people I’ve come across in my life (which probably total less than 8) share two things in common.  First and foremost, they have deep convictions and feelings about the things they consider relevant.  And second, those convictions are rarely unsolicited, because those convictions aren’t reliant upon the acceptance of others.  They are wholly their own. Both of those traits are probably my most respected qualities in a person.  The ability to form your own thoughts, be passionate about them, and not require validation.

Because your thoughts are your own should be validation enough.  Should someone disagree with you, what does it matter? If you think something is “stupid” or “awesome” because someone else did (or didn’t), that’s not conviction, that’s influence.  I don’t mean to say you should be unique for unique’s sake; it’s absolutely fine to share similar feelings as others.  It is how you arrive to those feelings that matters.

Don’t confuse a strong conviction with ignorance though.  One of the most powerful conversations I remember having with someone was talking with a friend about salvation.  You may or may not be religious, but the conversation below is a great example of what I’m talking about.

She said, “Do you know you are going to heaven when you die?”

“Absolutely,” I said.

“How do you know for sure?”

“Because I believe 100% that Jesus lived and died on the cross for my sins.  That as the Son of God, His sacrifice is enough to cover the sins of all humanity, including my own,” I said with great confidence.

“You think believing is all it takes to be saved?” she asked.

“I do.  When I stand before the Lord I can say I believe with all my soul that Jesus saved me.”

Then she caught me off guard when she said, “I would rather stand before the Lord and tell him that I did everything I could to know for sure that Jesus saved me.”

I felt a bit ignorant in that moment.  I believed I was saved, because that’s what I was told I had to do.  Just believe.  She made me realize that just because I choose to believe something doesn’t make it real in and of itself.  That what is truth is truth regardless of what one chooses to believe.  That that conviction needed to come from personal revelation through action.  (James 2:14-17)  Those are the kinds of thoughts that I find alluring.

So, honestly I’m rarely that “interesting” person I’ve been talking about.  I’m pretty predictable and unsolicited myself a lot of the times.  But I try to keep an awareness of it about me. I try to be my own person and do what’s best for my family and me, but also realize that my way isn’t necessarily the best way for anyone else.

We are all unique individuals.  Being different isn’t something we should feel awkward about.  You should celebrate it!  Don’t let conformism take away one of the greatest personal freedoms you’ll ever possess, and that is the freedom of individual thought.

Vacation Almost Over

I took a week off of work.  It’s been really nice.  Breaking the doldrums of the same old same old.  I can say fore sure though, I didn’t get as much relaxing and gaming time as I had hoped.

The family and I all went out to Cimarron to help my Mom move to a new house.  It went about as smooth as a move can possibly go I think.  We started the heavy lifting at 8AM on Saturday, and we were done by noon that day!  We had a bunch of help, so that sure made thing go smoother.

I really like their new place.  It has lots of room both inside and out.  Luke loved running around and there are all sorts of different areas of the house that you can use for different things.  Upstairs is going to be a cool football room.  I had the pleasure of hanging my first flat screen TV on the wall.  It was actually a lot simpler than I thought it would be.  We got their sound system working and they have a pretty awesome setup now.  It will take some tweaking and organizing, but I helped get everything hooked up.  It’s up to Mom and Duane now to make it the way they want it.

We came back on Monday and on the way home, we realized that the leak I thought I fixed in the Jeep… wasn’t fixed at all.  The carpet on the passenger side was soaked from the condensation dripping from the AC into the cabin.  Thank goodness for the internet I found a fix.  Unfortunately it called for cutting a hole in the side of the frame on the Jeep!  Something I don’t really have any tools for.  But $25 worth of Dremel accessories and $5 of plastic tube and clamps later, I think I have it fixed.  I ran out of time to thoroughly test it because Andrea had to go bowling and I needed to watch Luke.  He’s just not to the age yet where you can go, “Stay where I can see you, don’t drink any poison.”  So letting him roam around the garage while I work on cars still isn’t a good idea.

