We moved to Georgia when I was four years old and in the initial move, we lost some things. A ceramic cat my mom had put in our old living room had shattered into a thousand pieces. The flight from Islip to Atlanta had misplaced our dog and she ended up on a different flight in a different state and it took a few days to get her back to us. The condo we had temporarily rented had been filled with cockroaches, and when my mom turned the light on to our new home, the horror of watching the floor transform from black to white as the bugs scattered into the walls practically made my mom lose her mind. I can remember her picking me up into her arms and running back into our rental car as she sobbed in the front seat while I patted at her arm and told her, “It’s okay mommy, we can sleep in the car.”
It was 1994 and cellphones were a far off luxury we didn’t have. My dad was driving from Long Island, New York with our cats in a U-Haul, and we wouldn’t see him for two whole days. Our necessities were all packed in suitcases my mom had yet to unload to our new home. All of our memories were inside the truck my dad was driving. Photo albums, Christmas decorations that my parents bought before their wedding on Christmas Eve and practically all of my Barbies were unceremoniously tossed into a cardboard box labeled, “Susie’s Playroom.”
Before moving, my parents ran a VCR repair company in their spare time. My mom worked in a dental office and my dad worked at a tech company. That was why we had moved; The promise of a job where he could at the very least double his wages lured us into the humid and far off South.
Electronics in my home were about as plentiful as the Polly Pockets I had in my playroom, which was located just outside my dad’s workshop. The workshop in our old house was in the basement. Just beyond my colorful Disney VHS tapes and sea of pink plastic toys was a treasure trove of circuit boards. Just as my toy box had been overflowing with dolls, plastic figurines, and dress-up clothes, his own toy box held wires, precision screwdrivers and whatever odds and ends he needed to tinker around. My dad would take everything apart. I can recall one instance in particular when I grew out of a pair of old light-up shoes. My dad took them to see what made them tick, what made the light came on, and took them apart to satiate his curiosity. He was like that with just about everything. My house, from the moment I could remember, held a few staple items in it I can recall without fail; My mother’s Kitchen Aid mixer, my dad’s computer, and a mysterious gray box of mysterious origin.
I’m uncertain as to where my dad got the NES, but it was always part of our household. I can’t remember playing it in my old home but I can remember hearing the distinct World 1-1 song playing somewhere. Most of the time spent in the condo had been in my room. It wasn’t a pleasant place to be and my mom did her best to assure me that it was alright, but often told me to stay in my room to avoid the less than pleasant aspects of our new home. The whole condo had practically been a game of “the floor is lava” for me to play.
A few months later we moved out of, as I used to parrot my mom much to her dismay: The Condo from Hell, and into the suburbs about half an hour away (though it felt like a world away). It was a big two story house with a swimming pool in the backyard and a room I could use as my bedroom, a separate one for my playroom, an office for my dad, a living room, dining room and what intrigued me the most, the den.
The den had been among my favorite rooms in our house in New York. It was where the big television sat in an entertainment center that I could watch “The Little Mermaid” or “Beauty and the Beast” on repeat. The new den was far bigger than our old one with a real working brick fireplace for Santa to comfortably slide down. We put a couch against the windows atop a decorative green rug, which also housed a large wooden coffee table with bulbous and round legs. It was a squat and low table that I’ll always remember. The den was one of the few rooms in our house with a hardwood surface and became a room I spent a great deal of time in.
My dad had hooked up the NES in the den and that is my first true memory of it.
I was born in 1989, and before that my dad used to play the original Super Mario Brothers with my cousins who were a couple years older than me. My dad told me one time he saw the princess with his own two eyes after rescuing her and I thought that was impossible after my less than dexterous fingers slammed on the jump button only to go headfirst into a Hammer Bro’s hammer. There were a few cartridges that we owned. Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 2, Super Mario Bros 3, and for whatever reason, Popeye. The NES Popeye game is not one I’ll ever suggest playing, by the way.
Beanbag chairs were bought because the cable from the controllers couldn’t reach the couch from behind the coffee table. My dad and I would spend hours cycling through games trying to get through levels the best we could to top each other’s scores. I always went second because I liked playing, “The green guy Luigi, because he’s green.” My dad who was the son of an Italian immigrant would purposely mispronounce his name, “Lou-whee-gi” especially if my mom was nearby because she’d chastise him, “That’s not his name, don’t call him that!”
