Growing up as a kid in the 80s, my first experience with video games was in an arcade. I don’t remember the first time I played a game, but I have early memories of my mom taking me to 7-Eleven to play Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat while she played the slots. Like many kids, the combination of music, light, and fast action was addictive. It’s all I wanted to do.
I was six when my friend Kyle Whitehead got a Nintendo Entertainment System. NES had been out for five years already, but I wasn’t aware of it. But man, seeing it for the first time was transformative. Even at that age, I can vividly remember those first few sessions. From that point forward, everything was Nintendo.
It didn’t take long before I begged enough to get a NES for my birthday. I unwrapped it excitedly, and my friend Sean yelled, “You got the one with the Duck Hunt and Blaster!” I didn’t even know what he meant. For me, it was all about spending precious time with Mario.
For the first long while, I had two games. Mario, which came with Duck Hunt!, and Tetris. I am not almost 40 and have played 10s of 1000s of hours playing games, and I still consider the original Mario to be a pretty hard game. My dad would pick me up from school and brag about how far he got. Back then, Mario was a movement even the parents got behind.
Eventually, we went to Blockbuster and Video Park every weekend. I would try out new games based on the box art. There wasn’t an internet to watch review videos or see if a game was good or not. The cover art had to move someone enough to roll the dice and make it their weekly rental.
Mario wasn’t the only challenging game; most NES games were demanding by today’s standards. There was no hand-holding, and most games found challenge and replayability by having hyper-accurate controls requiring perfect playing. For kids and everyone not up to the challenge, there were cheat codes and Game Genie. I am grateful for the difficult learning curve of the era. It taught me perseverance. Mario was too hard for me at six, but Megaman was my favorite game by seven. Megaman is known for its difficulty.
Learning that practice makes perfect isn’t all games gave me. While I do have a brother and a sister, they are at least a decade older than me. So, really, I grew up an only child. Games were my babysitter and best friend. I remember not too long after getting NES, my parents, seeing how addicted I was, tried to enact a one-hour-a-day rule. They didn’t have much luck enforcing it.
Fast forward 30 years, and I still love games. They are still a huge part of my life. These days, I try to enact the one-hour rule on myself. I, too, don’t have much luck enforcing it. I get as much joy from reading about games, the devs who make them, the business behind them, and all the drama as I do from playing them. But I do worry about how much time I invest.
Games often feel like an embarrassing hobby. One that I don’t share with people lightly. Even now, in 2023, with games being the most profitable form of entertainment by a long shot, they carry a stigma. I understand it. Although almost every demographic has a gamer in it these days, the typical stereotype gamer is one in their parent’s basement who doesn’t smell too good. I don’t want my daughter to be a “gamer girl.”
I don’t want to be embarrassed about games. I also don’t want to feel guilty about spending time with them. I’ve wanted to review and talk about games publicly for pretty much forever. But, the deep-down insecurity has probably prevented me from doing that. This blog is a great place to get started.
I am currently playing a game with a big 2023 redemption story. Cyberpunk 2077. The developers of CD Project Red released an expansion named Phantom Liberty. The story of this game’s redemption arc in the industry is interesting in itself. But I want to beat the game and write down my thoughts. If I put words to my 70+ invested hours and someone reads it someday, maybe that time gets a little extra value.