Thursday, January 29, 2015

Retro Gamer Memories #7: The Day I Transformed Into A Gamer

Last month I happened across a little thing called Man Crates - Side note, if you haven't heard of man crates yet, you need to check them out. Picture the most epic loot boxes ever created, that are required to be open by the use of a crowbar. Who doesn't want to pry open a wooden box with a crow bar!? That would make me feel like Indiana Jones unveiling the hidden Arc in that giant government facility with all the wooden crates. Drool.

Then I was struck by one of the most eye-pleasing images this gamer could ever feast upon - quite possibly the most awesome man-crate around. The Video Game Nostalgia kit......Yes, please.



I thought to myself, "Hey, what the heck would go into my own gaming man-crate?" Oh, boy. The things I would throw in that sucker.

First off, I need a Nintendo in there. The OG. The system that made it all happen for me. Throw in a few classic NES games, and I'm talking Super Mario Brothers 3, The Legend of Zelda, Contra, Mega Man, and I'm set for life. After all, those are some of the games I've played numerous times over the years, and they just keep on calling to me. Hell, there's a reason why I enjoy retro games more than the modern ones. HA, probably because they're downright awesome and actually provide a challenge. Unlike the hand-holding crap we're forced to endure nowadays.

Secondly, for my late night gaming sessions, I'm going to need some sort of caffeine buzz. Back in the day, when my friends were gaming into the wee hours of the morning, we always started the night by making a  7-11 run and stocking up on goodies. I'm talking bags of Cheetos, an occasional Taco Bell chili cheese burrito (why don't they make those anymore), and a few bottles of Jolt. Come on, who remembers JOLT! That soda was insane. Probably because it made you absolutely off the wall hyper.

Third, while this can't be included in the man-crate, it's something I always enjoy having when I'm getting into my gaming moods: a group of good friends to game with. Although, it would be funny to see them shoved into a crate and shipped to me. With air holes of course. Don't want them keeling over during the trip.

Thinking about what went into my crate though posed an interesting question. All this talk about gaming, and my survival needs through the use of an epic crate made me think about what got me to where I am today? What was that 'key moment' that turned ME, you're average kid, into a gamer?

At first, I though this was going to be something pretty formulaic to answer. After all, I have been considering myself a gamer since I was just a wee lad. Surely the instant which I transformed into one has been ingrained in my mind. Hell, I posted it about it when I first started this blog. Go ahead, travel back and time and view those original posts if you dare. I'll link them here real quick for your viewing pleasure.


Maybe it was the months, okay I'm lying, years I spent playing World of Warcraft. Nah, that's too recent, but hell I had a heck of a time playing that game and made a dozen new friends through the incredible interaction found through online gaming. But that's for another post, and that's not really what turned me into a gamer. I was a gamer way before that. 

So perhaps playing with friends is a huge part of gaming? This is true, and I can go on and on about the midnight binges and competitions my friends and I had in the depths of my gaming basement back in high school creating tournaments of Mario Kart 64, Goldeneye, and Super Smash Bros. Still, too recent...we need to go back. Quickly, do the Waynes World wavy fingers sound effect dream sequence thing.





Of course, it had to have been when I first played the Atari 2600. Why wouldn't it be? It was the first video game console I was ever exposed to. Hours on end playing Pitfall, Keystone Capers, Dig Dug, Donkey Kong, and of course Pac Man. But, then again...I was really young back then, with a true lack of appreciation for what I was actually doing. Hell, I didn't even know what I was doing half the time when I was playing video games back then. In fact, most of the time I would pass over the controller to my older sister or my parents, and just watch them play. They were always better at it, and I only found myself practicing the same areas over and over again. Seriously, I don't think I got past the first or second screen on Pitfall without lunging head first into the gaping maw of a croc. So, maybe it wasn't the Atari.

Moving on..


You have got to love that picture right there. Video Game ads are quite possibly the worst at portraying how people play video games. They're so unbelievably fake, and it really makes me wonder if ad agencies have ever a) played video games, and b) SEEN anyone play video games before. First of all, most parents would be prying their kids away from sitting too close to the screen. Secondly, you need to plug the game into the system, and actually have the console hooked up. Third, it isn't a two player game you idiots! AGH! What else is wrong...point it out..come on..I dare you.

Okay so then it had to have been the Nintendo, right? This is the system that made me a gamer! In a way, this is correct. Nintendo was what really sucked me in as a gamer, and I remember vividly more than anything every single game I played on that system. Hell, there is a reason I am going through and reviewing every single Nintendo game ever made, and it's because this system had the biggest impact. From Super Mario Brothers, to Contra, to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Mega Man. The list goes on and on of games that impacted me as a kid. And thanks to Nintendo, it transformed me into that "Gamer" profession. Ha, profession. I wish.