My dad had an unfair advantage in challenging me to games. He was always better than me and would last far longer in game. His turns would sometimes take hours since we had to wait for the other player to die before we could play again. I can remember many occasions when the system was turned off by “accident” so my dad would have to fight to regain his place.
We’d happily play games together side by side in beanbags until the support hurt his back and he’d scoot the system back across the wooden floor to give the controllers more reach and sit on the coffee table. I copied my dad in just about everything he did so I planted my butt right next to his atop the table and watched him play.
The look of abject horror on my mom’s face was priceless. “James!” Everybody called my dad “Jim” but when my mom and I needed to get across that we were being serious, we called him ‘James’ instead of his nickname or dad. She said something along the lines of us having beanbag chairs for a reason and to not sit on the table because I’d make it a habit, or worse, think that it’s an acceptable thing to do as an adult.
Any time my mom was out of the house, my dad and I would sit on the coffee table and play games. When we heard the garage door lift we’d slide off the table into the beanbag chairs and sit there innocently like we hadn’t moved. The rivets in our jeans betrayed us and we scuffed up the table, much to my mom’s dismay.
In the mid 90s, game consoles were cheaper to buy and not as hard of a sell as the systems that initially followed the NES, but we never got any of them. I can’t remember playing any games on the SNES, but I can remember seeing Smash in action on an N64 at a friend’s house as we mercilessly beat each other with Link and Mario. I can remember distinctly playing a sushi game in Pokémon Stadium. My mom worked in a children’s dental office throughout my childhood, and on summer breaks or teacher workdays, would bring me with her. I’d spend hours either watching movies in the waiting room or greedily hogging the PS1 to do my best in Rayman or Crash Bandicoot. The slew of games that were tossed in our young faces was overwhelming and while I wanted to get my hands on all of them, I was more than content to play on my NES at home and try my best to beat the games before I moved on.
We got a van with a television and VCR in it since we did a great deal of driving. On one occasion, my dad and I had a road trip from Georgia back to New York, unfortunately for a funeral, but my dad actually hooked the NES up for me to play in the back seat. We’d sit together in the back seats and play Mario when my dad was tired of driving and needed a quick pit stop.
In 1998 the Game Boy Color was released and it was also when my dad started to get sick. The next few years were spent in and out of hospitals. My mom would pick me up from school and we’d sit in traffic to spend the afternoons and evenings with him before I’d have some time to myself to play games and go to bed. I won’t go into the details of my father’s illness, but three years later in 2001 he was gone. The last few months of his life he had spent out of home, in the hospital waiting for a heart transplant. We did everything to make his, as he called it, “home away from home” as comfortable and like our home as possible. We decorated his room and he kept his chunky laptop from work with him, and on one occasion, “snuck” our cat in to see him. We rented videos he wanted to see and left his favorite VHS tapes with him so he could pop in a movie whenever he wanted. We of course brought him the NES so he could play games when we were gone. Sometimes we’d play together and we did our best to get to Princess Toadstool.
After my dad passed we collected his personal effects from his hospital room and I had difficulty hooking the system back up. By the time I was able to finally plug it in, it died.
I got my hands on a number of systems afterwards. The Dreamcast and PlayStation were easy choices since the Gamecube and Playstation 2 both came out, and I caught up on games that I hadn’t been able to play before. I always felt like I was a step behind everyone else when it came to playing games but I never minded taking things slow and going my own pace.
2002 was when I finally caught up with everyone. I got a Gamecube and my mom bought a PS2 bundle with Kingdom Hearts. I was finally on page with everyone else. I won’t be saccharine and say that I wish I could have still played my NES games while I was beating up Sephiroth with a gigantic key or executing elaborate rooftop heists with a cane in a slick raccoon’s hands, but I was so enraptured with what was occurring then that I focused on where games could be. Part of being someone who loves to play games is to constantly move forward.
Mario had taught me to never stop going, even if I was afraid or even if I could fail. I’m glad to see that Nintendo is taking a lesson that I had learned and had taught countless other children from the 90s, and are moving forward with their new console.
This is the very first console release I’ve ever been excited for.
The first time I’ve ever felt hyped for a console with brand new games that I’ll be able to get at launch. I wish I could tell my dad that he had been way ahead of his time with bringing our NES with him. I wish I could play a co-op game with him with controllers that detach from a screen you can bring with you anywhere.
