There are few moments in a child’s life that change everything. In 1991, all those moments were eclipsed when my mom and dad handed me a gift wrapped box that contained the much-anticipated Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). It was my birthday, and for months leading up it, I was haunted by nightmares that all ended with the disappointing realization that I did not own an SNES. The dreams were cruel and filled with all the iconic Nintendo characters, super heroes at the time, including the likes of Super Mario, Link (my hero) and even Yoshi (the green dinosaur that became a Nintendo myth in the early ’90s). Every morning I would wake up feeling empty. The dreams would tease me along like a rabbit chasing a giant carrot moving at the speed of light. A few times, the cruel dream gods would have me playing my Super Nintendo for hours; only to awaken to a room filled with nothing but the same old toys the gathered dust – extinct relics that were to be replaced by the SNES.
For a while, it seemed like Nintendo was everywhere. Cartoons, lunch boxes, movies (most notably, 1989′s The Wizard), even ice cream trucks adorned Super Mario World stickers. I had become so obsessed with owning a SNES that I sold my original Nintendo and Power Glove in a feeble attempt to save my pennies. I made a total of $50 dollars – enough for a copy of F-Zero (a boring racing game that was expected to be Super Nintendo’s most futuristic display of 16-bit graphics).
Breakfast cereal and Saturday morning cartoons became my only escape from the anxiety of wanting to own an SNES. My neighbor, a cruel boy named Raymond, somehow convinced his parents to buy him Super Nintendo for Christmas. Whenever he was bored, he would allow me to watch him play. Touching his Super Nintendo was never allowed. Raymond’s mom didn’t even let him buy the cool games (just F-Zero, which made him dizzy so we couldn’t play for long). No, I needed my own system.
Everywhere I went, I could smell that special new box smell – nothing like the new shoe smell that oozed from a pair of Jordan VI sneakers – but the smell of fun, colorful microchips, wires and chemical-plastic that exploded out of a cardboard box shipped directly from the island of Japan. I’ll admit it, at the age of nine, I was addicted to the smell of Super Nintendo. That year for Halloween, I forced my mom (who had refused to spent $200 dollars for a video game system), to spend $20 dollars on an oversized Super Mario costume. If she wouldn’t allow me to experience the 16-bit ecstasy of playing Super Mario World (which came packed with SNES console), she would have to experience the 3-D torture of watching me walk around the house, for hours, pretending to be an overweigh Italian plumber with super powers. Just imagine an overactive boy pretending to have super powers. Our fancy Persian rug was never the same again. Pepsi was everywhere.
But then one day, my mom caved to my demands. My birthday was right around the corner and after months of begging, crying, and even selling my toys – my mom told me she was going to buy me a Super Nintendo for my birthday. For the next few days, I completely lost control of my impulses. I was like a caffeinated daemon on the warpath. Every day I would ask if we could speed up the process and just buy the damn thing. Did I really have to wait until the exact date of my birth of my SNES? I needed to hurry up the process, but I didn’t know how. One morning, only a week away from my legal date of birth, I devised a plan to convince my dad, who was the ‘Good Cop’ of the family, to buy my SNES early if I would agree to a compromise.The ‘Great Compromise of 1991‘ included cleaning my room, washing the family car, and never bring up buying a puppy ever again. Knowing I would just renege on our agreement next year, I happily agreed and we shook on it.
The next day, when my mom and dad handed me my SNES – I was hooked. Watching me open the box must have been like seeing a hungry Tasmanian devil tearing through a box containing what he believed to be Bugs Bunny (usually, it was just dynamite and carrots). I played for hours, skipped lunch, and the first time in my life, I didn’t care about owning a puppy. Super Nintendo had become the love of my life. Until the birth of 32-bit graphics, I stayed true to the agreement I had made with my dad and never asked for a puppy.
A few years later, I would negotiate a similar deal for a Nintendo 64. The lesson learned? Every kid eventually gets a Nintendo and a puppy – It’s just how life works.