Defined my childhood: console video games

Defined My Childhood: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

I was born in the early ‘80s, so the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was a HUGE deal. It permeated American culture. There were toll numbers to call for gaming tips, which of course died off after emergence of the internet. There was the famous NES specific troubleshooting technique if your cartridge wouldn’t load: blow on the cartridge opening, insert into NES & push down, then slightly slide cartridge to the left & then right, finally turn on NES. Nintendo Entertainment System NEW controller drawingOf course, there were other tricks of the trade, such as control combinations during the loading screen. I have many memories of playing for hours on end, mostly because we didn’t have the luxury of save points. But some of my fondest memories came from swarming around a small TV with friends as we played in multiplayer co-op or against each other, or even working together as a team by taking turns to beat a single player game.

This console, much more than the ATARI, really became a thing I had in common with other kids, creating a sense of instant community. It was right up there with the latest cartoon episodes as far as go-to conversation starters. Be it in the spirit of sharing the latest cheat code or boasting that you had defeated a certain level boss, you were all of the sudden in a very intense conversation with someone who a second ago was probably a perfect stranger.nintendo heart

I LOVED my NES. I played it for hours for years, even after I got other console systems! I was lucky enough to have had a couple accessories: the NES Zapper (light gun) & the Power Pad. I discovered I am a sharp-shooter with the Zapper, as I am sure many of my generation also learned. However, the Power Pad was the precursor to the foot pad controller of games such as Dance Dance Revolution & then onto Kinect for the Xbox 360 & the Wii’s Balance Board. I’ll go into more detail regarding the game that my brother & I played obsessively using this Power Pad in a later post. The fact is that my brother, who does not like video games, loved playing with this controller is a testament to how it reached new players. It helped bring kids who would not normally want to play, into the fold. This controller didn’t convert my brother, but he still lights up whenever I remind him of the game we used to play with it. (Spoilers.)

My NES allowed me to enter new worlds & become immersed in each’s story & history. It etched sights & sounds into my being. It helped me live epic tales of heroism, while honing my eye-hand coordination & learning to cope with my dyslexia through thousands of hours of practice.  I am indebted to my mom for buying me this machine, especially since we were on a tight budget.

Radar image of Hurricane Andrew 24 August 1992

via wikimedia.org

There is another way this console system defined my childhood. I grew up in Miami, FL & so I lived through the unimaginable destruction caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. My family & I had to evacuate our house & I could only take the essentials. I had to make the hard choice of leaving my NES behind. I can personally vouch for how amazingly well that machine was built: not only did it survive the eye of the Category 4 hurricane (which would have been the equivalent of a Category 5 today), but after I found my NES stuffed with pink insulation in the rubble under the fallen staircase of what used to be my house, my NES worked! It started right up & continued working for many years!  It may seem silly to most, but having lost everything so jarringly, this small bit of normalcy helped me cope with the unimaginable shock of the destruction and mayhem left in the wake of Andrew.

Did you have an NES growing up?  What is your fondest NES moment?

Check out other posts in this series!

2 thoughts on “Defined My Childhood: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

  1. Ravanel Griffon

    What an incredible story about your NES that survived that ordeal. Unbelievable! I can imagine it would feel like a miracle to you at such a young age (or, well, it’d probably still feel like that to me now) and I’m happy to hear it got you through such a hard time.

    I was born in the late 80’s and grew up with my brother’s XBox (so no NES). The games I most vividly played were the Pokémon games on my Gameboy, though. I wrote something about that here, if you’d like to read about that. 🙂

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