I really have to give a thorough account of the background of my early days of being a video gamer before everyone can truly appreciate the significance of how special it was for me to get my first Genesis system. So, sit back as I take a stroll down one of my fondest memories of the lane we all love to revisit so much.
I was a very late comer to the world of video games. It all started in what I believe to be mid-1989 or so, sometime before I started second grade. I remember coming back from my grandparents’ house, and my parents had a few boxes of video game systems which had belonged to my Mother’s and aunts’ and uncles’ when she was a teenager. We got an Atari 2600, some Atari Pong system and a TI99/4A computer. They brought it all home and it seemed to take forever to get the Atari 2600 to work right on the TV we had at the time. I remember them playing Space Invaders and Warlords the whole night. Despite the fun they were having, I never got into it and went on with playing with my other toys. Little by little, I started playing and becoming interested and played more and more, and after a while I was hooked. Atari was the best thing that happened to me, and it was the only video game that existed in my little world. I tried to get my friends to play and bragged to them about it, but they never gave it much thought. Bigger and better stuff was out, like Sega and Nintendo, and even Atari had newer and better game systems.
As time passed, I wanted nothing more in the world than a Nintendo system, and I begged and begged for one for years. Finally, I got one for Christmas of ’91 when my other grandparents bought one for me. Needless to say, I was addicted and I couldn’t get enough of Mario. If there was one thing that was a consistent “norm” for me, it was that I was going to constantly get grounded from video games or at least have restrictions due to overplaying or having bad grades. Even before I got the NES, I was constantly grounded from my Atari.
As the years went on, I kept getting into trouble for playing my Nintendo too much. It started having more and more problems when we tried to get it to work and it would play fewer and fewer games. Eventually in about early 1994, it just quit working and my parents said it was time to get rid of it. They wouldn’t let me get another game system, as it was taking up way too much of my time. Of course, I was devastated and it felt like an end of an era for me.
Despite all of this, I really appreciate what my parents instilled in me. They didn’t just take away video games and leave me to my devices, and they both did a lot of cool stuff for us, like taking me and my siblings on camping trips and fishing. My parents were both scout leaders and youth group leaders, and many times they were the ones heading up many of the events. My mom even made street hockey nets for me and my friends, and every winter my dad would frame out a forty foot long ice rink in our backyard, and the family and friends had countless nights playing ice hockey. All of these things bring back some of my fondest memories, but they just weren’t video games. I still missed them constantly.
That all changed during the Christmas season of ’94! My birthday is in early December so my parents would always try and get me something extra and bundle it together with Christmas. That year I wanted a new pair of ice skates, since my dad had built another ice rink for us. My parents got me another pair, but they just didn’t fit me right. We were going to take them back to the store to exchange them in a day or two but my friend Carl saw them and wanted them so badly. Out of the blue he offered to trade me his pair of skates (which somehow fit me perfectly) and his Sega Genesis (which was still rather expensive in 1994) for my new skates.
I couldn’t believe the offer he had just made me, and my jaw hit the floor! I immediately told my mom about it (I think that deal even surprised her, as she knew Carl made brash decisions but nothing that crazy). A few days later a miracle happened, and my parents agreed that I could trade with Carl. I could have a video game system once again, albeit with some strict rules about when and how much I could play. I just didn’t care, as I had a Sega Genesis! A few days later my mom was driving us all to my youth group, and Carl was with us. I think he started realizing that he kind of made a bum deal for himself because he told me that I had to give him $30 too. I started breaking out into a nervous sweat as I didn’t have enough money for that (it was still a great deal), but then my mom jumped in on my behalf and told Carl that paying was not part of the deal and that he wasn’t getting an extra $30. All the time I’m just sitting there thinking “thank you mom, I love you. You just saved me and are on my side here.” I couldn’t believe my fortune!
Carl made me buy his games off of him but sold them for real cheap. I got Sonic 2, ToeJam and Earl 2, Chakan, Last Battle, After Burner 2, Altered Beast, and several others. I was buying them for a pittance; some of them he even traded away to others at school for lunch when he didn’t bring anything to eat that day. I spent the next month basking in the sublime feeling of being able to play video games in my own house once again instead of only being able to play at friends’ houses on certain occasions. I never knew what to buy for my newly acquired Genesis. I was constantly at Funcoland, buying whatever looked interesting with my paper route money. Most of the time, I ended up getting rather lame games, but I didn’t care as I just loved finding out about new games even if they were bad. Even the bad games got plenty of time in the console.
I really formed a habit of scavenging for old systems from there. I later picked up another NES from somewhere, and my neighbor threw an Intellivision away with several games that I never got working. Carl and his brother also had a Sega Master System that we also used to play the heck out of when I spent the night at his house, and he didn’t want that anymore either. I had another friend named Doug (yeah, we were Doug and Doug), and we were trying to get our hands on the Master System as well (here I am sharing one of my more well-kept secrets), but they were on the rowdy and wild side. All they wanted was some beer for it. Doug and I ended up steeling two cans of beer out of the pantry when my parents weren’t home, and they traded us the Sega Master System and three games for those measly two cans of beer. We told my dad that we bought the system from them for fifteen bucks. Yeah, I lied, and I felt guilty about that, but I just couldn’t turn that deal down. Who could? I wonder how my parents would react if I ever told them the truth, and I’m tempted to tell them sometime just for the heck of it since it’s been 20 years now.
We quickly got bored of the Sega Master System and sold it off to some friends down the street. Shortly after that, in 1996, I was desperate for a Super Nintendo and sold my Genesis and NES to Funcoland for$200 in credit to get my SNES and the games I wanted. I think I probably would’ve kept the Genesis if I had experienced more of the great games it had, but sadly I didn’t. I kept buying systems and selling them once they broke or just sold them for other systems foolishly. Getting systems so late as a kid must have really impacted me, as I continue the trend to this day. I bought a Jaguar in the late ’90s, which started my collecting habit, and I later bought a Playstation, Saturn, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, PS2, Gamecube and several others; and they were all at the end of their life cycles. I don’t regret it and have never looked back, even to this day!