a nintendo life

Do you ever actually take the time to reflect upon the events that have shaped your life?  I mean, during the proverbial “soul-searching,” zero in on those few specific moments or things in your experience that have helped mold your present self?  Like many children of my generation, I have been influenced by video games.  The horrors!  My mom is surely rolling her eyes from the heavens above.  It’s sad, but it’s true.  (Don’t tell my father!)  I truly believe that Nintendo has influenced my life in more ways than its creators probably ever intended.

I will never forget the glorious day when my parents broke down and bought me the dreaded gray box.  How excited I was to pull out the games and the bright orangish-red and gray gun, which of course I waved around like a true future lunatic!  My mom must have been horrified at this sight: her precious little angel wielding a weapon of fake destruction.  Once my dad managed to figure out how to hook the box to the wooden-encased TV, I was good to go.  What a nostalgic image: little me with my poofy 80’s hair, scrunchy layered neon socks, jelly bracelets, short skirt over biker shorts plopped on a beanbag in front of the TV.  So began my love affair with the little Italian men!

As time passed, so grew my collection of Nintendo games.  They were classics: Excitebike, Super Mario 2 & 3, Double Dare, Zelda: Legend of Link, Wheel of Fortune, Family Feud, Tetris, Top Gun, etc.  My friends and I would always love getting together for game time.  No matter how many games we tried, we always came back to the Mario series.  I’d like to say that I quickly mastered Super Mario 3, my all-time favorite game, but alas, it took many months of screaming and seeing red as the evil words “Game Over” would creep onto the screen.  Part of the problem was that my parents would never allow me enough time to play.  They always wanted me to do “other” things: dance, piano, Odyssey of the Mind, gymnastics, art, etc.  As my dad recently put it, it’s like that “damned controller was glued to [my] hand.”  Of course, to me, my parents were overreacting.  Just because I enjoyed chasing mushrooms more than pirouetting in a mirrored room didn’t make me obsessed, did it?

My fifth grade year, at the annual school fun fair, I went against my parents’ wishes and tossed my way to a new pet goldfish!  Of course, as I proudly showed off my fish much to my parents’ chagrin, I informed them that I was naming it Mario Luigi.  Looking back on the situation, I am positive that they didn’t share in my enthusiasm over the name choice.  I loved that fish for years.  I’d always want to build an aquarium for little Mario Luigi.  I wanted to set up castles and green pipes, just like in my beloved game.  Of course, this never came to light.  Tragically, many years later, my mother found him floating upside-down in his bowl.  Instead of flushing him, she buried him in the side yard, which my dog promptly dug up and ate for dinner.

I was playing my NES when we got the phone call informing us my grandma had died.  I will never forget this day, or the spot in the game I was at when the phone rang.  I was in the ice level of Super Mario 3. I knew when the phone rang that something bad was going on, so I shut down the system (this was a rarity!) and snuck off to my room.  It’s funny that to this day, I remember this tragedy along with the video game.  Maybe that helps interject some humor into the painful memory.  One week later, we got my dog; of course I wanted to name him Mario, but my parents put their feet down to that.

Looking through parental eyes, I suppose that my parents were justified in their concern.  While I was a very active child, if I had my choice, I would play Nintendo.  And unfortunately, I’d inherited my father’s temper.  Needless to say, when I would, for example, fall off a cliff in level seven of Super Mario 3, my reaction wasn’t “Oh golly gee, I’ll have to start over!”  The beanbag was a good target, along with the floor, controller, TV…you name it.  One day I came home to find the family room eerily empty.  My Nintendo was gone!  Frantically, I tore the house apart, searching through the ridiculous amount of closet space.  Alas, it was nowhere to be found.  Angrily, I confronted my parents, who informed me they’d given it to Goodwill.  Let’s just say things weren’t exactly rosy around the house for awhile.  I was crushed and heartbroken.

For years I’d wonder off-and-on what had ever happened to my NES, what lucky bargain shopper had their dirty paws on my beloved game system. I’d have to get my Nintendo fix at my friends’ houses, but it wasn’t the same.

My sophomore year in college, while cleaning out my house before my dad moved into his new home, my eye caught a glimpse of something gray buried beneath blankets and old elementary dittos of mine.  Lo and behold, it was my Nintendo, in all its glory!  I stormed upstairs, prize in hand, and triumphantly held it up to my father.  “So?” he exclaimed.  He informed me that they had done it for me, blah, blah, blah.  Like a mother protecting her child, I carefully packed it up and took it back to Bloomington with me, where I was reunited with my favorite Italian boys.  Since then, I’ve acquired numerous NES games, plus a Nintendo 64 and GameCube.  While I’m nowhere nearly as obsessed with video games as I once was, I do enjoy such classics as Mario Kart, Tony Hawk, NCAA 2003, and my latest obsession, SSX3.

The moral of this story is: it’s ok to lie: hell, my parents did it to me for years, all out of “doing what’s best for their daughter.”  Take that, Mom & Dad!

(Written for my graduate pop culture course where we had to tell our life through movies or video games)