“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”- Andy Bernard, The Office
Nostalgia can be a very powerful thing that can be used for good or harnessed for evil. The best of nostalgia is when we look back at something remembering only the good and none of the bad. The worst is when we’re stuck in that place, afraid to move forward, be it a relationship, creative projects or something simple like trying a new television show or video game. The goal here at The Nostalgia Monologues is to focus primarily on the positive aspects but won’t shy away from the negative if it comes up. The plan is for this to be a semi-regular column featuring the denizens of CXF possibly touching on things not necessarily in their wheelhouse, but always having a good time waxing poetic about halcyon, days gone by.
This week we remember our first times.
What is the first video game you remember playing?
But that red shirted plumber and the thing with teeth planted a seed, a seed that would slowly grow as I grew alongside it.
Trevor Dailey: The first video game I remember playing is actually fairly vivid in my mind due to the simplicity of the moment. I am sitting in the partly finished basement at home. This was when my family was together still, before the divorce and the growing up and apart happened, at least in my mind. I remember the game, and I remember the setting but I don’t rightly recall the specific age. What I know is this is the oldest memory I have managed to actually sort out. Being born right in the midst of the NES craze, the game was of course, Super Mario Bros. Starting on World 1-1, you’ll never guess how far I reached. Didn’t even get to the blocks. This pesky brown mushroom with eyes and fangs kept on walking towards me and walking right was the only option I could take. So Mario died anticlimactically three times and I handed the controller to someone else or they yanked it out of my hands. But that red shirted plumber and the thing with teeth planted a seed, a seed that would slowly grow as I grew alongside it.
So many memories made with this simple yet powerful game pad.
Andrew Lutzke: Atari – Probably Pac-man. I distinctly remember playing Atari the night Baby Jessica was saved – and by that point the NES was in most homes. My cousins had NES and we played the Hell out of TMNT as that was the fad of the era.
David Hunter: I remember it was for the NES and was Sesame Street related (maybe even an ABC type game as I distinctly remember Ernie). From looking it up, it sounds like it was Sesame Street’s A-B-C, an educational videogame, that involved Ernie’s rubber ducky and sequencing. I was probably around 3 or 4 years old at the time when I played this so this was roughly 1987 or 1988.
David Forrister: The first game I can clearly remember playing aside from maybe an arcade game or two is Super Mario world. We had close family friends that we visited often and they and their kids always were ahead of us when it came to gadgets and toys, much to both my fathers’ and my jealousy. They had a SNES soon after it came out and I remember playing Super Mario World with them and thinking it was just about the coolest thing ever. Then I spotted their old NES with it’s gun and I was like “Screw this I want to use THAT!”. Because I was still a boy and I didn’t care that they no longer even had Duck Hunt.
Conor McGrath: I have vague memories of watching my older brother play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES but the first video games I remember playing were Sonic The Hedgehog 2, Royal Rumble, and Muhammad Ali Heavyweight Boxing for the Sega Genesis when I was around 5 or 6. I also remember playing Bulls Vs Blazers and the early Madden games with my dad. 90% of the video games I’ve played have been sports games of some sort.
Jeremy Clark: I don’t remember a time before video games. If I had to make a guess it would be one of Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, or Gyromite. I remember trying to teach my nephew how to play Super Mario Bros. and it was frustrating because I have no concept of how not to play Mario. Little things you take for granted like how to continue holding down the B button while jumping don’t come as natural as I had assumed.
Matthew Reine: It was probably Super Mario Bros. for NES. Nintendo was the first gaming console that I remember my household owning.
dubq: I honestly have no idea. I was about to say Kung Fu on NES, but then I remembered that we had an Atari 2600 before we had an NES so I had no doubt played a ton of games on that console. I do kinda-sorta remember playing games like Donky Kong, Space Invaders and the shitty ET game at home on the Atari. Oddly enough I don’t think we had Pac-Man. I remember watching my sisters play that in the arcade quite a bit, though.
Stephen Gray: I believe the first video game I ever played was Burger Time for the Intellivision. It may have been a different Intellivision title, but the adventures of chef Peter Pepper is my most fond “first video game” memory. My cousin and I both played a lot of Space Armada (Intellivision’s answer to Space Invaders – God bless the clone era of early video games where games were blatantly ripped off with no legal ramification) in our early youth too, but Burger Time was definitely played before that.
What is the first video game console you owned?