On top of that, Luke and I took a shower and I noticed that the tub wasn’t draining.  This has happened before and usually I just have to plunge it out.  However this attempt of that has proven fruitless.  I even poured some drain clog remover down there, and nothing.  So I called the Landlord.  Something I haven’t had to do very often since we moved here.  Most of the time because it’s easier to just fix stuff myself rather than wait and rely on someone else.  But for this project, I got to the point where I said… “Why am I still screwing with this?  I rent!” so I took advantage of one of the benefits of NOT being a homeowner and called this one in.  A plumber is supposed to be coming over sometime today and I won’t have to worry about the bill!

So I planned on helping Mom move, that was the reason for the timing of the vacation.  But I didn’t plan on having to tear apart the Jeep and mess around with plumbing.  Feels like a lot of the time I’ve spent on “vacation” I’ve been working and fixing things.  Andrea says that’s sure not her idea of a vacation.  But you know, times like this when I can kick back on the couch with the laptop, a cup of coffee and write a blog in the middle of the morning… this is what it’s all about.

If anything this time off has helped me get back to my natural state, which is “laid-back”.  Work gets me so uptight and hi-strung sometimes.  I didn’t used to get all stressed out about stuff.  Just not enough time any more I guess, blah, blah, cue what everyone always says.

I feel like I can go into work now with a bit of a re-freshed perspective.  That is going to help a lot.  I really am going to dedicate myself to dumping the stress from my life.  Get done what I can get done and don’t sweat the rest.  That’s my plan.  We’ll see how long it lasts.

Retro Game Night!

FFVI Cart on Shelf

I’m so excited.  I have officially dubbed Tuesdays as Retro Game Night in my house.  You’re probably thinking, I could play retro games every night around here if I wanted to.  And I COULD, but then I couldn’t get a lot of other things done, be it gaming, or actual, you know… responsibilities.

So I decided in order to be able to enjoy a few of the things I’ve really been wanting to do, and not just plow through them one at a time like it’s a job, I would take different nights of the week and dedicate them to different areas.  All part of this preparation and organization kick I’m on lately.

Monday – Guild Wars 2 Night: Officially started last night as Andrea and I were playing through with her new character. This game is incredibly fun, but will literally consume every minute of your life you’re willing to throw at it. Part of this new schedule is to keep me from spending ALL my time playing GW2. Haha.

Butt Kicked

Tuesday – Retro Game Night: A night to play anything not in HD. That’s (begrudgingly) how I’m defining “retro” gaming these days. Right now I’m focusing on Final Fantasy III. It’s tough because it’s been so long between play sessions I’m having trouble remembering what to do next. Hopefully playing on a more regular basis I can follow along a little better.

Wednesday – Guild Wars 2 Night: Because honestly this game deserves 2 nights a week. It’s the game I’m most interested in right now and the game I’m having the most fun with. These game night themes aren’t the same forever. But this is how it is for now.

Thursday – Automotive Night: This makes the list because generally I kinda like working on my old cars. And matter of factly, I NEED to work on these old things to keep them running. Basically there’s only one thing that matters when you’re driving old cars on a daily basis like we do. And that is fix things faster than things break. If you can do that, it will last forever.

Friday – Project Night: This one I’m most excited for. Mostly because I don’t know what my project is going to be yet. Ultimately I’d love to build a MAME Arcade Cabinet. But this night will rely on funds being available for big stuff. But right now I know there’s plenty of little projects around the place here that I need and want to get done. And this sets aside some time to do those.

So there you go.  This whole idea is all about making time for the things I want to do.  I’ve felt so busy since Luke was born.  But hopefully putting a little focus behind my recreation, I can not only actually get to them, but also enjoy them.  All to often I feel like I’m just plowing through something I’ve wanted to do, making it something I have to do because I don’t know when I’m going to get back to it.  This adds some structure.  And it helps me remember I will get back to things, so I don’t have to force my way through them.

We’ll see how long this lasts.  I get on these kind of kicks then eventually they fizzle out for me, but right now, I’m pretty excited about it.

Reboot

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It was time.  The blog has a fresh coat of paint.  It had been over a month since my last post, and even longer since I’d actually written any content.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to write about.  And it wasn’t even that I was as busy as I’d like to think I was.  Here it is, 40 minutes past my bedtime, and I’m FINALLY making a new post and re-themed the blog!  It’s not because I’m any less busy.  I worked until 8PM tonight.  I just decided to finally make it a priority.

