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My History with Gaming: Tetris and Dr. Mario

June 19, 2011
Tetris

Tetris

Imagine being a single-digit aged child between 5-7 years old in the late 1980’s. You have an NES. Other kids your age also have game systems and the only people you knew who really played video games were other kids. Its pretty easy to imagine, isn’t it?

Then one day, I rented a game call Tetris. I don’t think Tetris needs any introduction because it is so ubiquitous to gamers and non-gamers alike. Blocks fall down, complete a line and clear the screen. Simple, elegant and addictive. Being a young person, while the puzzle game was fun and interesting it wasn’t as much so when compared to the other games like Mario and Zelda that I loved. However, rental soon turned to ownership not because I liked the game but because Mum liked the game. Before I knew it, my NES had been invaded not by my peers but a parent.

This concept was so strange at first. Mum played some of my other games, sure, but not like this. There were times where I couldn’t play Mario because Mum wanted to play Tetris. She was addicted to it. While it was fun to hang out with her while she played, I couldn’t help but feel she was taking away part of my fun time. Eventually, it waned and Tetris stop being played as much. But then came the doctor.

Dr. Mario

Dr. Mario

We got a copy of Dr. Mario which I liked and Mum liked. However, now I really needed to fight Mum off with a stick in order to get my NES fix. Hell, Mum’s Dr. Mario playing would occasionally make her late for work as she tried to get “one more game” in. We all know how that goes.

In the end, I came to the realization that perhaps games weren’t just for other kids. That adults could really enjoy them too. As a now adult gamer myself, it makes me ponder how my own game playing habits will be one day viewed by my own potential offspring. Especially my love for the supposedly “kiddie” franchises like Mario and Kirby. I certainly hope that it makes me a cool dad, though I fear that my kids won’t get to play games because daddy is too busy hogging whatever the current generation Nintendo console is (hopefully a Wii U).

 

The Short and Sweet of It

The Games: Tetris and Dr. Mario
Platform: NES
Why it is important: My understanding of gaming was shattered when I learned that games weren’t simply for the young.

 

My History with Gaming: The Legend of Zelda

November 18, 2010
The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda

If there is any one franchise in gaming that I will flock to without question, it is Zelda. Even at their worst (barring the CD-i games), no Zelda game has ever been horrible. Each one is enjoyable to some degree. To me, the quintessential Zelda is A Link to the Past, but that is its own entry into this series. This entry is about the original gold-cartridge goodness.

The brain-child of Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, The Legend of Zelda places you in the role of Link in his quest to defeat Ganon, save Hyrule and rescue Princess Zelda. A fantastic journey of trials and tribulations await our hero. Persevering through a fantastically open world, and through a myriad of maze-like labyrinths brought forth one of gaming’s earliest epics.

I remember picking the game up from the local video rental shop, entranced by its gold cartridge. I started the game and heard that iconic tune for the first time. Soon, I was off to Hyrule on an adventure of getting really lost. I mean super lost. I’m talking ‘how the hell do I get out of the Lost Woods’ lost. For all my annoyance, I was entranced. Though that was probably the awesome music. I finally found my way to the first dungeon, and scurried my way through that as well. Soon enough, I had the first piece of the Triforce and my adventure continued. News flash: I got lost again.

If there’s one thing a lot of the NES games of that day lack, it is helping you. I remember trying Metroid. Talk about being blind. Being about 6 didn’t help much either. There was no internet, there wasn’t even a strategy guide at that point either. No NES Atlas, no nothing. Yet, for what little time I had at first with Zelda was a blast. I didn’t understand the point of the game. This wasn’t like Mario where I had a clear goal and a way to achieve it. I was in the dark and I was confused. That first though was enough. Eventually, The Legend of Zelda came to be in my ownership. It came that handy-dandy map and instruction manual to help me out too.

Zelda was the first game that I feel truly offered me a challenge that I enjoyed. More so than any other NES game that I didn’t beat (which was most of them), I WANTED to beat it. Through thick and thin I soldiered on. Then came the Dark Nuts and the adventure reached a frustrating conclusion thre. I don’t recall ever getting past Level 4 in my initial play through. Likely a mix of that plus other games to play stole me away from Hyrule, but I would occasionally return to try my luck again.