Trevor Dailey: I’m not too proud of this story but I’ll share it anyways. It was Christmas day, but I don’t remember the year. I tore off the gift wrapping: a Sega Genesis! Quite an upgrade from not having access to a console any longer due to my older brother taking the NES when he moved to Florida to be with his dad. I don’t remember whether it was the first design or the second and I’ll tell you why. I had managed to play Super Mario World at a birthday party one time before and I was fairly smitten with it. The details on why I was given a Genesis is lost to the ages, but we had an NES prior so it seems like a shot in the dark on my parents. Here’s the point I’m not so proud of. I managed to convince my dad to return the Genesis in lieu of a Super Nintendo Entertainment System. What kind of jerk does that? One that is five and doesn’t have a shred of social grace, I guess. The kicker: I managed to get a Genesis for Christmas the next year or year after by request. The game included in the box? Sonic Spinball. The one smart thing about having two 16-bit consoles at the time was that my parents were totally split up and not living with each other so I at least had a console for each home. What a jerk and on Christmas!
Andrew Lutzke: SNES – I worked daily for quarters (doing dishes, taking out the trash etc) until I had saved up 60 dollars and my parents then rewarded my efforts by buying the SNES for me and letting me use the 60 dollars on the Royal Rumble game.
240 quarters worth of fun!
I must have created dozens of different courses trying to make them from neat designs to insanely difficult.
David Hunter: NES although apparently my parents owned an Atari that we may even have still in my parent’s basement. I remember playing the heck out of Duck Hunt (including the red NES gun), Super Mario Bros. along with Ms. Pacman due to my sister’s love of that game. One of my absolute favorites though was Excitebike simply due to the ability to design your own courses. I must have created dozens of different courses trying to make them from neat designs to insanely difficult.
David Forrister: My parents bought my younger brother and I a second-hand NES in 1993 maybe, so I was 10. Later to the consoles that a lot of my age group or at least it seemed like it at the time! I remember that we only ever had 3 games for the system but the only one we ever actually played was Super Mario Bros 3 because…well it’s one of the greatest games of all-time. I still love it to this day.
Conor McGrath: We had a NES but again, by the time I started playing video games in the mid ’90s, it was old hat so that was more of my older brother’s console. Most of my video game memories revolve around the Sega Genesis. For whatever reason, 80% of my friends preferred Sega Genesis. We didn’t get a Super Nintendo until the late ’90s/early ’00s when we picked it up on the cheap at a thrift store. I remember being super excited when my best friend in 2nd-3rd grade’s mom got him the ill-fated Sega Channel and we were in heaven. That same year, our dad got us 32X, which seemed sort of lame even for an eight year old.
Me and my brothers were huge Sega loyalists. We were the dudes that preferred Saturn to Sony Playstation and preferred Dreamcast to Playstation 2. My younger brother still has (and occasionally plays) our old Sega Saturn. It’s definitely not a total coincident that my interest in video games died around the time the Dreamcast went belly up and Sega decided to stop producing new systems.
Jeremy Clark: I don’t remember not having an NES. Some of my earliest memories involve sitting in front of the TV in the living room and playing games like Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Karnov, Pro Wrestling, Adventure Island, and TMNT 2. I think I got it second-hand from my uncle, but I’m not fully certain on that. For the first 6 years of my life, my 2 male cousins lived right next to me. One lived with his parents and sister right across across the street and the other lived just down the road with our grandparents and his sister. We all had NES’s and what time we didn’t spend outside was spent bouncing from house to house playing whatever different games we happened to own.
Matthew Reine: Growing up, my older brother was pro Nintendo and I was pro Sega so over the years, he bought every single Nintendo console while I snatched up every Sega. So the very first console I remember myself solely owning was the Sega Genesis.
dubq: Obviously an Atari 2600, as stated above. Though I wouldn’t say I have any significant gamer memories of it. I think I was too young to appreciate owning a console. Plus, it was for the entire family. On my birthday, years later, I got an NES. So I guess in essence it was mine, but obviously it was shared with the whole family. That was when I really started to get into gaming. Kung Fu, Ghosts n Goblins, Super Mario Brothers and later, The Legend of Zelda. My mother even got into it quite a bit in the beginning. I remember coming home from school one day and she and my middle sister were home sick. They were freaking out because they had gotten to the 6th level in Ghosts n Goblins. I think we all ended up finishing the game that weekend.
