Category Archives: Moments of Clarity

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!

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Self Improvement

SIC

The time change totally kicked my butt yesterday.  I vaguely remember my alarm going off at 5AM.  I’m pretty sure I remember hitting snooze, but definitely don’t remember finally dismissing the alarm.  Sure enough I wake up and look over at the clock which reads 7:07 AM and a notification on my phone that says, “You missed an alarm ‘Get Up & Go To Work'”.  Whoops.  So that means I slept through 10 minutes of my alarm going off before my phone finally gave up.

So I resolved to make some changes.  I updated the alarm on my phone to be louder.  I also picked a new song as my alarm sound.  I’ve found that I can’t use songs that I like as my alarm.  Because after a couple days of that song waking me up… I grow to hate it.  It totally ruins the song for me.  So I try to pick a song that I sorta like so it’s still pleasant to wake up to, but I’m not too attached to.  Thus I arrived at Frank Sinatra – “Summer Wind” as my new alarm.

retro-coffee

I made a point to set up the coffee maker the night before and set the program.  So that when I wake up, piping hot coffee is waiting for me.  (Which I am enjoying its full robust flavor now).  It makes it a lot easier to get out of bed if you have something warm and waiting for you rather than knowing the first thing you have to do when you get up is a chore.

The third change I’m trying to make is getting cleaned up and dressed right away.  Usually I lounge around in my bathrobe until the last possible second before I have to actually start getting groomed for the world beyond my front door.  And I’m usually groggy and lethargic all morning, until I actually start getting dressed, then I feel like I finally wake up into “day mode”.  So I thought, “What if I just get dressed right away?”  So far… seems to make a difference.

snooze

The final change I made is the most foundation rocking one of them all though…  I disabled the Snooze feature on my phone.  I am a chronic “snoozer”.      I will literally hit snooze for an hour in the mornings.  I just hate waking up.  HATE it.  Once I’m up, I’m good.  But if snoozing is an option, it’s an option I take every time.  So I decided to take that option away from myself.  Today… it worked.

But it’s going to take weeks to see if this move is successful.  “Sleepy Me” is a sneaky bastard.  I have been known to solve the two compound equations that my phone requires to turn off my alarm, go into the other alarm on my phone and set an alarm for T+1 hour, and go back to sleep.  Sometimes with only vague memories of it even happening.  “Sleepy Me” is committed to not giving up on the night.

All I really want is to get a reasonable amount of sleep each night, but not sleep more than I have to.  Sleeping is just time wasted in my book.

Does anyone actually wake up feeling refreshed and energized with a zest for life?  How do you do it?  I’d love to know your secrets.

Why games are a bad investment

Just saw this on eBay today.  At first glance that looks like a pretty impressive price.  Definitely more valuable than the average Super Nintendo game, and far more valuable than anything in my collection.  Even still, if you look at that game solely as an investment, it still wasn’t worth it.

Warning, old geezer talk to follow:

When that game came out in 1992 it sold for $59.99.  And while granted the game is worth more today than it was back then, your money still would have been better placed into the stock market.  Over the last 20 years that average rate of return that the stock market has provided is 9.4%.  So if you would have invested that $59.99 into an average performing mutual fund on the day this game came out and left it alone.  Today that investment would be worth $390.28.  Almost $300 more than what this game sold for.

So if you’re holding on to all those old games thinking they’ll be worth something someday… you’re doing it wrong.

But if you love PLAYING these old games… then keep ’em.  Because there’s nothing like blowing into an old cartridge, clicking on a power switch and saving a princess.  After all, if you never sell it, who cares what it’s worth!

Dang it. Now I’m Old.

Too late to blog

Aye carrumba.  I think that’s how you type it.  It’s far too late to be up doing this.  1am in fact.  Tomorrow I’ll be staring at the computer screen at work, eyes glazed over and thinking about how my eternal goal of setting up some kind of Utopian sleep schedule may never be attained.  Though if it where attainable, it wouldn’t be Utopian then would it.  Oh should I have such clarity of mind tomorrow at 3:17pm.

Today was Andrea and I’s 3rd wedding anniversary.  It was astoundingly unremarkable.  We had plans of going out to eat in Hays and making a deal of it.  But after we got home following a few kinks in the plan… it just seemed so forced to me.  Whether Andrea felt the same, I’m not sure.  But we decided to postpone the festivities.  We had a really awesome “breakfast for supper” and spent some time together just talking.  The whole time I was thinking about how this wasn’t really an anniversary, it was just another day… but BEING on our anniversary I couldn’t help but think of how much I LOVED being with her… every day.

