How nerdy? So nerdy.

So nerdy that I took a picture...okay, five pictures of my name in the the online leaderboards for Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer, an ass-kickingly difficult game for the Nintendo DS. (Technically, it's an updated version of Fushigi no Dungeon 2: Fūrai no Shiren, a Japan-only Super Nintendo game from 1995. Read my Amazon review here, or buy the game here!)


Contrary to a post I wrote a while back, I am a huge video-game dork. Or at least I was, and then I wasn't, and now I am again. My first home console was a Magnavox Odyssey2, a gift from my parents sometime around 1981. It had a built-in keyboard and a word-scramble game, along with a whole lot of knock-offs of popular Atari and arcade-based games. I may have played Donkey Kong every time we went to Casey's Pizza, but when I got home it was time for Pick Axe Pete. And Pac-Man? Pfft. I had K.C. Munchkin.

I spent much of the early 1980s planted in front of my Commodore 64, learning BASIC programming and playing public-domain games. (Does anyone else remember the earliest game stores, where you could take blank floppies and load them up with copyright-free software? You could also buy "real" games, which were in plastic sandwich bags and tacked to a board behind the sales counter. I'm old!) The C-64 was the machine that hooked me on games forever. Some of my favorites, off the top of my head: Skate or Die, Ghostbusters, Legacy of the Ancients, Julius Erving and Larry Bird: One on One (remember the janitor?), Spy Hunter, H.E.R.O., Impossible Mission, Karate Champ, Beach Head, The Way of the Exploding Fist (I had to look that one up), Aztec Challenge, The Bard's Tale, all the classic Lucasfilm/LucasArts games (I love you, Tim Schaefer!). And then there's this little Proust cookie:

Freaking Bruce Lee. I still remember every sound effect, every crappy background, every green samurai. Bliss.

I never owned an original Nintendo (NES), but my buddy Matt Leddon had one, so I got to play Mario, Zelda, Contra, and the rest of the classics. My next console was a Sega Genesis, which was mostly used for Sonic the Hedgehog and NHL Hockey. The first PlayStation never even showed up on my radar - oddly enough, I didn't own a single game console during my college years. Too busy working at the finest radio station in America. And drinking. Sometimes both!

Next up was the wonderful, too-soon-departed Sega Dreamcast, the oldest console I still own. The Dreamcast introduced console gamers to online play (yay!) and Quick Timer Events (ack!). My only regret is that I never played Phantasy Star Online. It seems like a game I would have enjoyed. Perhaps too much. Anyway, the Dreamcast pretty much did me in, and I've owned every major console and handheld system that's been released since.

A lot of people still see gaming as a hobby for kids. (Also for kids: comics books and action figures and cartoons and radio plays and horseless carriages and imagination and joy.) These people are incorrect and, most likely, dead inside. I'm proud that I haven't lost that part of myself over the years, and that I've actually embraced it again. The other day on the 5 train, I was playing some Shiren on my way to meet Liz for dinner, and a 4-year-old kid next to me pulled a battered GBA out of his mother's purse and booted up the original Super Mario Bros. I pocketed my DS and helped him through World 1-2, and we laughed every time he rushed blindly into a Koopa or missed a jump and fell to his temporary doom. I told him I used to play the very same game when I was just a little older than he is now. I think we bonded. Unfortunately, we got to 59th Street before I could show him how to get to the Warp Zone. He'll find it someday.

So yeah, that's why I took a picture of my high score.