Reclaiming Past Gaming

Today, as I consider what birthday plans I have made and what my holiday weekend has in store (this is going up after all that, since I write these a week ahead of time), and I gotta admit that the idea of buying my favorite chips, my favorite sodas, my favorite snacks, foods, and treats so I can hunker down in my apartment to play old SNES and N64 games is so tempting I’m not sure I can deny myself.

As I’ve started to work through some of the troubles of my childhood in the past decade, I’ve also revisited some of the bright moments and memories. Most of which are video games, books, and movies. Some of them have wound up too bittersweet (or just plain bitter) to properly enjoy or reclaim, but others have brought me new joy as I discover the little pieces of media and influence that made me into the person I am.

There’s a version of this blog post that has been written and deleted multiple times about the types of stories and what they mean to me now compared to what they meant to me then. It goes on about my relationship with my dad and how I got into sci-fi and fantasy and a lot of difficult emotional stuff that amounts to me reading into something that wasn’t there. But I think it suffices, for my purposes anyway, to say that all past books and movies are a minefield of upsetting memories and tarnished joy so all that’s really left to me to safely explore is video games. And the Redwall series, since I mostly dragged my dad into that as a chaperone the time I got to meet Brian Jacques.

Most of my early exposure to SNES games was through ROMs, since my family got rid of each previous generation of console when we accquired the new one, I never had much time with the SNES before it was replaced with an N64. But my brother was big into the piracy scene and I knew enough to be able to copy those files and hide them in places I could protect. I have mentioned a lot of my favorites (Earthbound, Super Mario RPG, A Link to the Past, Super Mario World, Chrono Trigger), but this was also my first exposure to the early Final Fantasy games (and the last exposure since my family was a Nintendo and One Console Family). I played a lot of games this way, since my brother just downloaded everything, and I honestly can’t remember them all.

In fact, there’s one game that I played that seemed like an RPG/JRPG in terms of leveling up and whatnot, but tyou fought the monsters on the map, without a special battle screen. The protagonist had a spear (I think an early version of the weapon was blue?) and you had to go get some mcguffins from a series of dungeons. I can’t remember what it is called, and every bit of research into a likely title has turned up nothing. I thought it was a Secrets of Mana game or something like that. Maybe a Crystals something? I don’t know. I just know the computer contracted a terrible virus not long after that due to “being connected to the internet and sometimes that stuff just happens” and had to be wiped and restored, so I never got to finish the game. Or even get very far.

In the years since, I’ve managed to rebuild a collection of my favorite SNES games (catridges this time, not ROMs), carefully buying and collecting them as I had the resourced, and even getting lucky at some garage sales and with a “SNES AND GAMES” gamble on ebay. I’m currently between SNES consoles because the two I have are not functioning, but I plan to get them repaired soon. Or to purchase another one. The consoles themselves aren’t terribly expensive and relatively easy to find if I’m willing to pay for one, but I think I can get at least one working SNES from the two partially functioning units in my closet.

My N64 collection is less complete, though I’ve done work over the years to get the important games (Paper Mario, Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Kirby 64, Pokemon Snap, Donkey Kong 64), but since my efforts were less specific, I’ve wound up with a few duds, a few unwanted games (I somehow got 3 copies of Hexen and 2 copies of Wave Racer without ever trying to buy them), and a pile of games whose internal batteries are dead. Again, a problem I probably have the means to fix, but not one I’ve really worked at fixing.

Despite all of this, I’ve never really made a concerted effort to re-experience those games. I’ve played a few, but rarely all the way through and rarely with the kind of attention and focus investing in a game requires. I’ve enjoyed them, just not re-experienced them, I guess is how I’d put it. I never wanted to tangle with the memories and feelings they evoke when I fully immerse myself in them. Now… At this point in my life… The idea has a certain appeal. It might be nice to reclaim or finally put to rest these pieces of my childhood. There aren’t many left that might be good or worth holding onto.

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