Tag Archives: mutually assured destruction

Six kids and one Nintendo

Growing up it was always this battle to play video games, to get some quality time with the Nintendo without one of my brothers or sisters spoiling my fun. I’m the oldest of six, we’re all really close in age, it wasn’t like I was in charge of the Nintendo, and so everybody wanted to play. We had one TV, one console, and they were shared property.


There was really only one rule that governed our video game play, and that was the principle of mutually assured destruction. Regardless of who happened to be using the Nintendo, if one of us started complaining to my mom or dad, the result was always as swift as it was consistent: “That’s it. Turn off the TV. Turn off the Nintendo.”

And if I was playing, I’d maybe start in on a defense, like, “But mom! Come on! I was playing first! I had the controller! I was playing a one-player game! Come on mom! That’s not fair! Mo-om! Come on!”

I’m talking here as if I was the victim. More than likely I was the one who got bored, decided to see what was going on in the living room, I’d find one of my brothers playing some video game, and just because of the fact that I was a huge asshole, I’d start being a jerk. “Move over, we’re playing two player.”

It was a cheap move, yeah, but that was the system by which we self-governed our Nintendo use. The rule was, as laid down by our parents, if you want to play Nintendo, and someone else wants to play Nintendo, then move over and play something that’s two-player, because it’s not your Nintendo, and if you resist, if you have to get mom and dad involved, that’s going to be the end of it.

My mom would be like, “Look, if you kids are going to fight about the Nintendo, nobody’s going to play. You want to keep fighting? I’ll throw that Nintendo in the trash. You want to try me?”

That always shut any of us up. Because even though I kind of doubted my parents’ willingness to trash something that they bought, a piece of electronics that they spent over a hundred dollars for, I never wanted to take the chance. There was always this story that my dad told about how when he was a little kid, one time he and his brothers and sisters, had so annoyed my grandmother that she cut the chord to the TV with a pair of scissors.

I mean, no, I was never really afraid that the TV would get trashed. Take away the Nintendo, maybe, but no TV? That would have been hell for my mom, having us all cooped up inside the house, no Saved By the Bell to keep us somewhat quiet.

Because that’s what we did, we watched TV and played Nintendo. We had several games, we’d get them for Christmas or, sometimes at the end of the school year we’d be surprised with a new one. I remember when I convinced my mom to buy us The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It was awesome. For months I had read in Nintendo Power magazine about all of the different dungeons that I’d have to explore, all of the various weaponry at my disposal.

This Zelda game though, it was a double-edged sword. As a one-player game, one that I really, really wanted to play, like all of the time, it meant that the rest of my brothers and sisters now wielded an inordinate amount of power over me. Any time I sat there playing Zelda, all one of them had to do was open his or her mouth and say loud enough for my mom to hear, “Hey Robbie, can I play?”

To make matters worse, this game came with only three save files. Granted, only three of us barely had the hand-eye coordination necessary to actually play this game, but try being a ten year old kid and attempting to explain this argument to your mom and dad. Halfway through the first sentence, I can already imagine my parents shaking their heads, saying to themselves, I knew we shouldn’t have bought that Zelda. Maybe there’s still time to return it for one of those baby educational Fisher-Price two-player games. We actually had one of those for regular Nintendo. It was the equivalent of Barney & Friends for video games.

And so yeah, I complain about never really getting much quality time alone with the Nintendo, but if I really take a look in the mirror, I know that it was mostly my own fault. I’m the oldest, and I had a hand in crafting the tactic of mutually assured destruction. I’d be doing something else, I’d get bored, and I’d walk into the TV room to find one of my brothers minding his own business playing a video game.

“All right,” I’d say with a shit-eating smile, “Let’s play two-player.” And if my brother started to object, I’d say in a really low voice, “Moo-oom.” Then we’d both be sitting there playing two-player Tetris, neither one of us really interested in falling bricks, but both of us too stubborn to leave the TV alone. So we’d sit like that for hours, every time I scored a line I’d do this overblown celebration, “Yes!” just to rub it in his face.

Man, I was such an asshole.