The first game console I owned was a SNES. I owned it for a grand total of three days.
That SNES was a birthday gift from my older brother when I turned six, who handed it to me wrapped in his bedsheets rather than traditional gift wrappings. Looking back now, I’m aware my older brother didn’t really have his life together at that stage, but at the time I thought the world of him.
He handed me the console, previously his own, and a stack of cables, controllers and his games. I don’t remember most of the pile of games, but as someone who didn’t yet have regular access to a PC, the copy of Mario Paint he gave me stood out in my mind. I know Mario Kart was also part of the collection. That SNES formed the basis for my earliest memories of playing video games. I was instantly hooked.
As a kid with Asperger’s syndrome, I latched onto the idea of fantastical adventures and creative outlets I could engage in without other people. I could be alone, and still have fun and adventure.
He took the SNES back a few days later. He was just “borrowing it back” to play games with a friend who had come over.
I never saw it again.
A few years later, he did the same with his N64. He gave it to me wrapped in a duvet. I once again got incredibly excited. For a brief period I owned a video game system again. I ignored all the similarities to the SNES incident, I didn’t want to think of the realities of how gaming might once again leave my life. Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie were my life for a good few weeks. I 100% completed both. I must have been around 8 years old.
I don’t remember how long it took, certainly longer than the SNES, but he took back the N64 too. He sold it shortly after. This time I was crushed.
My biological father hasn’t really been a solid fixture in my life, he and my mother separated when I was two years old, but his actions in the aftermath of my brother reclaiming and selling that N64 to this day stick out to me as a selfless act of kindness without which my love of video games likely wouldn’t exist.
My father was, once upon a time, interested in playing video games. I’ve never really thought to ask him about this, I’ve never actually seen him play a video game that I can remember, but he must have been a gamer, as he owned an N64. He owned an N64 that he gifted to me, alongside his full collection of games, as a replacement for the N64 my older brother reclaimed.
Among the NHL Hockey and Wave Race cartridges was one of the games that defined my childhood. A golden cartridge, shining brilliantly among the grey, for Ocarina of Time.
Ocarina of Time to me was the story of a young child who was ostracised for being different. His experience of the world varied from his peers, and he wasn’t going to fit in no matter how long he waited. The fact he was different was okay. It was what made him special, unique, and able to do things nobody else could manage. He could set off into the world and make something of himself. He could prove to the world that even though he was different, he could be important and valuable.
As a kid with Asperger’s, that message resonated with me in a way that stuck for a long time. It was the piece of media that, as a child, resonated with me more than any other. It was the first video game I truly fell in love with.
I have issues with my biological father and the way he treated me growing up, but I can’t deny that that one gesture made a huge, valuable impact on me. He gave up his N64 for me. As far as I know, he never bought another console afterwards.
Following this, my older brother comes back into the gaming picture. He brought me into the world of Pokemon, but not the world of handheld gaming.
Some time shortly after the N64 debacle, my brother took me with him to a local pool club above a shop. I remember the room faintly, very dim and grim, the kind of place as an adult I wouldn’t set foot in alone. I remember a lot of standing around, my brother talking to someone shady in a corner, and eventually coming back and handing me a floppy disk. On it, a PC emulated version of Pokemon Yellow.
The version of Pokemon Yellow on that floppy disc was broken in such a way that it was impossible to pass the end of the Veridian Forest. I didn’t care. I used my very limited daily time on the new family PC to play countless hours of that game. I bought as many Pokeballs and caught as many pokemon as my limited number of trainer battles would allow. I trained my Pokemon beyond the point that they stopped obeying me due to lack of badges and kept pushing onwards. I leveled up endlessly in Veridian Forest. I was hooked.
From there I branched off into gaming by myself. I saved up my pocket-money for Majora’s Mask, a pink Gameboy Colour, a Gamecube and onwards.
Still, I can’t ignore the fact that I likely never would have started gaming if not for the actions of my biological father and my older brother.
Thank you both, for the road that led me here.