Stephen Gray: This is kind of an interesting question for me based on the wording – and I’m trying my best not to Carlton Banks my answers (hey, a nostalgic reference!) – but the first console I owned in home was the NES Action Set courtesy of Santa Claus on Christmas Day, 1988. This was the holiday season that the NES came packed with Mario and Duck Hunt which probably accounts for why so many people I knew got one that Christmas (except my youngest cousin, who got the Power Pad / 3-in-1 game pak version for his birthday a few months later). The nice thing was my grandparents had one at their apartment and my dad had got one for his step-daughter so any time I visited that side of the family, I still had access to my beloved NES… but technically, the answer would be the Intellivision. I didn’t have one in my home but it was clearly bought by my grandparents (mother’s side) for my use and I played it at their home all the time, except for when I lost my temper at being run over by a car in Frogger. I had to take a “time out” when that happened.
What is the first album you owned?
Trevor Dailey: One of the benefits of having older siblings is being exposed to media that you might not actually be drawn to yourself. Case in point, gangster rap. I definitely don’t remember the details as to why I was drawn to him, but Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise was just awesome. And that’s my first album, on cassette tape no less. My dad bought it for me back when our mall had a music store. My favorite songs were obviously the title track and the seminal classic “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New).” The follow up to that purchase is definitely on par for a nine-year-old, Bad Hair Day by Weird Al.
Andrew Lutzke: The Wrestling Album – because it was 1985 and I loved wrestling even as a 3 year old. i still have the record in my basement storage.
David Hunter: I was into MTV as early as 7-8 years old as I remember I’d switch over from NESN Sportsdesk (which was then 15 minutes) to MTV before school would start. Despite that, I kind of got into buying actual CDs late, if you call age 10-11 late, as my first album was Metallica’s Load solely due to their music video for “Until It Sleeps” which had fascinated me. My sister purchased Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill and I remember my Dad made a cassette version due to the lyrical content.
Even afterwards I was never into buying music very much outside of a few bands such as Oasis or Nirvana. In a bit of irony, my second album ever was (What’s the Story) Morning Glory by Oasis which I got as a birthday present from a friend. I love that album because I spent months listening to that thing on repeat as I played through Cool Boarders on my Playstation.
David Forrister: I’m not sure what the very first album I owned was. The first one I remember buying that sticks out though as a “first” was Metallica’s “Reload” (I know, I know) because I bought it on the way to the hospital to get a CAT SCAN (or whatever the test is) where you’re able to listen to music inside the giant machine. I got it because I already loved Metallica and I had obtained their earlier work through…other means. I still think “Reload” is better than “Load” at least.
I’ll go get the number 2 pencil…
Conor McGrath: I’m 99% sure it was The Jackson 5’s Greatest Hits. Again, my older brother was a huge Michael Jackson fan and it just sort of passed down to me. I distinctly remember watching the world premieres of “Remember The Time” and “Black or White” on the Fox Network with my brothers and dad. I just got in under the wire for the time frame when it was widely socially acceptable to be a Michael Jackson fan. By the time HIStory came out a few years later when I was 8 or 9, my parents were pretty vocal in their lack of enthusiasm towards us listening to him and I don’t think I heard the album in its entirety until I was in college.
But by that time, I was really into Queen because “We Are The Champions” was featured prominently in a Mighty Ducks movie. A year or so later, I finally got into current pop music via the Space Jam soundtrack.
For a 14 year old, though, I think I did pretty OK.
Jeremy Clark: I was 14 before I got into music at all. I had been kind of religious during most of my preteens, my family didn’t have cable so no MTV, my mom listens to country and my dad doesn’t really listen to music at all, so it was never a big deal. When I did get into music, I went pretty hard, though. What money I didn’t spend on comics went to CDs. The first three albums I ever bought (I bought them at the same time, so there isn’t a one first album) were Tori Amos’s Silent All These Years, Disturbed Down With the Sickness, and Tool’s Lateralus. I spent a lot of time online researching before I made my first music purchase, but I don’t remember exactly what it was that drew me to those three albums. For a 14 year old, though, I think I did pretty OK.
Matthew Reine: Truthfully, it’s probably some embarrassing pop garbage from the mid-90’s but the first album I actually owned that I still have to this day, that meant something to me, and helped shape my music tastes was Metallica’s black album which was a present I received for my 12th birthday in 1998. I was a huge ECW fan back then and I loved the Sandman. To this day, I still think he has the coolest entrance in wrestling history and when I heard “Enter Sandman” for the first time, I knew I had to have this CD.
dubq: Wow, this I really can’t remember. A lot of my albums were hand me downs – Slade, Led Zeppelin, Rush, etc. I do remember buying tapes back when I was old enough to have an allowance and to be out on my own buying my own stuff. I think some of these first tapes were Ozzy Osbourne’s Bark at the Moon and Diary of a Madman and of course anything from KISS during their initial face paint run.
