Slouching Toward the Next Generation: NES fever dreams

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I’m in bed sweating through my long johns. I feel so hot I’m on top of the covers. I have strep throat for what seems like the fourth time this year. It hurts to swallow and I’ve been having weird dreams. Two nights ago my folks told me I was walking around the house with my finger pointed like a gun, hallucinating due to a high fever. Last night I thought I heard my grandfather in the house. I look out the window and I see his car in the driveway, a big electric blue Thunderbird. I smell bacon cooking.

After the jump it’s Christmas morning and I’m 10 years old.

I’m always late when it comes to consoles. I didn’t pick up a 360 until two years after launch. I stockpiled Amazon gift cards for over a year to get a PS3. In 2009. For every console defining series I’ve played this generation (Mass Effect, Uncharted) there are three or four I’ve missed (Halo, Call of Duty, Infamous, Killzone). I tried to stay current, but even when I managed to play something new (Assassin’s Creed, Gears of War) I could never keep up with the sequels.

Does it matter that most of these games are now grayed out and uninstalled, cluttering up my steam list? Would I have more enthusiasm had I played them at release? How much have I missed being out of step with every generation?

I’m holding the railing as I walk down the stairs, my bare feet on carpet. As I round the corner into the hallway I see my grandfather standing in the kitchen. He’s wearing an overlarge coat and brimmed hat, feather poking out of the band. He has a big smile on his face and tells me he’s getting on his way, he just wanted to drop something off.

As I walk into the living room I see my parent’s heads peeking over the back of the couch. They look at me, then at the Christmas tree in the corner of the room. Propped up against the wall near the tree is a huge box. So huge only the top half is wrapped. My eyes shoot from the box to my parents, then to my grandfather. I walk over to the box and slowly unwrap it.

All year I’ve pestered my parents about buying me a Nintendo. All of my friends have had them for what seems like an eternity. All of my cousins have one. Every kid in my neighborhood. They always said “no; too expensive; $100 is a lot of money.” But as I finish unwrapping the box I see a smaller box inside.

I look to my parents. My mom has turned back around and is watching TV. My dad has his eyes down shaking his head. Then I look to my grandfather. He’s leaning on a chair by the kitchen table, casual as hell, with a smile on his face. I’m sick and I’m hot and my throat is burning but at that moment looking from the box in front of me to that smile on my grandfather’s face I feel an excitement and joy so intense it can’t possibly be a hallucination.

The love I felt for that first console has diminished with each subsequent generation. So much so that I mostly sat out and lagged behind as I went from college to adulthood. Is there a way to recapture even a sliver of how I felt as a sick kid opening his Nintendo on Christmas morning? Will being there from the start matter? I intend to find out, so I’ve pre-ordered both the PS4 and Xbox One. I’ll be writing a series of articles about each system, their AAA launch titles, and some of the downloadable games.

Next: ladies and gentlemen, introducing the Playstation 4

Scott Dobrosielsky lives in Northport, NY with his wife and dog. When not playing Goonies and G.I. Joe on his C128 he enjoys playing Adventure and E.T. on his uncle’s Atari 2600. He posts on the Quarter to Three forums as Scott Dobros.

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