She drifted off to sleep early, busy growing a baby, you know.  And I had some things to do.  I was waiting on some video to encode for work and somehow stumbled upon this story.  I had forgotten I’d even written it, and forgotten most of the things I had written about.  As I read through what was an unusually coherent story for me, I really reflected on where I’ve been.  Where I am now.  And how much I have (and haven’t) grown up.

You know there aren’t any chapters in life.  It’s all such a slow process that you don’t even notice the time that’s passed until you lift your head up from the page you happen to currently be writing and look at everything you’ve already “written”.  And you have that “holy crabcakes” moment where you think “I’ve been so deeply consumed with what’s been right in front of me for so long I’ve lost track of all that I’ve done“.  It was amazing to read that old story and think that that really was me.  And to recall those decisions I made at that time having no f’ng clue what all would happen in the next seven years.

The sobering thought for me is that I had a plan then.  Probably a plan with even greater clairvoyance than the plan I have now for life.  Remarkably much of what was planted back then has blossomed now and continues to grow.  Andrea and I are married 3 years, and Luke could conceivably be here any day now.  I’m still in radio after quite a bit of adversity and some really scary job moves.  If you asked me if I am where I thought I would be by now… I probably couldn’t give you a straight answer.  I’m somewhat where I expected to be, but got here ENTIRELY unlike anything I ever dreamed of.  Certainly a path I couldn’t have planned for, yet somehow walking distance from the original course.

As I read that it brought back a lot of personal thoughts about myself of the sort you never really share with people.  Not the dark or embarrassing kind.  The kind you don’t share because when people ask “How you been” they’d really rather not know anyway.  “Doing well” is efficient and expected in these encounters.  Had they or I been up for it, I could have opened with the oft overused, “I HAVE been pretty shitty and confused, but right now I feel quite effervescent so please don’t feel awkward.  I can only hope you are better than you have been as well!

I feel like I’ve grown… A LOT in seven years.  More mature, confident and determined than the clueless kid with a positive attitude I was back then.  But you ask me where I’ll be seven years from NOW, and I feel just as apprehensive, courageous and positive as I did back then.  I’m still intimidated about how I’m going to provide a living, now not just for myself, but my family.  How to grow in my career as to be a more valuable team member, and how to expand my skills should god forbid something unforeseen head my way.  If history is any indication you can be assured it will.  As intimidating as it all is, knowing what challenges have already come and gone, and how even the monstrously tough decisions did little in the way of straying us from our original path, it’s hard to be scared.

What I love about today, is how exciting tomorrow sounds. Know I can’t wait for tomorrow, to see what happens. And to be there when it does!

Weird Gamestop Experience

This probably isn’t what you think.  It’s not a traditional observation of the clueless and/or opinionated GameStop employees, or the ignorant mothers coming in to buy the latest M rated game for their 10 year old.  This is more a personal observation on how my GameStop experience has changed.

It’s probably been two or three years since I’ve been into GameStop to “preorder” anything.  Which was the majority of the business I did at the store.  I stayed pretty well informed on the gaming “scene” and I’d preorder the games I was interested in, and I’d be there bright and early on release day to pick ’em up.  Gaming really was a big part of life, and one of the few things I looked forward to when everything else was pretty crappy.

So I walk in the other day, and it just felt weird.  There was a lot of stuff that really didn’t appeal to me, and there were a lot of games, that I just didn’t have a clue what they were.  I kinda felt like the guy at the party who doesn’t know anybody except the old friend he came with.  It was the first time I really realized how much I had changed.  Don’t get me wrong, there was still plenty of cool stuff there, and if I had the money I probably could have walked out of there with a hefty bag full.  But I didn’t see anything that I just HAD to have…like I used to.  Even seeing the new Mario Kart Wii on display was cool, but it seems like its changed so much.

I always said I’d be playing video games when I was 90 years old in the rest home.  Don’t get me wrong, I still spend plenty of time with Guild Wars, or Animal Crossing, but I don’t have that need anymore to have the next coolest game I’ve been reading about.  I’m content to play the heck out of a few games as time allows.  I can go to the mall and walk by GameStop and not feel the need to go in “just to see what’s there”.  I don’t know if it’s any healthier, but it sure is cheaper!

I guess this turned into more of a rambling than a detailed description of the experience, but it just took me by suprise how my biggest hobby has made room for things like getting married, working on the car, and just regular boring grown up stuff.  I don’t think I’m out growing it.  I just think I have less free time.

My new mission…No more Wal-Mart

I’ve recently been doing some reading about Wal-Mart. How underhanded their tactics are and how they’ll leave people high and dry. There’s all sorts of stories about how terrible Wal-Mart treats their help, etc. etc. And while terrible that may be, it doesn’t really effect me directly.

