Surprisingly, through social media contact, I was approached by a friend addition, that asked me if I would be willing to take the time to submit a short story to their site, based on my gaming story. I obliged and now Nintendo Guy & Mrs. Peach have my story posted on their site. You know, it’s always bugged me that I have no memory of what my very first video game was, but in retrospect, my fifth birthday is my clearest memory of anything I had ever done up to that point in my life (sans maybe the dream I mention in the story). It’s always interesting when I think back to the simpler times and the fact that I have stuck with gaming for almost 24 years now is a badge I wear proudly. Even more interesting is the fact that very few people have ever asked me how I got into gaming and after all of those years my own parents haven’t even, to my knowledge, questioned how I got into the hobby. Well, if anyone is still curious, here is my gaming story:
My gaming story originates while my memories are fuzzy, thanks to the inevitable reality of infantile amnesia, but even though I couldn’t tell you exactly what my first video game was at the age of four, I was birthed into the world during the very awkward transition to the NES, amid the famed video game crash. Before the NES hit the market in the United States, while my parents weren’t huge into video gaming, my father loved simulation games, especially those that simulated World War II flight, and my mother had a real heart for Space Invaders, thus, I know I started playing on the Commadore 64 or the VCS, even though I couldn’t even tell you what my first game was.
My first real memories of gaming, however, come from an arcade we had at a local mall, where the location had a prominently-featured Versus cabinet that housed Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt in a side-jointed stand-up cabinet. While having Super Mario Bros. being the game that launched my interest in video gaming might be a cliche for someone my age, I was able to experience it in its true arcade form. The game was so much different than ones I had previously played – the sprite work and arcade graphics made the game seem like more of a cartoon in my child mind, the screen scrolled with expansive and varying environments with plenty of secrets to make the game seem like an adventure compared to the static screens of Space Invaders and other arcade titles of the time and the simple concept of jumping was easy for me to grasp even at age four. Even though at that age, I could never foil that damn Lakitu in stage 4-1, I still pumped plenty of my parents’ hard-earned quarters into the machine through the year. Super Mario Bros. most certainly made an impression on me as it is probably the only thing I remember from my earliest years aside from this dream I had where I could fly and I flew down a flight of stairs to the basement and my father freaked out, but that’s probably more than you needed to know about me.
We never traveled to that mall with any real frequency, so I maybe only got to play in the arcade a handful of times through the year. You could imagine my surprise when one of my earliest childhood friends introduced me to something called the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986. To my surprise, the unit could play Super Mario Bros. right in your very home. Needless to say, I spent a few months vying for any excuse I could come up with to go over to his house and play Nintendo, but my fifth birthday party serves as my clearest memory of my first five years, where my parents invested in the NES Action Set as my present. My father helped me deck out my gaming setup, pipping the video through our Commadore 64 monitor so I didn’t tie up the television and he even bought two small, portable speakers that spliced the audio so I could enjoy better sound. Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt served me for many months, but as the NES gained traction, my mother, who worked as a high-end manager for a regional rental chain, soon pointed out I could rent other games for the system. In all honesty, I can probably barely tell you what I did yesterday, but without hesitation, I can tell you the first game I ever bought was The Legend of Zelda and the first game I ever rented was Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! Funny enough, at first I didn’t understand the concept of rental as my mom took care of everything after I picked out the game, so I freaked when my mom went to take the game and return it to the store. After many rentals, I came to be known as the go-to kid for NES problems and information as the store often let me take carts home for a day that people returned as defective so I could test the validity of the claims and when the chain had a newsletter that featured a strip of gaming news, I submitted a few tips and tricks that were printed in the publication.
From that time, everything has been a wondrous blur, jumping from one system to the next as time progressed. I would say nearly every friendship I treasure today originally stemmed from some facet of gaming. I even shared a “Kunkel-Katz relationship” with some of my childhood friends with myself usually siding with Nintendo and others siding with SEGA – we would just visit each other to play the other system and keep up with what was going on in gaming (and thinking back, it always annoyed me that my SEGA friends would just yank the carts out of my SNES instead of using the eject button). To this day, I own nearly every mainstream U.S. system that has released since the NES along with a myriad of games and novelties and in 2000 I decided to attempt to take gaming up as a career. I’ve only had mild success, but the thing about gaming is, even through the ups and downs, the hobby is flat-out fun and the industry is fascinating. Even though video game journalism has arguably turned for the worse, I can always fall back on the games themselves to forget about what ails the world and video gaming has given me so many memories, opportunities and friendships, I would even admit they have shaped who I am as a person.