Friday, September 20, 2013

Triptych: Boy of Games

"Game Boy: Adventure Awaits" by Aaron Campbell

"A Happy Childhood" by Prakash Khatri Chhetri

"Playing With Power" (t-shirt) by The Hookshot

What's your favorite Gameboy memory from childhood?

For me, it was when I was about twelve years old and Final Fantasy Legend II came out. I had played the first Final Fantasy on Nintendo back in the day, as well as a Dragon Warrior or two, but this was really my first introduction to classic JRPGs and man, I played the hell out of that game.

That summer, I was sent off to visit my cousins for a few weeks, who lived on a ranch in Saskatchewan. That was all very exciting and everything, but at the age of 12, I was less interested in horse-riding and playing in the hayloft and much more interested in video games and TV. And man, my cousins (well, my aunt and uncle, I guess) were LOADED - meaning that they had an incredible home theatre system and an amazing (for the time) desktop computer and this sprawling, rustic mansion in the middle of the windswept prairies. So myself and my cousin, who was almost exactly the same age as me, fully well intended to spend the entire three weeks watching Ren & Stimpy on the gargantuan widescreen TV (this was before the introduction of flatscreens, mind you), playing Doom and Space Quest IV on the computer in the basement, and running through a stack of Nintendo cartridges that we'd driven into town to rent the first day I arrived. And, of course, I brought my Gameboy and Final Fantasy Legend II.

My uncle was a cattle rancher and a self-made... wedon'tliketotalkaboutitinourfamilybutI'lljustsayit MILLIONAIRE, and as such he and my aunt didn't really stand for two boys sitting around all day staring at screens. After about a day of leaving us to our own devices, they decided that we needed the guiding hand of a responsible adult, and we were told to go outside and do "something productive". So my cousin would drag me around the ranch while he did his chores, and I brought my Gameboy along and sat in whatever shady spot I could find and played FF Legend II. I don't recall ever doing anything more productive than that.

See, this was back in the day when portable game systems were a pretty newfangled thing, and so it didn't really register with my aunt and uncle that I was wasting just as much time with a Gameboy as I would be on the Nintendo in front of a TV. Or maybe they did know, but because I was out of the house, they just didn't care as much. Whatever the case, that Gameboy never left my hands in three weeks.

At some point, my aunt and uncle took us on an outing of some sort. A baseball game, maybe? At any rate, we had to drive for a few hours to reach civilization, and sitting in their air-conditioned minivan - air-conditioned! Man, the rich know how to live - I played the entire time. I'd been so dedicated that I reached the final boss of the game, The Arsenal, in the span of a few weeks, sitting there in that climate-controlled vehicle in the middle of the arid Saskatchewan prairie in the middle of August. And just as I was about to step into the ring and take him on, after I'd checked and double-checked my equipped gear and stocked up on healing items and geared myself up psychologically for what was to amount to the greatest battle of my young life to that point...

My batteries died, and the Gameboy shut down.

I sat in silent agony for the rest of the day, until we got home and I was able to rummage up a fresh restock of batteries. I popped them in and loaded up my save game, because of course I had saved, religiously and devoutly, every chance I got. I'd invested WEEKS of my life into this game, probably the first time this had ever happened with a video game, and I'd be damned if I wasn't going to beat that end boss.

Only my saved game slot had been cleared. Something had happened in the process of the batteries dying and the game shutting down abruptly that had corrupted my single save slot. All of my progress had been lost.

I don't really remember what happened after that. I probably put the Gameboy down and went outside and got some exercise of some kind. But man, I don't remember anything else that happened that whole trip after that crushing blow. Nothing could ever compete, in my memory, with the heady hours spent playing Final Fantasy Legend II, or the atomic-bomb-levels of emotional distress and loss I felt as a twelve-year-old losing my first-ever save game.

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