Monday, August 19, 2013

I Remember: video games at age 12

I remember playing video games in my room after school when I was 12 years old.  My room was just starting to become a personal space in which I found refuge, rather than the place I went to sleep.  I had posters on the wall, mostly from Nintendo Power, of video games.  I had posters of games I'd never played and never really intended to play, like StarTropics, just because they were in Nintendo Power and I was in love.  There was brown carpet and an old brown office chair my dad had brought home from the hospital.  It was heavy and noisy.  It would squeak in seven different places when you sat down or shifted your weight.  The fabric was almost like burlap, heavy and a little scratchy.  My Nintendo and TV were on a big particle board entertainment center, where everything had its own compartment.  The TV was a 13-inch tube with dials.  I could watch broadcast television if I wanted, but I didn't.  We had cable on the big TV in the living room and my parents almost always let me watch what I wanted, so TV happened in there.  Video games happened in my room.

I would come inside after mom brought me home from school, and take the snack she made me back into my room.  The afternoon sun would come through the window on the front of the house.  In my memories it never rains.  I only had one or two games I would be working on, and I could play obsessively.  I would hammer at the same levels, the same bosses, for hours.  Games then were different.  There may have been a story but it was hard to decipher, and anyway the stories were always secondary to the playing, the simple act of progressing through the game, beating the enemies, perfecting the jumps, learning the timing of traps or the patterns of bosses.  There were no online FAQs or walkthroughs, no hands to hold through these strange worlds concocted by grown men across the Pacific Ocean.  Secrets, codes and hints were passed around at school like passwords for the French Resistance.  Occasionally a game might be big enough for Nintendo to release a player's guide, and those were also passed around, never to be seen again by the original owner.

I suffered victories and defeats, sometimes witnessed by friends but often just to an audience of one.  I raged at my enemies, at the "cheapness" of unfortunate respawn points or almost impossible jump/enemy combinations.  I thrilled at the first time I would perfectly anticipate Bowser's moves, flowing like water around him to watch him defeat himself.  I loved starting new levels, facing new enemies I'd only heard about from my friends.  Seeing new backdrops, strange mountain plateaus on an alien world, or deep in the jungle here on Earth.  Some games felt like they were mine and mine alone, games I'd picked out on a whim during a trip to the mall or Toys R Us.  Did anyone else on this planet play Godzilla for the NES?  Was that game created by Toho for me and me alone?  Was Dynowarz sold anywhere in the country except my local Toys R Us?  Did I buy the only copy in existence?  I had no way to share this experience, no AOL or Reddit to find others like me.  I was a young boy in a small city but I was also a lone explorer cutting my way deep into the outback of other countries, other worlds.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's an actor and writer.