Eventually though, my subscription to Nintendo Power netted me the almighty NES Atlas. With renewed vigor, I set forth and conquered Quest 1. I even took my stab at Quest 2, but I didn’t make it. I beat Quest 1, and I felt good about myself. I rose to the occasion. I gave in the short term, but never in the long term. Ganon got the ass-whooping he deserved. Zelda made me face up to what seemed an insurmountable challenge, and eventually reach the summit. It gave me a sense of tenacity and accomplishment. I don’t remember much in the way of specifics of my attempts, but I remember that each new level brought a sense of foreboding, toil and triumph. It made me feel good about myself, and that with effort I could achieve almost anything. Every so often I go back to this first outing, if only to relive the adventure for a short while. At least until I get to the Dark Nuts.

The Short and Sweet of It

The Game: The Legend of Zelda
Platform: NES
Why it was important: In a fantastical land, I learned to face up to my challenges and triumph over adversity.

My History with Gaming: Introduction and Super Mario Bros.

September 15, 2010

This is going to be a fun series of posts for me because it will allow me to chat about a topic close to my heart: video games. The interactive medium was first introduced to me by friends I can now no longer remember with the NES. This cool device that plugged into the TV and allowed me to embark on awesome adventures. In this series I will discuss games of great significance in my life for a variety of reasons; loves, hates, introductions, enjoyment and more. This is not a list of favorite games, or games I think are the best. Rather, there are games that I now see in retrospect as important to my life in some manner. I’m not sure if the order of these will follow any particular method. I’ll probably just write which on which one strikes my mood at the time. This list will span just over 2 decades, starting with my earliest games to some of my more recent ones.

Just to set things up ahead of time, I’m going to list for you the systems I’ve had at my disposal for the last two-and-some-change decades in (by my best guess) the order I had them.

  • Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Gameboy
  • Super Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Personal Computer
  • Nintendo 64
  • Gameboy Color
  • Playstation
  • Gameboy Advance
  • Dreamcast
  • Gamecube
  • Playstation 2
  • Xbox
  • Nintendo DS
  • Wii
  • Xbox 360

With that out of the way, let us begin.

Super Mario Bros.

I will start these lengthy diatribes with the beginning, the first game I owned. The one that game packaged with my NES that at the tender age of 5 started a relationship that I hope to one day share with my own brood. This game of course is Super Mario Brothers. It was Christmas of 1988 and amongst the gifts littered under the tree was a grey box that I would soon plug into the TV, attach a controller and take my first joyous steps into the Mushroom Kingdom. I then heard a tune that I would continue to hum for the rest of life. With World 1-1 before me, I jumped on a shambling fungus, grew big eating a mushroom, jumped over some pipes, went down some pipes, got the power to shoot fireballs, jumped over pits, fell down pits, become invincible, found a hidden one-up, learned to run, jumped on to a flag pole, went into a castle and watched some fireworks. Little did I realize that in a few short minutes of enjoying my time with a Brooklyn plumber that I would lay the groundwork for my primary media consumption habit for the rest of my life. Of course, what 5 year old would ever realize what their primary media consumption habit is going to be.

I wasn’t any good but that didn’t matter. It was fun and the game I found myself playing was highly enjoyable. Over the next months I would endure and push ahead in my adventure. I would discuss the game with friends at school. I’d learn cool tricks about warp zones, or tips on beating certain levels. If you owned an NES, you had this game. To this day I look back fondly on the joy and wonderment I derived from this simple game. I may never have that same feeling again in my life. Back then, it wasn’t about beating the game, or facing the challenge or even showing off. The only thing that mattered was playing the game. Dying didn’t matter, even though beating a stage was always a plus. I never beat the game in my youth. World 8 always gave me grief. I would eventually beat it later when it was released for the Gameboy Color. Finally, the princess was not in another castle. However, in my initial play time with Super Mario Bros. it was about having fun. I feel as though I lost sight of that at some point in games. Mario in any incarnation always reminds me that fun is the primary objective in gaming.

It could have been any game. It could have been something less notable. However, for my generation it was many people’s introduction to gaming. Just as Mario started me out then, Mario is still the jumping board for many young gamers. I’m glad it was Mario. If it was something else, the wonderment may not have stuck. I may have picked up something else. Hard to say. Mario and I have gotten along swimmingly for the last 20 years, and I don’t see that relationship ending anytime soon. I’ll never tire of beating Bowser into submission. It was my first game. It may not be my favorite, or even fall into a list that I would compile of the best games ever. However, its impact on my life is profound. To this day I will hum that little tune, and when I do I remember the good times in 1988 and I smile.

Thus ends the commencing entry in My History with Gaming. I’ve plotted out what is ahead and I will tell this: you’ve not seen the last of Mario. The Mario series appears to make up such pivotal parts of my gaming history that he can’t be ignored.

The Short and Sweet of It

The Game: Super Mario Bros.
Platform: NES
Why it is important: It was my first video game, and started a life long hobby.

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