Stephen Gray: The 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles motion picture soundtrack. T-U-R-T-L-E POWER! After that – and don’t laugh – it was Weird Al’s “Bad Hair Day” album. On cassette. I was not really big into music or knowing who bands were when I was younger and as I type this I realize that’s kind of true today. I certainly like music a lot more but I’ve never bought albums, had a favourite band, etc. The closest it really got was in the mid 90s I was really fond of the “Jagged Little Pill” album, and I didn’t even really realize I was, I had just been seeing the videos from Ironic and up on Much Music.
What does nostalgia mean to you?
Trevor Dailey: Nostalgia is the comfort food of pop culture. No matter how bad things get in the future the past is there for you. Even better, it sweetens up the good stuff and can often outshine the bad.
Andrew Lutzke: A daily escapism from the realities of adulthood. Most days I find time to watch play troughs of SNES and NES games on youtube – not to neglect old wrestling videos of all varieties and much of my DVD collection is stuff I watched 20 years ago.
David Hunter: Nostalgia for me is nothing more than happy memories associated with an item. Children are always playing something and that gradually gives way to dealing with physical/mental changes as puberty hits and then the onset of adulthood. There’s a reason that most nostalgia filters down to start in early childhood and usually peaks right before or at the early teenage years before slowly dwindling again.
David Forrister: It’s an escape into the past to an extent but I also find new things to appreciate. I can get all (or almost all) the jokes in “Pinky and the Brain” now!
Nostalgia is a security blanket of the mind.
Conor McGrath: Nostalgia is a security blanket of the mind. It’s an old friend that, as Forrister said, occasionally wields new treasures. Some of my interests have waned (video games for example) but I can take pride in the fact that most of the things I liked when I was a kid, I still like now.
Jeremy Clark: It’s a longing for a time you can never relive. As much as I love my adult life, there are aspects of childhood I can never experience again. Things change and you grow up and that’s all fine and good, but I’ll never experience that childlike wonderment like I used to when watching a cartoon or movie or playing a video game. Everything used to so grand and anything could happen. When playing a video game, I would search every nook and cranny for secrets because in my mind literally anything could be anywhere. I can never really feel like that again, and it will never be the same. Replaying classic video games bring back those memories, though, and it nice sometimes to just let them wash over me. I find a lot of my nostalgic cartoons to be kind of awful, though. So I don’t really have the same reaction. On the other hand, learning Japanese has led to me rewatching a lot of nostalgic movies I might not have ever thought about otherwise and I’ve absolutely loved watching Aladdin, TMNT 2: The Secret of The Ooze, Dark Crystal, etc. and realizing I still remembered most of the dialogue in English even though it had been a decade at least since I had watched any of them.
Matthew Reine: Nostalgia to me is longing for the past. When you see a video on YouTube of an advertisement from your childhood that instantly takes you back to that moment. When someone talks about how television used to be so good back in the day and you list all the great shows you used to watch that were unlike anything broadcasted today. When you think about how inexpensive things used to be. When you turn on the radio in your car and some top 40 track blares through the speakers and envision how awesome music was in your day. Stuff like that.
dubq: For me it’s any product or experience that invokes a memory of being young and not having to care about a lot of the shit I have to care about now. Not to say everything was great for everyone back then, as well… but if those things we enjoyed when we were younger were a form of escape back then, it’s sometimes strangely comforting to use them as a form of escape now… if that makes sense?
Stephen Gray: Very similar to what Mr. Q said, a lot of nostalgic things really bring up and create memories and feelings about time that has passed. If I were to watch an episode of Ducktales, it reminds me of going to elementary school in the 80s, going to my aunt’s house after school, the 80s culture on the playground that existed, etc. If I play Zelda II, I remember hurrying home from school with my cousin, drawing maps of the Great Palace, and never being able to beat Dark/Shadow Link. An old episode of Video Power reminds me of the last time I had an asthma attack as a child and watched it on the hospital TV in the morning while before my mom came to visit. I know that last one seems odd but it also makes me think of getting really funny cards from my class, the kid in the bed next to me saying he wasn’t allowed to watch All American Wrestling on TSN because it was too violent, and seeing Back to the Future III for the first time on the hospital TV/VCR deal they had in the play room.
Are some things better left not revisiting?
Trevor Dailey: While I believe some things are better left not revisiting, there’s only one way to find out what, after all, what works for you doesn’t work for someone else. Which is kind of the great thing about culture and nostalgia thereof. Just the other week I watched Space Jam with my kids, a film I hadn’t seen for almost 20 years. While it was never a great film in the first place it still captured my attention, as well as my son’s.
