As a child of the 80’s, my interest in video games began with the first NES on the block. It wasn’t even in my house; my family boasted a laserdisc player, but we hadn’t made the jump to home computing or gaming yet.
(And my mom was in the computer sales business! When Stickybear and The Black Cauldron were a thing! I don’t understand it either.)
No, the first Nintendo on the block belonged to my frenemy John. (I thought he was just my friend John, but then he kicked my legs out from under me while we were racing this one time. And climbed a fence to mock me. So I learned the secrets of vengeance, tripped him back, and saw his mom naked. Good times.)
But, yes, the NES! Nintendo! We all went over to John’s place to play it, and by “we all,” I mean the other girl on the block and my first little brother when he could keep up with us. We spent many a raucous afternoon flattening gumbas, divesting koopa troopas of their shells, and gleefully slaughtering scores of ducks. (Seriously, y’all, how did the Duck Hunt gun even work?) (I’m kidding, I Googled that ages ago. But educate yourselves, if you need to.)
Drunk on the delicious pixelated goodness of Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt, my brother and I teamed up to work on our parents for our greater gaming good. If I’d known what hand-eye coordination was at 7ish, I’m sure I would have presented graphs and reports. As it was, we just went for the gold in good, old-fashioned begging. We begged better than the family dogs, and my dad happened to have a discount at Sears. The NES was in the bag.
So, we were the second house on the block with an NES. We got to liberate the wrong castles looking for Princess Peach in the privacy of our own living room. Frenemies not required. Or invited.
Here’s what I learned from finally bringing home a Nintendo Entertainment System:
1. Video games aren’t just for children.
This one was a tiny bit annoying, because the little bro and I worked so hard to get the game system for, y’know, US. My mom and dad said “that’s nice,” ordered Chinese food, and blithely tag-teamed their way straight through Super Mario Bros. 2 in one night. I made it until about 3 AM. My dad made it through 4 AM. My mom mercilessly slew Wart at 5 in the morning and had the blisters to prove it.
2. My early experience with side-scrollers in no way prepared me for proto-RPGs.
I was very excited by the idea of an action adventure video game. An interactive story! How very yes! With MAPS and thick guides with story details. I couldn’t wait to play. So I fired up The Legend of Zelda, and… became a serial killer of Links.
I’m pretty sure I never found the extra heart pieces within the first few screens. I don’t even remember upgrading my sword. I just wandered around, wondering where the story was, being crap at the controls and ignoring damage until it was just one GAME OVER, MAN, GAME OVER after another.
As you can imagine, this was disheartening for a seven-year-old. I have no excuses for my failure to adapt. I wandered out into the desert, butting ineffectually against the cold blue ocean, and got eaten by Octoroks or crushed by falling boulders or whatnot. I failed Zelda in the most failingest way possible. I let Hyrule down, my incompetence worse than ten thousand Ganons.
And that is how I never managed to get into RPGs until we were a Playstation household and I got my hands on Final Fantasy X.
But I was a racing game QUEEN. And Princess Peach has a heart tattoo on her bicep with my name on it.
(Pretty sure Hyrule still has a warrant out for my arrest, though.)
OR ONE OF THESE: