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Friday, February 10, 2012

Esoteric Retrospective: On the Outside Looking In

Believe it or not, that cute little boy playing Air Zonk on his Turbo Express in his
grandmother's lap would grow into the embittered asshole you see before you.
I was six years old in 1989, and one of three children. With our Atari 2600, and Ultra Pong Doubles machines losing their luster, the three of us began clambering for a new game console. Our choice? The Nintendo Entertainment System of course. Everyday in the schoolyard I would hear tales of warp zones, rescuing the princess, and exploring the vast world of Hyrule. It was maddening! I wanted so much to join in on the conversation, but I had nothing to talk about. Nobody had any idea what the hell Crystal Castles or Space Invaders were (a cardinal sin today, I know), and I would often be teased for not owning the little grey box that could.

Our pleas would soon be answered with the the holiday season upon us and our grandmother moving in and supplementing our parents' income. Mom and Dad knew exactly what it was we wanted for Christmas, and we were certain that our months of awkward silence and being teased on the playground were fast coming to an end.

Then the day arrived. The three of us tore upstairs to gaze upon the bounty brought to us by Saint Nick. We approached a large box that could have contained only one thing, and our parents stood by, urging us to open it. Upon tearing off that first piece of colorful paper we were greeted by a bright orange box. The three of us looked at each other incredulously and continued to rip at the paper revealing the rest of the orange box and the big black rectangle on the front reading “TurboGrafx-16”. We looked up from the box-somewhat confused, to our mother who excitedly began telling us about how they had tried the NES and Genesis, but weren't really impressed until they played this strange machine that we had never heard of.

Though my first question was “Can we take it back and get the Nintendo?”, it turned out that this was the moment that made me the gamer I am today. A jaded outsider that went on to own other esoteric consoles that fell just outside the realm of what was popular, and experienced the world of videogames differently than most. I was one of the few players who didn't take part in the 16-bit console war, and would instead have the rare and wonderful experience, of growing up with the TurboGrafx-16.

This article was originally a pitch for The Escapist. Although it was ultimately rejected, I felt it was a touching enough story that it belonged here, and gave me a good reason to post that ancient picture from the Christmas after the one detailed. I'd also like to thank my parents and late grandmother for making me the man I am today.