Sometime around ’86 or so, I went downtown with my mom to go grocery shopping. On the way home, as usual, she stopped at Rex’s Market on Placer to pick up some choice meats and assorted sundries. I followed her in, knowing that I’d have about 20 minutes to read comics, play video games, or pick out some cheap candy.
Video games being my diversion of choice, I went into the corner where the games were. They still had the same old games they’d had for years (I think they were Defender & Ms. Pac-Man), but a new arrival had joined the group. A very odd-looking game called Super Mario Bros was nestled in next to them, and I was immediately curious. There was a kid playing it, who appeared to be fairly into his game. It sure seemed exciting, at least from a spectator’s point of view.
Then, in a stroke of odd luck, the kid’s mom called for him. She was leaving, and there’d be no time for him to finish the game. He made a face and walked out after her, leaving me there to play his last couple of ‘guys’.

I didn’t know what to do. This game was totally unlike anything else I’d ever seen before. I’d played Mario Bros. many times down at the Holiday in Westwood Village, but this was a lot different. There I was, stuck on level 2, without a clue as to how I was supposed to control this little man (presumably Mario). My time ended up running out, and I was soon left with only one man to try and figure out how this darn thing worked. I finally got the hang of jumping and running and everything, but soon fell down a hole – thus ending my first game. I stuck in a quarter, and tried my luck from the first level, only to be killed by Koopa Troopas, due largely to my unpolished jumping skills and lack of mushroom-power knowledge. Soon enough it was my turn to leave as well, but I was definitely intrigued by this strange new game.
I played it many more times in the weeks that followed, and eventually started to get pretty good at it. After it disappeared from Rex’s, it resurfaced across the street at 7-11. On several occasions, I asked my mom to drop me off there on her way into town to shop – so I could get an hour or two of game time in.

A few months later, I was over at a friend’s house one day when he suggested we go over to see his neighbor next door. His neighbor was a kid in my little sister’s class, whose never-present dad used to buy him expensive toys. He may not have had a dad, but he did have a brand new Nintendo Entertainment System — the first one we’d seen.
I was absolutely amazed. Now it was possible to actually play Super Mario Bros. at home… and for the first time ever, the home console version was exactly like the arcade version. It seemed almost magical, and I was as excited as I’d been upon discovering the Atari 2600 so many years earlier.
I knew that I had to get one, but that my chances were slim. My folks seemed to think that video games did nothing but distract me from schoolwork, and I knew that were never going to plunk down a couple hundred bucks for an NES. Aside from putting it on my Christmas list that year, I don’t think I ever even bothered asking them for one after that.

I had to suffer through the huge the NES craze of the late 1980’s, while seemingly everyone but our family had one at home. I used to hang out at our neighbors’ place all the time, where I soon became familiar with The Legend of Zelda and many other fine NES titles. The more I played, the more I wanted one of my own.
Eventually, I got wise and bought one with my own dough. I think I found a used one for cheap somewhere, and finally at long last I was able to indulge in crazy NES fun as much as I wanted. By this point I was pretty darn good at Super Mario Bros, and knew virtually every secret trick there was. I could get to World -1, get unlimited guys, knew where all the warp zones were, and all that. I began to branch out and enjoy other games, and experienced the bliss of the many other great NES titles (particularly Zelda, Super Mario 3, and The Goonies II). Some time later, it was on this very system that Jaimenacho and I played our historic 5-hour long game of Gauntlet.

You’ll be pleased to know that I have long since overcome my NES obsession, and no longer experience any symptoms of withdrawal. I do, however, occasionally bust out with a little emulated NES action on my phone, which allows me to play pretty much any game I want.