Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How Video Games Saved My Life

Some of my earliest memories start with video games. When I was five, the family received an Intellivision II from Santa Claus. We spent hours playing Burgertime and Astrosmash. I wore callouses on my fingers on the black disc and burned holes through the keypad. My brother, twelve years older than me, and I played marathon sessions and bonded over strategy and high scores.
Yes kids, video game consoles used to look like this. No WiFi, either.
Soon enough, my brother graduated from high school and moved to college. I grew up and so did the gaming systems. There was a brief affair with Atari 7800. The family purchased our first home computer when I was in middle school, a Laser 128 (Apple IIe knockoff). Gaming continued with Conan and Montezuma's Revenge played from floppy disks.

Conan was a helluva lot more difficult than it looks.
Video games were my friends--not my only friends--but good buddies during some trying times. My father developed a brain tumor when I was in kindergarten. He and Mom were gone most of the year and part of the next. Once my sister (ten years older than me) left for college, I was left at home with an ailing father and overworked mother. Games were an outlet, a way to manage and control something in a life where so much seemed out of control. When things were really bad at home, when my father resembled a man thirty years his senior with dementia, I met the Nintendo Entertainment System. Three of my buddies spent the night with a rented NES and The Legend of Zelda on my birthday in 7th grade. I mowed lawns that summer with my brother to earn enough money for my own NES. I played it into the ground.

Hooray! A golden triangle!
I grew older... Sega Genesis... SNES... N64... my friends and I played too many seasons of Super Tecmo Bowl to count. We lost countless hours in basements with Mario Kart and Goldeneye 007. A few Madden Football tournaments earned me one of two Cs in college. (Why go to Survey of Art History on Friday afternoon when I was making history on a virtual football field?) Capcom's Resident Evil 2 and Konami's Castlevania: Symphony of the Night got me through a rough student teaching semester. Video games have always been an escape, a way to let off steam. When I found myself dumped and alone in a new town during the fall of 1998, Metal Gear Solid and Bushido Blade were there.

Yes, games have been with me a long time. When my thirteen-year-old stepson found me playing an emulated copy of Symphony of the Night the other day, he told Kim, "you've got a good man there, Mom."
Awwww shucks... I'm just a fan boy.
I hope so. I hope so. 


DP said...

Hi Aaron,

Video games (design, authorship, utility, pedagogy) figure heavily in digital media studies these days. There are lots of folks in the program that I am in at UCF teaching courses and writing about video games and cultural studies.

My daughter is just starting to learn about them. I have a 16-bit Nintendo, a PS2 and a Genesis, and it never gets old! I still like to take a crack at Mike Tyson's Punchout every so often, and I play Mega Man 2 and Gunsmoke a lot still. My daughter is starting with Super Mario Brothers...is there anywhere else?

Unknown said...