“Desperate times called for desperate measures!”


Games Seemingly Powered By Air

I have a confession to make, dear reader: I have never in my life owned a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Never. I was a little on the young side (not even five years old) when the system was first released in North America in the fall of 1986. But by the time of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System’s North American release in the late summer of 1991, my nine-year-old self was aware of the NES. Even though my family didn’t own an NES, like every kid growing up in the eighties, I found a way to play one. My neighbors across the street owned one and I remember frequenting their musty basement to engage in 8-bit adventures.

But what is strange to me today is that I never had the desire to have my own Nintendo Entertainment System. I never tried to convince my parents to get a system of our own for my house. Not that they would have agreed to fork over the money for a NES had I wanted one back in the day. As I would find out later when I began clamoring incessantly for a Super Nintendo, my parents had drawn a line in the sand when it came to video games. They were very anti-Nintendo at the time, as if the games on both the NES and SNES were more violent and rotted our brains any more than the ones we had access to on our family’s PC. But I digress.

Why was I not interested in an NES of my own? First and foremost, getting a game to play correctly on the system was sometimes a chore. More often than not, you would insert a game, turn the power on, and be met with a blank or flashing screen for your efforts. Most children are not known for possessing a lot of patience, and I was no exception. If I couldn’t just insert a game and play it right away, I was not going to waste my time trying to get a stubborn NES cartridge to be read.

Moreover, I would watch mystified as my neighbors repeatedly tried inserting and removing the game cartridge until it played properly. I became flabbergasted when I saw them blowing into NES cartridges between insertions, swearing to me that it would make the cartridge work better. Thoughts along the lines of “Should it really be this difficult to get a game to work” and “My PC would already be booted up and playing a game by now” repeatedly entered my stream of consciousness. And to be fair, eventually the game would work. But usually by that point my patience and interest in whatever game we were trying to play would have evaporated.

Games I Was No Good At Playing

But it wasn’t just dealing with a system that seemed to be poorly designed to play video games effectively that turned me off. I was legitimately bad at the games my friends and I played on the NES. From what I can remember, we mostly played games like The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. When you only get the chance to play these games every once in a while, you don’t have the ability to actually get good at playing them.

My young brain could not understand how to play a game like The Legend of Zelda. There were no comparable games on the PC that I had experience playing. I can remember wandering the world map and constantly getting killed by Octoroks. Since no one explained to me the basic concepts of this type of game (obtaining and equipping items, searching for dungeons, etc.) I walked away from that game generally confused as to why it was so popular.

The games in the Super Mario Bros. series, to its credit, were vastly easier to understand. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t any good at playing them. I died, a lot. I can remember it getting to the point where a friend would wrestle the controller away from me so we could actually finish the level without losing all of our lives.

No Point-&-Click Adventure Games

But most likely the biggest reason why I didn’t own an NES was due to the lack of my favorite type of games on the system. At that point in my life, I was obsessed with point-and-click adventure games on PC such as Monkey Island and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. These games were my forte: No lives to lose, no time limits, and no enemies to worry about. I could save my progress at any time and go back into the adventure as I chose.

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