Summers can be scorching in Tennessee. It’s not necessarily the heat that burns, but the humidity that suffocates. At times it’s like inhaling water, and there’s no relief outside hiding from it. But when you’re a kid faced with what feels like an eternity of no school… you suffer through it all in the name of fun.
I’ve always been a kid with a massive imagination. Living with my head in the clouds somehow kept me grounded. It somehow helped me sort through the inner dramas of a child. Playing out my life as a heroine, a warrior, a girl obtaining triumph, all of it held precious meaning. Video games only enhanced this. They gave me control of heroes, helped me forge stories, and allowed me to overcome challenges.
I remember having a Game Boy during the heat of Pokemon’s popularity, when I would play it until the batteries died during the nights of camping with my parents. There was something magical about playing under the stars, hearing the soft waves of the lake in the distance, and having no worries. Besides not packing enough extra batteries.
My father rented Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for our brand new Nintendo 64 so many times that I’m pretty sure we ended up spending enough money for three copies. Ganondorf gave me several of my worst childhood nightmares, and yet I would still fake being sick just so I could stay home from school and play. My best friend and I would spend hours fishing at Lake Hylia, sometimes for an entire night with a horribly unstable makeshift fort filled with bottles of Pepsi and a plate full of cookies at our side.
It’s almost impossible to mimic the emotion we experienced as kids, and I wish I would have known to appreciate those moments more. Man Crates, a company that specializes in gifts that ship in wooden crates, recently reached out and asked what that one defining moment was that turned me into a gamer… but of course I couldn’t just choose one. There was never one moment when I was faced with that sudden realization. I turned into a gamer the moment I picked up a controller, watched my cousin play Sonic the Hedgehog, and failed over and over again in Super Mario Bros. There was a beginning, a blurry time when things happened, but I can’t really remember anything outside of the excitement. It was a time that can never be perfectly replicated now.
But if I could pack my childhood gaming experience into a crate…
First, the games. There are a few titles I still play to this day, and all of them were discovered when I was young. A Link to the Past on the SNES was probably one of the first defining moments of my gaming adventure. It was just before I understood how to play games myself, however, it unlocked an undying interest in nearly every video game I came into contact with after that. I also remember The Addam’s Family on the Sega Genesis as well as James Pond.
Tetris on the Game Boy helped to pass the hours, but Pokemon really took over after the release of Red and Blue. Donkey Kong Country on the SNES was played almost non-stop in my bedroom. Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask were the games most focused on during my time with the Nintendo 64, however, I have very fond memories of Mario Party and Banjo-Kazooie. Goldeneye 64 was the game that really introduced an exciting multiplayer experience, and was my introduction to the first-person shooter genre… but it also ended friendships. Especially when they played as Oddjob.
Final Fantasy VIII was a random discovery in my local Movie Gallery store, a game that is still one of my favorites today. It also later motivated me to pick up Final Fantasy X on the PlayStation 2, a title that I consider to be my last “childhood” game.
All of this was accompanied by friends, candy, soft drinks, and junk food that was way too unhealthy for us to eat… but we didn’t care. Chocolate chip cookies were always my favorite, especially the ones made by Mom, complete with a large, fizzling bottle of Pepsi. I’d usually include some sort of oven-made pizza in there somewhere when actual hunger began to yell for attention.
My friends and I would plop down on blow-up furniture that would end up popped sometime during the night from jumping and laughing through sugar rushes. I also had a rocking chair specifically meant for gaming, but it was rocked into nearly two halves.
And Surge. Who could forget the forbidden cans of Surge? As a 90s kid, Surge was like Ambrosia or liquid gold, and it was something we would chug anytime we got our hands on one of those cans.
But more importantly, we were a group of friends who grew up together, who used our minds and imaginations to work our way through the numerous challenges presented to us on the TV screen. Whether it was Dodongo’s Cavern or the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time, or fighting Ifrit in the Fire Cavern in Final Fantasy VIII, we made eternal memories.