I know you see the title on this piece of Lore, so let me be clear; an eight year-old hasn't had a lot of days to compare to yet, I know, but let me tell you, this day was the best day ever, and still stands out as one of the best, but man was I a jerk, and boy, did I know it! To this day I still feel kind of badly about it.
It was early 1987, I was almost eight, and I had been brought up with the Atari 2600 since I was probably four, maybe three. It was a great system. I had a lot of fun with it, but I didn't play it much anymore.
I walked into Milano's Pizza in Milford, NH, to pick up some food with my old man, where I had played arcade favorites like Legend of Kage and Arkanoid before, but this time, something different was in there...something so compelling, I would do anything if there were a home version. I had beheld with my virgin eyes Super Mario Bros. on a Nintendo Vs. cocktail cabinet.
There was an older, much more skilled, and cooler dude than I playing it. This teen was showing me the ropes of the game as I stared in awe. Some games had captured my imagination and heart before, but never before like this. He knew where all the secret blocks and warps were, and was happy to show off, being sure to make Mario dance on top of a vine.
I asked him if a home version existed, he said, "Yeah, on the Nintendo. They sell it down at Ames." I would do ANYTHING to own this game, I thought. No matter who I had to convince, and no matter who I had to step all over, this game would be mine. That was foreshadowing, by the way.
I had heard of the Nintendo. I had seen some unconvincing early commercials for it and some Sears catalog blurbs on it, but not much else. I figured it was just another one of those game systems that was going to come and go that no one else I knew ever owned. I never knew anyone who owned anything besides and Atari 2600 up until that point, except one kid who owned a Vic 20, and another who owned a Commodore 64, but to me, those were "just computers," and didn't count. SMB had changed everything. Nintendo was the future, and I had to be part of it.
After much nagging, my father agreed that if I could save half of the money, he would cover the other half. I had to save $70, as the Deluxe Set with R.O.B. the robot was $139.95. I slaved for six to eight months doing extra chores around the house, babysitting my infant brother, and generally doing anything I possibly could to earn pennies, dimes, dollars, whatever. For an almost-eight-year-old, $70 was a lot of dough. I knew this was going to be tough. But the day did finally come when I earned that 70th dollar.
This piece of Lore started with me saying how I felt like a jerk. The day I made my 70th dollar (the most money I had ever owned), was the fateful day. It was the greatest day ever until my dreams were momentarily shattered, then renewed, and I felt terrible for it. I made that final buck and demanded of my dad we run down to Ames RIGHT NOW and get the Nintendo. He said, "No, I don't have the money." I cried and screamed and told my mom on him. She gave him the third degree, demanding that he made a promise and knew how hard I worked on it and generally made him feel ashamed he was reneging. Finally, he caved in, and brought me down to Ames.
See, kids don't believe parents when they say they "don't have the money." Money grows on trees and the world revolves around you when you are eight. I refused to believe a dream so important to me was just about to be passed over, like throwing out a piece of trash. But, on the way to Ames I really felt terrible my mom had yelled at my dad. I felt really, horribly badly about it. Then I started to feel worse. See, when we got there, we started having the system rung up, and he asked what games I wanted. I knew it came with Gyromite and Duck Hunt, but I of course, asked for SMB, and noticed a few other games that looked interesting, and chose Kid Icarus, and Ice Climber. Then I really started to feel almost depressed and ashamed of myself. I had not only paid way under half when the games were included (I never thought to factor them in!), but my dad had his checkbook out and I knew he was going to float a check just to make me happy. He really didn't have the money and was probably going to bust his tail bigtime in the following days to not get caught for it, I figured. He asked if I wanted any more games, and pointed at Metroid, asking, "How about that one." I already got more than I deserved, thought it sounded too much like Meteoroid anyway, and that it was probably an Asteroids ripoff. I declined, with a feeble "No, that's ok." I think I had trouble getting those words out.
When I got home, I had a lot of fun with the system, no doubt. However, the idea that I felt I had been so mean to my dad has always haunted me. Yes, I know it was 20 odd years ago, but whenever I think of this happiest of days, it is still a mixed feeling, as if behind the joy there was a bit of dread and then I remember why.
Maybe people will read this confession of sin and I will have finally redeemed myself. Thanks, Dad! Thanks so much for everything you've ever done, but especially for making me the happy gamer I am today! Oh, and sorry about that whole putting you through the ringer thing when I was eight. You're the best!