I had tossed around in my head how I want to use this blog.  Before I went off the grid, it seems like traffic was picking up a bit.  As more people started coming by and as I noticed some of the same people coming back I started to think about narrowing the scope of what I’m posting about.  By far the highest traffic posts were my gaming posts.  The stuff about Guild Wars 2 and retro gaming seem to get quite a few hits.  The stuff about my old car and Luke don’t see near as much attention.  I thought about making the blog here gaming exclusive.

However, I come back to my original philosophy with this blog.  It is, and always has been, entirely self serving.  This is my personal blog.  At least as personal as I wish to be on a public forum such as this.  It’s my corner of the internet, and I enjoy posting about whatever eccentric topic I see fit for the day.  I intend to keep it that way, for better or worse.

What I may do is create a new blog that is 100% gaming focused.  Maybe even exclusively retro gaming as that’s where my heart truly lies.  I can cross post stuff here and there, but also get into the real macro of gaming there.  Stuff that would completely bore absolutely everyone I know in the real world, but other obsessed geeks like me could find some value in.  But one thing at a time.  Let me get back in the habit of feeding this beast first.

I am re-committing myself.  From here on out, I intend to make a post every day.  Significant or not.  Gaming related or not.  It won’t last forever, I know.  But it’s a good exercise in giving some love to the blog, and most importantly, capturing some of the more significant (small) moments in life and documenting them before I forget them and those thoughts and experiences are truly lost forever.  For whatever it’s worth, this blog really has helped shape me as a person, as it helps me catalog my thoughts from the lowest of the lows to the highest of the highs.  It helps keep me grounded, and not get swept away by the torrents of outside influence and all the ideas of who everyone else wants me to be.  Hopefully every next post is more “me” than the last.

My first video game experiences

I’m 30 years old, and for as long as most people have known me, video games have been a part of my identity.  It’s a passion that waxes and wanes through the years, but for the most part it has always been there.  Well, not always.  You know, there was a time before games, before Nintendo.

My VERY first memory of video games involves the NES.  I had to be around 5 years old.  It was at least 1987, because I remember a friend and co-worker of my Dad’s bringing over his NES to our house.  If I recall, his name was Kevin.  This was a long time ago, so that may not be accurate, but for the sake of the story, we’ll call him Kevin.  He and my Dad set up a small 13″ TV in our dining room and strung out all the cables and connected the NES to the TV.  I really had no idea what it was.  But I remember Kevin was excited to show it off.  They were playing The Legend of Zelda, which I distinctly remember because of the gold cartridge and I remember watching Link walk around killing creatures.  I never did play it though.  To be honest I was more interested in this totally awesome firefighter board game he brought for me and my sister.

Not the same TV, but a very similar setup to what I remember.

Not the same TV, but a very similar setup to what I remember.

To side track just a minute here.  That board game by the way, was freaking awesome.  I completely forgot what it was called, but thanks to the internet, I actually was able to find it!  It was called “Oops & Downs”.  You actually assembled several pieces of cardboard together to create a 3 tier game board and you raced to the top.  Sometimes you’d land on a tube though, and you had to slide your fireman down the the level below.  It made a funny little “waaaah” noise as the game piece slid down the tubes.  It was about as complicated as Shoots & Ladders, but it was so much fun!  I hadn’t thought about that game in forever!

Oops & Downs

Okay.  Back  to Nintendo.

So while Kevin’s NES was my first exposure to video games, I didn’t have a real meaningful impression until some time later.  Sometime in 1987 or 1988 I remember visiting a friend of my Mom’s.  I can’t remember what her name was.  I’m 95% sure my Mom knew her as a co-worker from her days at “OK Video” in Dodge City.  I want to say she had a somewhat uncommon name.  At any rate, her son had an NES in his room.  He would have been a few years older than me.  And I remember vividly, his room was small and cluttered.  It was dark, lit only by the glow of a small TV and the light that bounced in from the open door to the hallway.  I remember watching him play Super Mario Bros. and thinking, “This is amazing!”

