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I remember my first videogame console very well. It was 1987; I was seven years old and very recently found out there was no Santa Claus. For years I had snooped and scoured the house for presents as Christmas got close. That year was no different.
One evening I snuck into the guest room, and like a member of the C.S.I team, I began to process the scene. I found presents, wrapped presents. They were useless. I had reached the limit on what I could learn from a present by holding it up to my ear and shaking it or testing its weight. I noticed the little gift card on the top right hand corner of the present. It read, “to Me, from Santa”. I thought to myself, “Why would Santa bring presents early? Am I getting so many presents he had to make two trips?” As I pondered those deep thoughts, I noticed something. Santa’s handwriting is a lot like my Mom’s handwriting. As flashes of grocery lists, permission slips, and friendly lunch box napkin notes went through my head I made the connection. My mom was leading a double life and in fact was Santa. I didn’t believe that, but it sounded better than the truth. Even though I was a little kid, I should’ve picked up on the handwriting thing a year, maybe two years, prior to this. I wondered how many of my friends knew. I didn’t want to be the bearer of catastrophic news, but I sure as hell didn’t want to be the last one at school to not know.

I began to reminisce about sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall, or the K-Mart. I learned that those men actually were not employed by Santa so he could get things ready for Christmas. They were just guys dressed up as Santa. I hope they did it for charity at least or even court ordered community service. The idea that some guy was paying his bills by encouraging my ignorance was depressing. After I stopped crying and realized I would still be getting presents, I started to feel better. I wasn’t sure if I should, or could, confront my parents about that. Where would I start? What would I say? I went on with Christmas and didn’t say anything that year. There was a much more important thing happening that year…N-I-N-T-E-N-D-O.

Every single kid in the world knew about the Nintendo Entertainment System. Kids in rural Uruguay knew about it. It was a system…a system of entertainment. No more wiffleball or soccer, no more riding bikes; I would have all my entertainment needs in console form. God is good. I knew I was going to get one, there was no doubt. My only concern was how fast I could get the Nintendo Entertainment System, or N.E.S., hooked up. There was no question about which game would be played first. It was called Super Mario Brothers.

Mario was the fearless, portly, often fireball-wielding, Italian plumber. He and his taller, skinnier, and greener brother, Luigi, battled Bowser in a world of slow moving turtles, walking mushrooms, and lots of Audrey II’s in pipes. The Mario Brothers were hot. They had bed sheets, lunchboxes, and Trapper Keeper folders. They had their own fruit snacks. Every single person was playing Super Mario Brothers, and soon I would be too. Super Mario Brothers happened to be game that came with the N.E.S package. It was just a matter of time.

Christmas arrived and blah, blah, blah, I got my N.E.S. I raced to the television, clutching tightly the box that would destroy any chance of ever playing outside again, ever. It’s a miracle I didn’t get fat. As I began to rip and claw at the box like a rabid panda I noticed something. It was not the N.E.S. package. It was the N.E.S. Deluxe package with N.E.S. Robot. It was wonderful. I began to think about what random tasks and bidding my new robot could do. I later found out it couldn’t do things at all. I wasn’t sure if my parents had purchased this by accident or they had studied up on it. The Deluxe came with two games. I pulled the first game out. It was Gyromite, a game that involved the robot. It was mildly entertaining. I thought to myself that the second game I pulled out would be Super Mario Brothers. It was, kind of.

I pulled the gray cartridge out of the box and inspected the title of the game. “Mario Brothers”. I was confused. I knew the name of the game was Super Mario Brothers, although I had never actually played it before. I had heard people talk about it and they always referred to it as Super Mario. The thought that this was not Super Mario started in my mind. “Maybe it’s called Mario Brothers, but it’s so awesome and great…and super, I bet everyone is calling it “super” Mario Brothers. And the reason the game cover is different from the commercial is because mine is from the Deluxe package.” I pleaded with myself to believe it. The belief had hope, until I started the game.

It was not Super Mario Brothers, not at all. It had Mario in it, but not in super form. The object was to bump turtles by smashing Mario’s head against the bottom of gravity-defying brick levels causing the turtles to go inside of their shells. Mario then jumps onto that level and knocks the turtle off the side to its ultimate demise. That’s the whole game. It was like Donkey Kong with turtles…and you bump them.

The word “devastation” comes to mind. No mushrooms, fireballs, or warp zones; No 1-ups, no Bowser, no princess. What was I to do? I didn’t want to be the only kid at school who hadn’t played Super Mario. That was almost as bad as finding out about Santa Claus last. I pushed the power button, lifted the gray lid and retrieved the Mario failure. As I stared at the game and began to accept the reality of the situation, I realized something. The N.E.S. was the first and only present I opened; I still had more.

I raced back into the living room and began to search under the tree for salvation. My parents sat on the couch in their robes sipping coffee, realizing what a lunatic their son had become. Once I filtered through some socks and sweaters I found it. It was a small, thin, square-shaped gift. I peeled off the paper, slowly praying to dear God it was Super. I revealed the title and the top of a small squatty Italian fist. I exhaled. That may have been the most frightening stress-filled twenty minutes I would ever experience.

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The following comments are for "Regular Mario"
by kranston

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