Being a child of the 80’s was a unique experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. The 80’s was a time without Internet and expectations about how kids should act. In the 80’s you could be a teenager still playing with action figures, fighting invisible monsters with sticks, playing S.P.U.D. in the middle of the street, or playing video games in your friend’s basement. “No rules” was the way of life in the 80’s. During the 80’s your mother and father didn’t question your maturity they simply chalked up your actions to “just being a kid”. Certainly my favorite part of the 80’s is the sense of camaraderie between friends when playing video games. I admit I would know little about video games had it not been for the video game social gatherings at my best friend’s house. I’m not even sure I would be the video game collector I am today without these experiences.
Growing up on Long Island I enjoyed the opportunity to make a great number of friends. Heck, every block was full of kids. Some became long term friends and others simply faded away. However, Jimmy is one friend I will never forget because he alone is responsible for my infatuation with video games. Jimmy was known to everyone in the neighborhood as the kid down the block who has all the Nintendo games. A legend in the neighborhood, he had every Nintendo game that was ever released, at least that was the rumor. I remember kids three or four blocks over who had heard about the legendary “King of Nintendo”. This was no joke. Many of these kids would literally walk down his block just to see if he was outside to ask him which video game they should buy. During the 1980’s getting information about new Nintendo games was near impossible unless you heard about another kid who had recently purchased the game. The review that Jimmy gave was either “dude, it’s excellent” or “it sucked”. Some kids who owned video games were often seen as awkward or weird, but not the King of Nintendo. No one talked trash about Jimmy with the fear that he may never allow them to come over and play his games again. This became the unspoken rule among the neighborhood kids.
I was lucky enough to randomly meet Jimmy at the local park. I honestly had never heard of him before, however a few weeks later the rumors surrounding the King of Nintendo circulated around the neighborhood. The first time I was invited to Jimmy’s house it seemed just as normal as any other house I had ever been invited to. Common 80’s decor, knick knacks on the wall, an ungodly amount of magnets on the refrigerator- including one or two Garbage Pail Kid stickers, and He-man action figures scattered across the kitchen floor. I soon discovered a treasure that I had never experienced before, his house had a “fixed” basement just for playing video games. Walking down the carpeted steps to the basement it seemed as if we were going a mile underground. The basement was cold, somewhat dark, lined with wood paneling, and a color television just for playing video games. Did you hear me! A color television just for video games, this was unheard of in my neighborhood. If families had a color television in the house it certainly wasn’t for playing video games. Whenever I attempted to hook up my Nintendo at home to the color television I was yelled at repeatedly on how I was going to blow the tubes out and ruin the television. This was a common rumor about the Nintendo, but my dad didn’t care he took it as a cold hard fact. When I was finally led into the greater part of the basement I was struck with amazement at the King of Nintendo’s video game collection. I remember saying to myself “Am I actually seeing this?” Jimmy’s collection of Nintendo games covered the basement wall. I was speechless. I knew then the neighborhood kids were right, Jimmy really was the King of Nintendo. Of course to any kid a massive stack of Nintendo games lining the wall is every video game ever made.
Jimmy picked out one game after another from the wall rattling off Nintendo titles like they were common household names. To be honest for all I know he could have been making up titles because all of the games he rambled off I had never heard of. It would be like today if someone lists off import game titles. Games like Gun Smoke, M.U.S.C.L.E., Jaws, Load Runner, Commando, 1942, Athena, and 1943. 1942, and 1943 I thought to myself… “He has so many games that two of them are identical except for one number in their names.” I later learned they were different games, but on that day it blew my mind! How did Jimmy know so much about games? He was only a year older than me and I felt like I had no excuse to be so ignorant about these game titles. I believe this was the point in which I decided I needed to have a collection like the King of Nintendo’s. It was that constant rambling of unheard of games that made me want to collect games, specifically the ones no one else knew about. Since that day in Jimmy’s basement I’ve been collecting video games and have aspired to be that guy who reads off all the unheard of games.
So there it was, a Nintendo on a color television with a confortable discolored arm chair just waiting to be played. After Jimmy rattled off the multitude of titles he simply said “pick out a game and play whatever you want”. Jimmy seemed like he had played Nintendo so much that he really didn’t mind watching other people enjoy his collection of games, actually it seemed like preferred it. So that’s what I did, I simply shuffled through the stacks of games and found a game named Bionic Commando. I probably picked this game because of the artwork like every other kid. This was the only way of choosing games due to the lack of the Internet. When that title screen loaded up and I played that first level I knew this was the game I had been waiting for my entire life. I probably played this game for twenty minutes but it felt like I had played it for hours. Because of this experience with Bionic Commando I still find this title to be my favorite game in the Nintendo library. Jimmy did try to convince me multiple times that Gun Smoke was the best in his collection, I wasn’t buying it.
As I became better friends with the King of Nintendo, his house became a place of escape. A world of endless games and place that seemed shut off from the rest of the surrounding world. Occasionally, his parent’s would walk downstairs and offer us snacks and a Pepsi. At my house I wasn’t allowed to drink soda, but what happened at Jimmy’s stayed at Jimmy’s. The King of Nintendo’s house was a magical place to hang out with my best friend, play endless amounts of Nintendo games on a color television, and drink soda… it truly was an oasis. I’m sure his parents got tired of seeing me at their house considering I was there most days of the week.
As I’ve gotten older, buying retro games reminds me of the old days, hanging out at Jimmy’s house. Sometimes I wish I could just go back to that basement one more time to play one more game but all good things must come to an end. Bionic Commando certainly made me interested in video games but having a friend to play games with was my real motivator to collecting video games. It was just two friends hanging out, playing some games, drinking some Pepsi, and having fun. After all this time I’ve always given Nintendo advertisements the credit for getting me interested in video games but I know the King of Nintendo really deserves all the credit.
Question to the Readers: Who’s the person who got you interested in video games? Share your story
– Neokenjiro / Prowings
– Thank you to Johnny (Happy Console Gamer) for giving me the confidents to write this article and reflect on the past. Your shows is an inspiration and important to the retro gaming experience.