Thursday, July 9, 2009

Because I Could Not Stop For Neo-Geo

How's this, gods of AP English: knowledge brings sorrow in the sense that knowledge is the conscious awareness of change, and therefore time, and therefore death. Righto, let's get this show on the road.

My partner came down with a mild case of brain cloud recently, and I spent a great deal of time lying around keeping her company and reassuring her that she retained basic language skills. Because you can only watch so much prime-time-in-the-daytime without going insane--we will, of course, make exceptions for Smile Time, Microscopic Disease Ninja, or anything pertaining to Rose McGowan--I spent a great deal of time on my DS. In the waning days of the illness, desperate for new content, I booted up my long-dormant Wii to see what demos were available for download.

Not much, in turns out, which is why I ended up wandering into Virtual Console. For those unWii'd among my readership--one, two...excuse me, sir? Are you reading, or just passing through? What's that? You're just a janitor mopping this part of the internet? Sorry to have bothered you, carry on--Virtual Console is basically a big collection of emulated games from previous, long and not-so-long extinct systems. The big sellers are predictable: Zelda, Mario, etc. The rest of the list is more interesting.

Hello, TurboGrafx? They bought the rights to TurboGrafx games? Because I'm pretty sure they only sold three of those things in the states, to me and two other kids from Boca Raton. (Oh, and Harold, Robbo, if you're reading? Fuck you.) And they have Y's I & II. You all remember that, right? A port of two PC games, way too big for the dominant storage medium of the day, let alone those pathetic HuCard things. A game so epic, it could only run on a strange technology believed to have been reverse engineered from a crashed spaceship, something called a "Compact Disc Read-Only Memory," or CD-ROM for short. Seriously future shit.

And now, just shy of two decades later, I have a Wii. The Wii is a casual system, at the bottom of the price ladder, and its wireless internet isn't great. And I don't have the strongest signal on the bottom floor. So it might take a couple of minutes for Nintendo to beam me a copy of Y's I & II from outer space.

Because, hey. We live in the future.

Toejam & Earl, nice. Ecco the Dolphin! Memories of being a Genesis fanboy flood my sensory perception apparatuses. Samurai Shodown, kickass! It only took me sixteen years to get access to a decent version of that game! Cybernator? Hrm...M, Me...fuck, no Metal Warriors. Goddamn socialists. And hey, M.U.S.H.A.

Wait, M.U.S.H.A.?

I never played that game. Never really wanted to. I saw a review of it in a gaming magazine I read eighteen years ago.

And I read about Romance of the Three Kingdoms, too. And Clay Fighter. And...shit, all of these.

And I am a child, disaffected, misanthropic, snobbishly disobedient, and spoiled rotten, looking through gaming magazines, a world of fan cultures (we didn't call them that then) and semiotic systems (nope, not them either) that still seems small enough to be kind of manageable. On the consoles, at least.

Those systems are gone, of course; I still have some of them, but at this point they're retro kitsch and not an object of serious veneration. What fills me with a quiet sadness I cannot easily identify, let alone explain, is not the realization of how old these memories are, or the mere shock at their resilience in the face of more pertinent data, such as my blood type, or why my girlfriend was angry at me the previous morning. What slows my breath and chills my bones is the memory of a trite story, of childish pride. I remember, suddenly, how very, very important this all was.

And it's important to me now, of course. The descendants, anyway. But not like that. I wonder sometimes if I'll spend the rest of my life seeking, consciously or not, that sense of mastery-belonging-comfort.

I was a gamer kid. Weird, and shy, and defiantly ungrateful, but not a bad kid at that. And then I went to college, where I discovered drama and, appropriately, acted like a dick for a while. And now I'm here (wherever here might be today), looking for work, looking for angles, looking for hope, and I'm not sure what the hell I am, and whether or not I'd be better served by selling all this shit off, cutting my losses at three published articles, and getting a job with a drill.

The good news, however, is that Samurai Shodown, even after sixteen years, is fucking amazing.