What with the 25th anniversary of the release of the NES being upon us I figured I’d tell a story about the first time I played one. I don’t know how old I was, but it was at a friend’s house. His family had all of the game systems before mine. Before the Nintendo I remember he had something that you actually had to program in lines of code to play. Then a Colecovision or one of those crapboxes.
The NES was a different kind of animal. It was all very cohesive and streamlined. Like an Atari you had cartiges, but they went into their own little compartment. A compartment that wasn’t filthy looking no matter what you did to it. It was a clean, mostly white, box. The controllers had cross pads instead of joysticks, so they were much smaller and easier to deal with.
The games were something altogether different too. My friend only had Mario/Duck Hunt, but that was all it took. Super Mario Brothers was so much cooler than anything I’d played up to that point on a home system. Things actually looked like objects rather than colorful squares strategically arranged. They looked like something you might see standing in a convenient store. An arcade in your house… What could be better? All the fun of an arcade without all the bullshit of being around the kind of person likely to frequent an arcade.
I’m not sure, but I think I got an NES for Christmas that year. I got a stack of games with it too. Mostly Konami games for some reason. Some of the titles became franchises I still play today. Now you could try and blame the system for making me what I am today, but that’s backwards. It’s like blaming a gun for killing someone. I was always going to be a shy loner who couldn’t connect with people. The Nintendo just gave me something to do with my time. I probably learned more about the world because of video games than anything in school. Looking up the whys and wherefores of things I found strange, like names for swords and armors, which led me to ancient history, and on and on down the line of interconnected human experiences.
My original NES still works. I’ve had to repair cords I broke, and clean dirty leads, but it functions when I need it to. That’s something lost on new game systems. Part of the reason I haven’t downloaded many ports of old games is that if I really wanted to play them I could just turn on the Nintendo. That’s quality. 25 years or so of reliable service. There aren’t a lot of things in my life that can make a claim like that.