In June 1986 my dad owed me some money. I was twelve years old and five months earlier, for my birthday, I had received a substantial amount of money for my age, $300.00. My Dad had borrowed said money for bills and I had never let him forget that I was owed that money. Finally, after school had let out for the summer I had been granted the right to spend said money. Initially I wanted the cash but as the months wore on something else had captured my eye. There was this strange new gaming console that had piqued my interest a few months back. Its name: the Nintendo Entertainment System.
I can still remember the commercials: Two kids sitting in a living room (one of them would later play Scott, the kid who was friends with David Silver until David got cool new friends, on Beverly Hills, 90210) playing various Nintendo games until the sheer power of the NES blasts their suburban home into space. To further emphasize their point the voice over simultaneously announced “Now You’re Playing With Power!” as the slogan flashed across the screen. I HAD TO HAVE ONE!!!
For months I had been obsessing. I needed this new gaming system! My old Atari 2600 was still kind of cool but this new Nintendo system blew that old seventies hold over away. The future was here and its name was NINTENDO!
On a Friday evening in June, 1986 my Dad had to play a make-up softball game due to a rain out. I was still too young to play in the league but was anxious to get started. Still, that night was strange. During batting practice Dad was pitching to our own team and caught a line drive in the forearm. I, being only twelve years old, was less concerned with his condition and more concerned with my video game. I had been promised we would go to Target after the game and purchase my new obsession. I was concerned with Dad’s well being but I HAD to have my new game. Tomorrow was just too far away!
To Dad’s credit he played the entire game and led our team to a victory with a fractured forearm. And, to my eternal gratitude, he passed on the hospital opting for a minor emergency clinic instead. We were there about an hour when they finally told him he had a hairline fracture and a cast would not be necessary. I was glad he wasn’t injured but I had bigger plans for that night. Target was still open and I had a destiny! Luckily the clinic was just down the road from Target and there was still about forty-five minutes before they closed. To me time was running out!
Once there I went straight for the electronics department. I knew where Nintendo lived and I was not about to let it slip through my hands. I rounded the corner, ran full force and stopped dead in my tracks in front of the end cap that housed my destiny. Dad followed slowly behind and eventually found me jumping up and down in place. He lifted the console bundle off the shelf and into the basket. I was set, the bundle included Super Mario Bros., a light gun and two controllers. That’s all I needed! The system was on sale for $149.99 and I figured I would pocket the rest of the money for later. But a monkey wrench was thrown in my plan.
Dad asked me if I wanted any other games. I was not prepared for this. Suddenly a strange euphoria came over my twelve-year-old person. I had more money to spend. This was a development that I could not control. I had to spend more money! And I did. Hogan’s Alley, Pro Wrestling, Gumshoe, Duck Hunt and Excitebike all came home with me that night. Being still young enough to have a bedtime, even during summer months, I only had time to hook-up my new vice and play Super Mario Bros. for about a couple hours.
All night I dreamt of my new acquisition in wanton lust. This was the future of gaming and I had one. I had the power to master all things digital! I would be the best there was at every game put in my path! Saturday morning rolled around and I arose early to face my new temptress. I played every game I bought the night before. I played and played and played until my Dad came into my bedroom with an angry look on his face.
“Do you have any idea what time it is?” he asked with a face of stone. “I don’t know, 10 o’clock?” I replied. “It’s 2:30 in the afternoon,” he said. “Now turn that thing off and come eat some lunch.” I could not believe that I had lost almost 7 hours of the day to video games. I was in heaven but my parents didn’t see it that way. Strict regulations befell my video game playing from there on out.
Over the next few years a lot of video games passed threw my NES. Ghosts n Goblins, Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy, Golf, Legend of Zelda, Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, Top Gun, and Double Dribble just to name a few. I lost countless hours and several summers to the Nintendo. I entered a local competition when I was sixteen at a video rental store. The game was Ninja Gaiden. I had only played Ninja Gaiden 2 but still ranked in the top five. That same summer I went to Bush Gardens with my family and happened upon an Excitebike competition. I placed third.
Because of Nintendo I went to the theater and saw the movie The Wizard with Fred Savage and Jenny Lewis just because it was going to preview Super Mario Bros. 3. If you’ve seen that movie you know my shame. Yes, I owned the Power Glove. No, I never learned to use it and if you owned one you probably never learned to use it either. As the years went by other gaming systems came along and on a fateful late spring day in 1993 I discovered a new video game system I couldn’t live without. I sold my Nintendo the next day and bought a Sega Genesis. But that’s a Retro Active for another day….