Any impressive technology provides a bit of disbelief that you are actually able to do what it allows you to do.  I still marvel at smartphones, and that I’m able to get my e-mail, navigation and even video chat from almost anywhere.  It still baffles me a bit to know that all that is capable in a device you can slide into your pocket.  If you weren’t there at the time, it’s hard to imagine the NES as “amazing”, I’m sure.  But the Nintendo Entertainment System really felt like something new and cutting edge.  When you saw it sitting on the shelf, you marveled at the technology inside.  It looked sleek and very “now”.  The NES has become such an icon of retro culture that it’s difficult to believe that we once looked at it the same way we look at the PS3 or iPad now.  It was an expensive advanced and fancy pants machine in its day, that’s for sure.

Today this looks "retro".  In the 80's this looked fresh and cutting edge.

Today this looks “retro”. In the 80’s this looked fresh and cutting edge.

I remember watching this kid in his room, pluck-ing fireballs, going down pipes, and exploring this amazing world inside the television.  He let me play a bit.  I of course was terrible, but I was compelled, just wondering what could possibly lie just off to the right of the screen.  What adventures did each next level have in store?

My Mom came in and told me it was time to go home.  I actually cried when it was time to leave.  I wanted to badly to stay and keep playing.  In the weeks after that, whenever Mom loaded us up in the Astro Van to go run errands, I always hoped in the back of my mind that we would make a stop at that house so I could play more Mario.  To this day, I still remember that house was on Avenue C.

This is quite possibly the house I played my first Nintendo game.

This is quite possibly the house I played my first Nintendo game.

The weeks and months that followed may possibly have been some of the most annoying days my parents ever experienced.  I don’t remember nagging them for a Nintendo, but I do remember REALLY wanting one BAD.  So whether I deserved a Nintendo, or they got one just to shut me up, I’m unsure.  When  you’re 6 years old, you have a significant lack of perspective.  Whatever the motivation we eventually got our very own Nintendo Entertainment System.

Here’s what I remember… I don’t recall it being a particularly special occasion like a holiday or birthday.  I just remember my parents saying we were going to Wal-Mart and we were “Going to get a Nintendo”.  I couldn’t believe it.  I don’t remember going in the store, but for some reason I feel like I remember seeing the box in the car on the way home… that memory is really fuzzy though.

As a note, this is not our first NES. Our FIRST NES was destroyed by one of my careless friends (Daniel D.) who ran across in front of the TV while I was playing. He yanked the deck right off the shelf, onto the floor, never to work again. I still have 2 copies of Super Mario Bros. to show for it.  PROOF that this wasn’t our first NES… the Quickshot controller on the bottom shelf under the TV in the photo.  Why would I have that, if I didn’t already have an NES?

One thing I do remember rather clearly is my folks saying it was going to take 30 minutes to hook it up once we got it home.  30 MINUTES!  I couldn’t believe it!  What an eternity!  I might as well just wait until I’m RETIRED!  Sheesh!  Time is certainly a relative perception, and if you have kids, don’t underestimate the difficulty little people have waiting for things to happen.  When you’re a kid, if it’s not happening now, it may as well be 100 years away.  The funny thing is, now hooking up a NES takes about 2 minutes.  But it sure felt pretty complex back then.

I also recall being chiefly aware that this was expensive.  I don’t know if I respected that fact then as much as I do now.  It was definitely a lot of money compared to every other toy I had.  I figure the NES probably cost around $150 then… the equivalent of almost $300 in today’s money. That was a lot of money just to shut me up!  Ha ha.

After that, my clearest memories involve me being supremely frustrated with Super Mario Bros.  There was so much rage when I couldn’t even clear the first jump in World 1-1.  Time and time again, I would approach that hole… jump… and die.  Mom had to try to calm me down, I would get so mad.  I even tried thrusting the controller up in the air, hoping my muscle movements would help propel Mario over that chasm.  Little did I know someday that would actually be possible.  But with patience… okay, maybe not patience, but practice… I finally cleared that first jump.  After that I never looked back.

The NES continued to bring so many great memories.  Excitebike, Punch Out, Galaga, Rad Racer, Ice Hockey… all early experiences that felt completely amazing.   And it began a love for games that continues to this day, even if I spend more time reading and writing about them that I do playing them it seems.

What were your first gaming memories?  Post ’em up in the comments!