I got my Super Nintendo Entertainment System when I was eleven years old. That's a couple years after it first came out. The occasion was a little dramatic: to celebrate the end of a two-and-a-half year course of treatment for cancer. I had no idea that it would be waiting for me at home after the final doctors visit. It was a nice spring day, the trees were waving gently in the breeze outside the bay windows. With a cup of tea resting on the coffee table, I set down to play. What was that first game? It was The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Around twenty years later, my SNES still works as does that Zelda cartridge. It's been a long way from boyhood in Southern Connecticut to manhood in North Houston, but I'm still playing.
Why am I still playing? There were stretches when I didn't. Many times, I've just been too busy. There were also seasons when it felt embarrassing to still be playing video games. Aren't they just for kids, and boys who refuse to grow up? Surely for adults there's just work and chores, or hobbies that can be disguised as work and chores. Then I'd get the flu, or be at home for a long summer, or get set strait by someone who was an eminently well-adjusted adult and still made time for games. Out would come the old nintendos.
Playing again, I began to realize some things. It's like picking up "The Chronicles of Narnia" in grad school and realizing that they weren't written just for kids. I began to realize that a lot of thought went into the best games, even the older and simpler ones. A co-worker pointed out something else to me several years back. Video games were genuine recreation. They were something that could be done over a vacation that was really vacating: they weren't a hobby masquerading as work, or worse, work masquerading as a hobby. The best games set the imagination free to explore worlds totally unlike our own and provide real rest, not merely a cessation of work.
So the old machine still works and I'm still playing. Maybe it is all just nostalgia in the end, but a little nostalgia now and then is a good thing. Through all the travel and changes, the good and the bad, there's been some things that remain constant. If I could meet that eleven year old boy, sipping his tea and sitting in front of the coffee table, we would have something in common.