When Christmas day rolled around, I felt this huge urge to hook up the old Super Nintendo and spend the day playing some of my old favorites like Super Mario World, Duck Dogers, Street Fighter II, and more. Unfortunately I didn’t get to, but I did think back on some of my first memories of video games and shared them with the kids.
The very first memory would actually be about going to the Bristol Mall in Bristol TN and seeing the arcade there that was called The Gold Mine. However, on that fateful trip, I didn’t get to step inside and relish in all the goodness it had to offer. I simply got to walk by it and gaze in amazement at all the flashing lights and tingle with excitement from all the sounds coming from within.
So my actual first experiences with video games in any form would be when my cousin Tim first got his Nintendo. Somehow, I had missed out on all of the marketing and talk surrounding the Nintendo when it was launched. I had never seen nor heard of such a thing. One day while visiting the grandparents, my uncle Ernest mentioned that he had gotten Tim a Nintendo Entertainment System, and that I should come over and play Super Mario Brothers.
Going to visit Tim wasn’t any kind of chore since he lived right beside me. When I got home that afternoon, I strolled next door, and what I found there that afternoon left an indelible mark on me for the rest of my life. This slightly odd-shaped gray and black box had me hooked from the first moment I picked up the controller.
Tim explained to me the basics of how it worked….how there were cartridges that contained the games that you inserted into the system, and hand-held controllers with which to play the games. He gave me the basic rundown on how to play Super Mario Brothers, and let me watch him play for a while. A LONG while. Eventually, he asked if I would like to play and I’m sure my answer was something along the lines of “HECK YEAH!”. Sadly, he set us up on two-player mode which meant I would be Luigi. At that moment, I didn’t really care. What I didn’t know then was that Mario went first, and got to keep playing until he died. Tim had already gotten quite good at the game, so I had to wait impatiently for quite a while before I got my turn.
Eventually, my time came. I was so excited, as I had watched his moves intently and thought I was ready to run through the same levels I had just watched him complete. That excitement died off pretty quickly as I mis-timed the first jump and died a horrible death at the hands of a mutated mushroom. After roughly 5 seconds of play, I was relegated back to the sidelines to sit and watch Tim and Mario dominate the play time for another 15 – 20 minutes.
The afternoon continued on like this up into the evening, and when it was time to go, I was feeling a lot less enthusiastic about the whole video gaming experience. In 4 hours of time spent with him, I had amassed about 20 minutes of total play time. I went home thinking that it seemed fun, but I wasn’t really sure since I didn’t get very much hands on time with the game.
The following day was a different story however. I showed back up at his house early, and wasted no time in asking if he wanted to play Super Mario Brothers some more. He darkened my whole when he said, “Nah, I don’t want to play Mario today.” Just as quickly as he darkened the day, he lightened it right back up when he said “Let’s play Pro Wrestling instead.” PRO WRESTLING?!? There was a game for Nintendo about Pro Wrestling?
Tim and I were both HUGE fans of pro wrestling in general, and the NWA in particular. We watched it together religiously and were huge fans of the Rock & Roll Express. He showed me the cartridge, and I’m surprised I didn’t wet my pants with excitement right then and there. I may have, I don’t really remember. When that game started up, it was like a choir singing Hallelujah!
We went through the cast of characters and were excited about the possibilities of matches we could have. Since Tim hadn’t played the game yet, we were on even footing when it came to experience. And throw in the fact that this was a game that both players played at the same time instead of taking turns meant that I got a whole lot more hands-on time with this that I ever would have gotten being Luigi on Super Mario Brothers.
We spent the entire day playing Pro Wrestling and I personally didn’t care at all about not play Mario anymore. The next several days were like that, with us playing Pro Wrestling by day, and me begging my parents for my own Nintendo by night. Finally, about a week later, my family went to the Hills Department Store in Bristol where my Dad picked up my first Nintendo Entertainment System for me, along with the Pro Wrestling cartridge, and a Space Invaders type knockoff called Alpha Mission.
From then on, I was a Nintendo enthusiast for life. Many games came and went as my interests changed, but Pro Wrestling still holds a place in my heart as the game that piqued my interest in video games. What about you? What are some of your earliest memories?
Want more fun tales of first video game experiences? Check these out:
Mr. Smith’s Plastic Bubble takes a look back at Space Wars
The Toy Box has memories too
20 Years Before 2000 looks back at the Simpsons Arcade Game
Marc Allie remembers Sears Tele-Games Video Arcade
Rediscover the 80’s has a great look back at when restaurants had mini video game arcades
Collector’s Universe remembers Space Invaders