But thinking about it now.....it could have only really been one moment. The day I turned into a gamer didn't just involve a video game. Nope, it involved both a video game and a magazine. A little magazine by the name of NINTENDO POWER. 

Need a hint? Well, here's a copy of the letter from one of the greatest promotions ever given by a company.


That's right. If you were a reader of Nintendo Power, you most likely remember that issue where they offered a free copy of DRAGON WARRIOR to anyone who subscribed to the magazine. You see, I was already buying this magazine, but if I remember correctly I was just getting it sporadically from my parents, and had no idea where they were getting it from. I recall my parents asking me how much I enjoyed the magazine, and they really didn't have to. I was glued to the pages for hours at a time, and if you need any more proof of my obsession, I still have all my original issues to this day. Sure, they're in absolutely horrid shape, but that just proves how many times I actually re-read them all. Over....and over...AND OVER again.

Then I happened upon a commercial on TV, and my brain practically exploded. One of the most epic commercials for a video game to every grace a kids sponge of a brain.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDLfm4nybvc

So, my parents subscribed to Nintendo Power, and a month later the package came in the mail. A copy of DRAGON WARRIOR a cool little card with a map of the world and a list of all the monsters you were going to encounter in your quest. You have no idea how I LONG to have this back in my collection. Sure I have the game, but I wish I had the original promotional envelope and package that it came in. I doubt I'll ever find it unless I stumble across it on eBay one day. Who knows, I can dream.

Here I was, an 8 year old kid, ready to embark on the journey of a lifetime. Little did I know, I was about to get my butt handed to me.


Now I won't get into details on Dragon Warrior just yet, because I'll save that for my reviews, but let's just say Dragon Warrior was basically every Nintendo players introduction to RPG's. Unless you were exposed to some of the old PC RPGs. For me, this was it. A hero of a legendary line sent on a quest to rid the world of the evil Dragonlord. Yeah, it doesn't get quite better than that for someone obsessed with Dragons and Knights. 

However, the game was actually quite hard, and there was a lot, and I mean a LOT of level grinding involved. Most of my days were spent coming home from school, or waking up early just so I can level up my character more in order to ready myself for the next cave, or trek to the next town. Hell, you knew that when you crossed those bridges, the enemies were ready to demolish you, and they usually did. 

But getting back to the point of this article. The moment I really transformed into a gamer. I had spent weeks playing this game. Preparing myself for the final battle against the Dragonlord. It was late at night when I finally reached his throne room. I had all the best equipment, and my inventory was stocked with medicinal herbs. Before me, was the Dragonlord himself. I engaged in battle with him, and to my surprise I completely and utterly destroyed him.

I jumped to my feet, cheering, running through the house and telling my parents to come into the front room where we had the television and Nintendo set up. I pointed at the screen, showing them how I just defeated the Dragonlord, and then it happened. My dad laughed and said to me, "It doesn't look like you did." I was taken aback. Of course I beat him. I just saw him vanish from the screen. As I looked at the television, my jaw dropped. A new monster had appeared. The true form of the Dragonlord.


There was little eight year old me, crapping bricks in front of my parents. My sister, didn't give a rats arse what I was screaming about, but my parents sat down next to me and watched as I grabbed the controller, took a deep breath, and engaged in the fight of my life. The Dragonlord and I went back and forth for what seemed like an eternity, exchanging blows, and recovering health at any opportune moment. There were times when I thought I was never going to defeat him. He was just too powerful, and I was just a measly knight. Then, with one final slash of my sword, the Dragon vanished from the screen, and the text scrolled across the bottom that I was victorious. 

I can't lie. I probably cried as a kid. Tears of joy from defeating the hardest boss I had ever encountered in a video game, and a test of my perseverance and determination over the past few weeks. I took my warrior back into the castle gates, and watched as the ending credits rolled. To be honest, Dragon Warrior was the first game I EVER beat on my own. Every other game, I also asked for assistance. Even the first Mario game I had made my sister beat the very last Bowser because I thought I was going to lose. Not this time though. This time, the Dragonlord met his match, by an 8-year-old gamer.




So that's it. The real moment in time where I became a Gamer. Or at least what I can think of now. Sure enough, I'd probably think of more moments in time that probably impacted me, but those are for another blog post, don't you think?

That about covers it, folks. The moment in which I became a gamer, and what I'd toss into my good 'ol MAN CRATE nostalgia gaming box. How bout you? What turned you into a gamer, and what the heck would you want in your man-crate? Let me know, and feel free to post about it in the comments section.

Until next time.

Keep on Gaming.

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