I’ve always HATED going to Wal-Mart exclusively because of the mad throngs of people that you have to weave through. Screaming kids. People yakking on cell phones. But like most of the people in there I’ve often gone to Wal-Mart primarily because of their prices. They’re plain and simple the lowest prices in town 95% of the time. But I had a shocking realization just the other day when I stopped in just to get some garlic bread for supper, and walked out with $20 worth of stuff…

I went in to get a $3 box of bread and ended up leaving with the bread, a steering wheel cover for the car, and an air freshener. So while Wal-Mart did have the cheapest bread in town. I spent $16 MORE than if I’d just gone to the grocery store…all because I thought I’d be saving a buck! That’s some pricey bread!

I stopped and thought about it, and probably at least half the time I go to Wal-Mart, I end up buying something “just because I was there”. And that’s the way they plan it. I’ve spent a long time spending more and feeling like I was actually saving. I feel like such a statistic. So I made up my mind that I’m going to avoid Wal-Mart at all costs. And if I do have to go there, it will be only to pick up an item on a list and nothing that isn’t on the list.

I figure even if I break even financially, by paying a higher cost at another store, I at least won’t have to face the Wal-Mart throngs…and that it worth at least 10 bucks a trip right there!

Am I the only one who doesn’t lose sleep over the environment?

Lets be honest…how many of you go to bed each night worrying about all the carbon emissions you put in the air as you drove to work, errands, heating your home, you know…the things that make day to day life possible? Even IF this global warming is a man made creation…Never mind that you’re an infantecimal part of a global trend. Worse case scenario, you’d just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. And even if you DO decide to step out of the line and “go green” the guy that was behind you will still be the tipping point. You just decided to make your life a bigger pain in the ass in the meantime, before the whole world spirals out of control. Although you will be entitled to preach how you are holier than thou, while we all burn a fiery death.

Welp, sorry. I’m not going to buy into the status of it all. Like somehow making it known that I spend more money than a person has to just to reduce my carbon footprint makes me less of a narcissist. And don’t give me the “what about the children crap?” My children won’t care because they won’t know any better. You know there was a time when jet contrails didn’t criss cross they sky 365 days a year. What about that unspoiled beauty that I missed out on? Thanks a lot baby boomers.

But no matter how much I say, I can’t say it as well as C. Montgomery Burns:

“Oooh, so Mother Nature needs a favor?! Well maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys! Nature started the fight for survival, and now she wants to quit because she’s losing! Well I say, hard cheese”

I finally watched 300

Okay, so I’m a little late to the show on this one.  To be honest based on the previews, I wasn’t all that interested in seeing it.  I like Greek and Roman history, but the previews sold the movie as endless violence and blood and guts.  I didn’t see much substance in the previews and I’m not big on the gore.  Andrea wanted to see it though and started watching it, and I must say I was rather impressed.  While the violence was obviously a big part of the film, but the presentation was surprisingly artistic.

Some may have seen the movie, some maybe haven’t so I don’t want to do a plot summary, but rather point out some misconceptions I had about the film.  The whole show is basically an almost mythical re-telling of a story.  Small little details impressed me, like the Spartans slaying these thousands of Persians.  Blood is obviously flying everywhere but the Spartans never get a drop on them.  The way the Persian leader, Xerxes walks on the backs of his servants as if they’re stairs as he steps down from his throne visually symbolizes his treatment of the Persian people.  All the little nuances of the movie (for me) are what made the movie.  The dialogue is exceptional as well, much of which I assume is taken directly, or based on the book.

I only wish the previews would have better explained the need for the story of the 300, rather than focus on the gore.  But I guess when  you’re trying to get people to buy tickets, violence sells.

More to sleep than sleeping?

There’s few things about day to day life I dislike more than waking up. Seems like no matter how much or how little I sleep, I never wake up feeling rested. Sure after about 10 minutes of being up I feel rejuvenated and ready to face the day. But that first waking moment that you’re laying in the bed squinting at the sun filtering in through the blinds, there’s nothing I’d rather do than go back to sleep. I’m just not a morning person I guess.

I usually go to bed around midnite or 12:30 and set my alarm for 8:30. I figure that’s a good eight hours of sleep. Today I decided to change up my routine for one reason or another, I set my alarm for 7:30 instead. I still hit the snooze button once, but I got up much more easily today than in recent memory. There wasn’t the general haziness, I was up out of bed and alert…weird.

I’ve always heard you can sleep too much, but I thought they meant like ten hours (not eight) being too much! They also say you’re supposed to set a consistent time to go to bed and a consistent time to get up. I believe that, and I guess that’s why I’m so surprised I got up as easily as I did the same day I changed it.

So less sleep is more I guess? Fine with me. It just gets in the way of things I’d rather be doing anyway!