Andrew Lutzke: I can’t remember what I did 3 days ago – I still remember insults I was given in kindergarten.
It’s that ability to unify nostalgia with understanding and acceptance that has helped keep things in a nostalgic light without making me shy away from them for fear of losing out on the memories.
David Hunter: I don’t think so but evolution of understanding is important to me. I love revisiting things and trying to see it from an adult impact, discerning whether it still holds up overall and what parts do or do not hold up. I’ve re-watched television shows and wondered why one episode wasn’t nearly as good or scary as I remembered and yet all of a sudden this other episode really holds up well yet I had forgotten it. The same happens with books and any other media I subject myself to.
I’ve also grown to appreciate things that I really didn’t have a foundation to as a kid. As a kid, I knew I liked or didn’t like something and that was kind of the extent of it outside of maybe ‘X Character is cool’ or ‘I liked the way Y Character saved the day in the end’ as a summation of a probable plot. After going through high school and college and studying literature and media and being able to compare/contrast, I get stuff more I guess. I get the adult jokes in Batman: The Animated Series or Animaniacs. I get the Mulder/Scully relationship and why the writing on The X-Files really has held up for the most part.
I like going back and reading stuff like Joseph Garber’s Vertical Run or Christopher Pike’s The Last Vampire series and having fun, knowing they aren’t literary masterpieces. I can enjoy Emily Dickinson or Edgar Allan Poe thanks to my expanded horizons but thanks to going back via nostalgia, I’m not beholden to skipping over the past and ignoring what made the previous books work for me. They still work for me and if anything, they work even more because they serve as reminders of why I’ve built a love of reading. It’s that ability to unify nostalgia with understanding and acceptance that has helped keep things in a nostalgic light without making me shy away from them for fear of losing out on the memories.
David Forrister: Sometimes it’s better to leave it alone. I remember going back and re-watching He-Man which I loved as a kid and yeah, not exactly the masterpiece I remembered. On the other hand I watched Dragon Ball Z again and I loved it to the point it got me into other Anime shows and opened up a whole new world of things to enjoy. So I’d say it was more than worth the risk of realizing that some stuff wasn’t as amazing as you remember it. After all you were a kid, and kids are stupid.
Conor McGrath: Some things are better left alone. I have less than zero interest in revisiting 99.9% of the Saturday morning cartoons I watched and about half of the television shows period I watched on a regular basis before I was 14. It was fun when I was a kid because it was made for eight year olds. I have no need to revisit the oil spill episode of Saved By The Bell again unless I’m hopped up on goofballs or something.
Jeremy Clark: Well, I already mentioned my feelings on most television cartoons. Like, I’m never going to sit down and watch Captain Planet despite it being a personal favorite as a kid. Same thing with all the sitcoms I used to be obsessed about. I’ve seen enough Full House to last me for a life time.
Matthew Reine: Absolutely. I covered this topic on this board years ago about things near and dear to me and figuring out if I liked them because I grew up with them or liked them because they’re legitimately good. I was a big time viewer of Nickelodeon in the early-mid 90’s and a lot of the shows I watched don’t hold up very well at all but I catch episodes you YouTube ever now and and I still enjoy them. If they came out with these exact shows today? I probably wouldn’t give them a second look. Some things are very much for their time and need to stay the way they were….in our minds as relics.
Batman: The Animated Series still holds up and is maybe even enhanced on repeat viewings. The Schumacher films from the same era? Not so much.
dubq: The Voltron cartoons. At least the English dubs. I remember loving this show as a kid. I bought the sets a few years back and holy hell are they terrible. This applies for a lot of old cartoons actually. Also, wrestling matches. I can appreciate a good wrestling match, but rarely do I ever want to watch it again. I don’t think I’ve ever gone through a wrestling DVD that I’ve purchased and watched all of the matches. Usually I just like reliving the overview of what happened during the time period. That’s enough for me, dammit!
Stephen Gray: I’m sure there is, but if you have a strong nostalgia filter there is still some element of fun… but it can be difficult to go a full episode of several 80s cartoons as an adult unless you’re having fun goofing on just how bad it is / in disbelief you and your friends thought this was good entertainment. Some things are classic and still worth your time as an adult, or perhaps even more enjoyable. A few friends of mine did a Halloween Home Improvement marathon and while it is good family fun, there was a good dosage of getting crap past the radar.
The first of hopefully many editions of the Nostalgia Monologues has come to a close. We have some really fun topics in the barrel and I can’t wait to discuss them with my cohorts here at Culture Crossfire. If you like what someone said or how they said it here, the website is full of articles from all of these contributors including yours truly.
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