When I was young, I was not a rebellious kid at heart. I made good grades, did my homework and chores, helped my parents with anything they asked. I never ran with the wrong crowd, disrupted class, or spent any time in the principal’s office. I was the model student and son, except in one aspect.
I was a gamer. I loved to play games. My parents were against it. And, even though I loved my parents, and still do, my love of gaming caused me to rebel against their wishes. We’ve all had those moments in life when we didn’t do what we were told. This was my moment. And my life is all the better for it.
My obsession started when I first laid eyes on the new Nintendo Entertainment System in the living room of one of my neighborhood friends. She had received it as a Christmas gift from her family. It was a thing of beauty. I think I literally heard it call my name.
She had two games; Duck Hunt and Super Mario Bros. We usually played after school with two other friends. We’d take turns, each person playing until they died. When you died, you passed the controller to the next person in line who took up from where you left off. Unfortunately, we didn’t usually get far enough in the game to earn 100 coins or a 1UP mushroom so after the 4th person died, game over. We had to start back from the beginning.
I also found outlets for my gaming needs at my cousin’s house as well as the home of my very best friend, Jeremy. My parents would allow me to stay overnight at Jeremy’s house. We did a lot of things together; fishing, hunting, and sports. But, my favorite pastime, of course, was playing on his NES. He and I would play until very late at night. Sometimes, he’d even go to bed and I’d stay up playing on my own, denying myself of sleep.
Finally, the moment came when I decided I wanted more. I needed to have my own NES system. I asked my parents. They said no. I begged and pleaded. I tried every bribery and negotiation tactic I could think of including promising I’d spend twice the amount of time studying/ reading than I did gaming. I also promised to pay for the system and games myself. But, nothing worked. I couldn’t persuade them. The dream was dead. Or, was it?
After evaluating the situation, I made a decision. I’d buy the system myself and my parents wouldn’t have to know. Now, I just needed the money to put my plan into action.
I worked harder than I’d ever worked before. I mowed lawns, sold Christmas trees, worked at a grocery store as a bag boy/stocker, and even found lost golf balls on a nearby golf course which I cleaned and resold to players. Finally, after several months of working and saving, I had the money for my NES.
Instead of buying it new, I decided to make my money go as far as possible and purchased my first system from a pawn shop. I also purchased the two games I’d always wanted to play all the way through; Duck Hunt and Super Mario Bros.
Getting the items into the house was easy. I had a driver’s license and a car, therefore, freedom to go and do as I needed. I sneaked the items into the house when my parents were still at work.
The hardest part of the plan (besides earning the money) was finding the perfect hiding place. Being a music fan, I had a nice stereo system with two huge, wooden box speakers (this was the 90’s). The back panel on each slid in and out for easy access. That was my hiding place. It was perfect.
I chose my times to play very carefully, always doing it when my parents weren’t at home. I played when they were at work, out running errands, or going to events that I conveniently got out of by faking sickness or suddenly needing to “study” for a test.
Over a span of 6 months, I acquired 40 games. That was great for variety’s sake, but not so great in terms of trying to hide them.
That’s where my friend Jeremy came into play, once again. He allowed me to stash my games inside a box in his room. I chose to only take one game home at a time, hoping that if ever caught, the other 39 would not be confiscated.
The plan was working out well until one day, I was so engrossed in playing Ninja Gaiden II, that I didn’t hear my parents’ car in the driveway when they arrived home.
They looked into the window of my bedroom as they walked toward the house and saw their son doing what they had told him he could not do.
I was caught. The dream was dead once again. The punishment came down. I was grounded for a month and my system and game were confiscated.
“But, what about the other 39 games?” you might ask. Well, Jeremy allowed one of his friends to borrow my box of games, who later refused to return them. I not only had my system taken away, a month in solitary confinement, but lost all of the games I’d worked so hard to obtain. The punishment could not have been worse.
So, what life lessons did I learn from all of this?
1. Don’t disobey your parents. You will eventually be found out/ punished.
2. Choose your friends wisely. If they’re willing to help you hide your games from your parents, they’re probably worth keeping.
3. Don’t hold your friends responsible for the acts of others who betray you.
4. Pawn shops can save you money.
5. Work hard and never give up on your dreams, even if your family doesn’t approve. (Just don’t go against their wishes while you’re still living in their house).
So, would I still have a huge passion for the gaming industry today if my parents had let me play when I was younger? I don’t know. I’d like to think so.
What I do know is that being a gamer has made my life even more amazing than it would’ve been otherwise. I’ve felt the exhilaration of saving the princess from the claws of Bowser. I was filled with pride when I solved the puzzles in Professor Layton. I was enchanted as I explored the world of Hyrule riding on the back of Epona.
Gaming is something I can share with my wife, friends and family. I even had the opportunity (with my wife) to run an independent game/ movie business for several years. On top of all of this, I’ve met some incredibly cool people while standing in line for systems, game releases, and those ever elusive amiibo figures.
I’m thankful for my parents. I’m happy they cared enough about me to set rules, even the ones I didn’t like. I’m also thankful to now be an adult who can make his own decisions. And, my decision is to game on.