I was a little too young to really get into the original Nintendo (NES). I knew Nintendo, I had many friends that had them, and to me, Nintendo was what we all called videogames. It was like people in the South who call all soda pop, Coke (for the record, I call it “pop”). I played my fair share of Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt but it never really evolved passed that. I wanted an NES, but my parents never made it conceivable for me to get one. I wasn’t “in love” with it.
Time went on, and maybe this was third grade, and I went to my friend’s house after school. He had a Sega Genesis. I wasn’t too familiar, but as kids do, we plopped down, hammered in the cartridge and played. The game we played was “fast Mario” I remember describing it; Sonic the Hedgehog. This was the first time I had that, “I need this” feeling. We played for thirty minutes, went outside and shot some hoops, but I couldn’t stop thinking about this game I’d just played. I won the first game of one on one as we both kind of went through the motions. I was hoping we’d head back in and play some more Sonic, but he wanted to play hoops again. I proceeded to beat the crap out him, 11-0 in hopes of heading back in but without actually saying it, trying to finish the game as quickly as possible as I knew my parents would be picking me up in the next fifteen minutes or so. That strategy didn’t work and he demanded a rematch. I still wasn’t letting on that I wanted to go back in for more Sonic. The third game was more even, I tried to shoot as many “threes (worth two)” as I could to make it look like I was really trying, but at the same time hoping they went in. I won this last game 11-8, but I felt dejected, “did I waste all my time?”
We started heading in, and I went straight to the basement where the Sega was stationed. I got about five minutes in when, “honk, honk!” My parents had arrived. I left my friend’s house containing my excite combined with disappointment, but smirking, because I now knew what I wanted for Christmas.
Christmas was coming, but I didn’t have to wait that long
My next door neighbor, who also happened to be one of my best friends, has his birthday on December 23rd. This must have been his ninth birthday because I remember him getting a Sega Genesis and the Jurassic Park game with it. He made sure to call and tell me, eventually inviting me over. All Christmas eve we played that game (which is a very good game). At the end of the day, I headed home, with that same feeling I had after my parents picked me up three months before. My parents did a good job of downplaying it, saying that he was “very lucky” and it was his “combined birthday/Christmas present.” I didn’t hold out much hope for the next morning, but at least I had a Sega right next door.
The next morning I came into the living room where the toys lined the bottom of the Christmas tree and scanned for boxes that might be what I was hoping for (my parents spoiled us on Christmas, the only time my sister and I really got toys). I didn’t see any and my expectations dropped. I was still excited, I mean it was Christmas and I had a birthday coming up in February, so I proceeded happily. I think it may have been the third present I opened up, boom, Aladdin for the Sega Genesis. My eyes widened and my mouth gaped, “did I get a Sega!?” My parents played dumb, but I went for the box that could most possibly be what I desired; “SEGA Genesis with Sonic 2!” I declared. This was it my first ever videogame system.
The Genesis shaped my life as a gamer. Every game I got was a big deal, they were just as expensive as the games go for now, sometimes more (NBA Jam Tournament Edition was $70!) and this was in the early to mid-nineties. I spent many weekends going to the local video rental stores (I miss them, so very much) renting games that I could possibly buy. It was a big deal. This is how I fell in love with videogames.