I know it’s been said from here to Hell and back, but this is the system I’ve always wanted but could never articulate having. The Switch is the system that I could imagine in a television show or a video game something so far out of reality because it’s so cool it can’t actually be real. The closer the release date gets, the harder it is to articulate the excitement I feel on getting my hands on it.
Moving forward with all of you as we all speculated what the Switch has been is nothing short of breathtaking. I’d like to think that if my dad was here, he’d probably be in the Switchcore Discord talking to all of you excitedly awaiting the Switch so he could take it apart and put it back together, but I think a few of you guys may be planning on doing that already. A good portion of the people on the Nintendo Switch Discord aren’t even as old as the NES or couldn’t use the Internet when I was lying on my bedroom floor with a PS2 controller in my hands. Everyone waiting for the Switch comes from different walks of life.
Everyone from artists and programmers from the South, to store managers in the Midwest, students in both high school and college and everywhere else in between and far beyond that are all excited for the Switch. We all spoke to one another when it was under its code name, the NX, and excitedly trolled through the Internet in search of answers. What was it? When would it come out? Would we ever get to play the new Zelda?
A community of people were all brought together for one reason: A love of games.
A love for games is nothing short of moving in the eyes of not partially sentimental woman like myself. Maybe I’m a wide eyed optimist, but I honestly feel like this is a revolution in gaming. I don’t think that Nintendo was overconfident in choosing to put Imagine Dragons’ “Believer” in their recent Super Bowl ad for the Switch. It’s also fitting due to the band’s relationship with Nintendo and the Zelda franchise.
I’m sure that the band believes,“It’s Time”. Now is the perfect time for a revitalization in gaming. Gaming in general has transformed so drastically since the 1990s and almost just as much throughout the past couple of years. People enjoy sharing games with one another through let’s plays and online matches with their friends from across countries and states. Kids play games just about everywhere, either on their parents’ cellphones or their own tablets. Gamers and gaming aren’t synonymous with strictly exaggerated depictions of gamers with a fine dust of chips on their fingers hunched in front of a monitor bathed in the glow of unnatural light. If you’re someone that can pick up a phone and play a match-three game or even a heavy strategy games on your custom built rig at home, you’re a gamer. Most of us began playing games through Nintendo, whether you were a 90s kid that excitedly received an NES system, your parents were fortunate enough to get their hands on a SNES for you to experience the first taste of the Console Wars, or screamed with sheer delight while peeling back paper on Christmas morning to receive a Nintendo 64. Maybe you saw the commercials for the Wii and the affordable price. Maybe active games lured your parents into buying one or you found the appeal of games on the go with the Nintendo DS so you could play with digital dogs. Nintendo’s helped shape not only childhoods and memories, but are always the first push into innovation in the industry.
Sure, sometimes that innovation doesn’t always go as they plan or the risks they take are just too out there or too ahead of their time, but just as Mario lost a life from a stray hammer being tossed on his head and the player has to learn to get quicker dodging, Nintendo finds a way to get better at traversing the market. Nintendo had been king and all but singlehandedly revitalized gaming in the 1980s, and I believe they can be king again. The hype for the Switch is so real it makes me shiver with antici—
The amount of passion and excitement displayed in not only hardcore gamers, but the market in general, reminds me of the philosophy of Nintendo’s late former president, Satoru Iwata. Games should be fun for everyone, and I can honestly see anyone playing it from my eight year old niece as her small hands encase the Joy-Con and she plays “Splattytoon,” to my mom playing 1-2 Switch with my aunt after a few glasses of wine. Even people that don’t traditionally play games may not be sold quite yet on the system or fully understand its capabilities, soon will. I’m elated to see a post-Switch release world where I see twenty somethings in bubble tea shops playing Snipperclips, businessmen on trips that would normally interrupt dungeon crawling sit near a charging station as they valiantly fight on Zelda’s behalf, and kids experiencing a Mario game that’s both mobile, so they can take it with them anywhere and their parent’s get their phones back, and one they can play on the big screen at home. Though, if I’m being honest with myself, most of those kids may still be playing Minecraft. But hey, maybe soon enough, they’ll even be playing that on the Switch. –pation.
As for me, I can’t wait to take the Switch over to my mom’s house when I visit at Christmastime after Mario’s release. That way I can play the game as it’s meant to be played and comfortably sit on top of her nice new coffee table and rescue the princess. What can I say? Old habits die hard.