The Sega Saga
As a kid, I was a video game junky with no access to video games. Even though I had developed some business savvy at a young age to fuel my once-a-week arcade experience, I was still too young and broke to afford a console gaming system, let alone the expensive games they required.
My friend Alia happened to have a Nintendo system AND a computer, but I was always forbidden from visiting friend’s houses (except for the occasional birthday) due to 1) germs, 2) potential loose parental supervision, and 3) the risk of dogs and cats. In an attempt to save me from my sheltered childhood, Alia tried to bring over her Nintendo, but none of the televisions in my house had proper inputs for a video game system. In those days, computers were also not portable, which meant no floppy disk/CD-ROM games, either.
The only solution to my video game conundrum was to play over the phone. As a team, Alia and I beat Maniac Mansion II: Day of the Tentacle, Roger Rabbit, Goonies, and Friday the 13th. To this day, I still haven’t had seen or played any of these games in “real life,” other than in my friend’s hilarious, potty-mouthed nostalgia game reviews. (Which, if you haven’t seen at this point, you need to right now: Angry Video Game Nerd.)
None of our games had save points, so for about six or seven hours every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, both of our houses were filled incessant chattering like, “Did I just hear the Jason music? Did anyone get stabbed?” and the ever famous, “You’re in the kitchen with the hamster, right? What happens if you put it in the microwave? Gross!” This drove our families crazy because without second phone lines, call waiting, cellphones, or the internet, there was no way to break through our videogame marathons.
Somewhere around my 11th birthday, Alia’s father finally broke down and bought me a SEGA Genesis. After realizing our technical issues, he was even kind enough to trade his “newer-old” TV for our “old-old” TV and hook it up for us.
My family didn’t see this as a solution to the phone problem at all. Anyu and Nagymama generally fear technology, and it took Alia’s father over an hour to convince them that the new Sega Genesis would not burn our eyes out, record all of our conversations, or ignite into a giant fireball if left plugged in too long.
After Alia and her father left, a sense of jubilation, victory, and peace washed over me. My mother watched me play for a few minutes and didn’t say anything. I peeked behind me and noticed that she was smiling. I got excited that, at least for that brief moment, she was approving of my actions.
Gaming meant so much to me, especially as a kid. Playing a game helped me explore new worlds, be another person, and do things that I would never be allowed or brave enough to do. After a childhood of drawing on the back of hotel placemats because we didn’t have money for drawing paper, making dollhouses out of cardboard boxes, and fighting tooth and nail for niceties like 25 cent rubber balls, I couldn’t believe that I would be lucky enough to have something that was…luxurious. Special. Magical. I didn’t know how to communicate any of this to my mother, so I just looked over to her and said, “You want to play, too?”
She looked genuinely shocked. “Oh, no dat’s kids stuff.”
“Come on, it’s fun! You can play a fox with two tails…”
“You know, Stephie, I vant you to tink about someting. Alia’s fadder spent $120 dollars on dis video ting for you.”
“I said thank you like a billion times, remember?”
“Your own fadder wouldn’t spend $120 on you….”
“Uh-huh,” I said, returning my gaze to the rambunctious blue hedgehog collect gold coins.
“You know, you need to start tinking about dah future. Alia’s father is a generous man. Maybe you should consider… marrying him.”
She was being completely serious.
When I told this story to my cousin in later years, she laughed and said, “You’re lucky you got a Sega Genesis dowry. Back in the old country, they would have traded you for two goats.”
I am forced to agree. A Sega Genesis is a way better deal than two goats.
Photo by João Paulo. And yes, I know it’s a MegaDrive.