I get on these kicks every once in a while where I get totally and completely addicted to a video game. It doesn’t happen all the time, and it always eventually passes, but when I’m in the grip of a game, it’s just takes me over so completely that I can’t think of or do anything else.
I remember being maybe two or three years old – I know this sounds like a bullshit story, but it’s true – and being over my grandparents’ house. My dad’s the second oldest of eleven kids, so when I was two or three, all of my uncles were in their teens and early twenties. And I remember one time being over there and everyone was huddled around a brand new Nintendo, the first console. They were taking turns playing Super Mario and Duck Hunt. I wanted to play so badly, but nothing sucks the fun out of something more than letting a little kid without any developed motor functions taking a turn and getting his snot-covered fingers all over the controller.
So I didn’t get to play, but I’d still pinpoint that memory as my first moment of video game addiction. Because I can remember it so clearly. And I was only two or three. I don’t have any other memories from that early in life, except for watching them play Mario I. A couple of years later, my dad came home from a business trip really late at night. At least, I thought it was pretty late at night. It could have been ten. I don’t know, I was a little kid and I was asleep and my dad came home with a Super Nintendo, set it up, woke us up out of bed, and sat us in front of the TV to play.
Little kids go to bed early and they stay asleep for like twelve hours. That’s how it must have been, because my exact memory of what went down had me waking up, regaining consciousness right in front of the television, holding the controller and playing Super Mario. I’ve never had a better waking up experience to this day. I beat that game so fast, I remember sending a photo of the end credits to Nintendo Power magazine, who asked readers to send in their photos, to determine who was the first person in the world to beat it. And it was me. I was the first person in the world to beat Super Mario World.
Then I remember reading Nintendo Power later on and seeing a whole article about The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It showed all of the enemies you’d get to face, all of the items you’d get to collect and use along the way. Reading that article and looking at those pictures, I remember that I wanted that game more than I wanted anything else in the entire world. But I had to play it exactly right. I couldn’t just beg for it, because then I’d never get it. I had to casually mention that I wanted it, all while presenting little opportunities for my parents to buy it for me as a reward for something. So I’d pretend that an upcoming math test was really hard and that I’d be studying for it even more than I normally would. And I wouldn’t really be studying, I’d just be looking at that copy of Nintendo Power underneath the math textbook.
There were so many cool video games that came out when I was a kid that I didn’t really get a lot of time in between games to let the individual addictions die down. There was Zombies Ate my Neighbors. There was Donkey Kong Country and Mario Kart. After Super Nintendo got old, the Nintendo 64 debuted, with Mario 64 eating up whole chunks of my seventh and eighth grade life. Then there were two great Zelda games for that console. There was Mario Kart 64. There was Super Smash Brothers.
Somehow this blog post has just turned into me listing titles of video games which, if you’re not too familiar with video games, you must find this incredibly boring. I was going to say so much more than just the titles, but all I’d be doing is describing the games. This is the problem with video games, for me, they absorb me so completely, so fully, that I don’t have any other room in my mind for anything else. I didn’t write as a little kid. I liked to draw, but I never really gave it the attention it deserved because I was too busy playing Goldeneye.
So that was the majority of my childhood, Nintendo. Now it’s gotten to the point where most of the time I never play video games, except for like one or two months every two years or so, when the video game bug bites hard and I can’t resist. It happened when Halo 2 came out for Xbox. I would play it for entire days while I should have been going to class and writing papers. It happened right after the Wii came out while I spent entire days trying to get a 300 in Wii Bowling while I should have been going to work. It happened when Doodle Jump came out for the iPhone. That was especially infuriating, because after just one day I really didn’t even like the game anymore. Playing it was more than just this compulsion, it was like I hated myself for wasting my time holding my phone in front of my face, moving it side to side, feeling it grow hotter and hotter in my hands. Most recently, it happened last year with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, where I spent a solid hundred hours playing Team Deathmatch on Xbox Live.
I’ve been good for a while. It comes and goes. It probably has to. If I didn’t let it happen, whatever it is that’s inside of me that compels me to play video games would bubble up inside of me and warp and grow twisted and, well, I don’t know what exactly. Maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe I would spend more time doing other stuff. But at this point I can’t fight it. I can’t predict it either. I don’t know which game is going to lay claim to my soul next.
Whatever, they’re just video games. I guess if you have to be addicted to something, video games aren’t that bad. It’s much better than gambling. Or crystal meth. Right? You ever see pictures of long-term meth users? Gross.