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The Gamecube, the Basement, and Jeff

February 4, 2015
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Where the love of a gaming began

It started when you first invited me over to your house and placed your fresh copy of 'Final Fantasy VIII' into your PS1. From the very first moment of that CGI opening, my mouth was agape and my eyes were insatiable for those pre-rendered backgrounds and pixelated polygons mixed in the holiest of matrimonies. Watching Squall and his party walking in synchronous step through the gorgeous scenery of Balamb Garden set my mind on fire. As someone that had an NES and SNES for the greater part of his childhood, seeing graphics like this was completely unexpected. I wanted more. I needed more.

After a few months of playing those PS1 games over and over again, I came over one night fully expecting and anticipating more of the same. However, as I walked into your basement, and when I saw that small, purple brick that subsisted on a diet of the world's smallest optical Frisbees, I immediately fell in love. The controllers were odd, alien and yet immediately intuitive and comfortable. I adored the way the teeny-tiny discs sat expectantly in their cases, waiting to be peeled out and played. It was the first time I fell in love not just with games, but with a system as a whole. There was a magic about the Gamecube, that Nintendo magic that was packaged into that behandled square.

Now, I know that we had plenty of other systems and plenty of other games that made countless memories, but something about the Gamecube just stuck with me. To me, it became an anchor to one of the best times of my life. Over the next decade, the basement in your house was nirvana. No matter how rough school got, what girls dumped me, and when life in general just wore me down, your house was a safe place. A place where everything that was bothering me got left at the door, dropped with our shoes and forgotten with the rush of unzipping backpacks filled haphazardly to the brim with games and Mountain Dew.

Unfortunately, we all have to grow up at some point. You moved out to Colorado a few years ago, and I didn't even say goodbye. Didn't feel right to, and I was hoping that with the advent of the internet as my main mode of communication, there'd really be no reason for farewells. I don't want to say that we fell out, because we never did, but we drifted. That's what happens when people live 3,000 miles apart, the glacial pace of separation rearing its ugly head.

I sat in my office ( I say 'office' when I mean 'gaming room') a few months ago. It was late at night, my wife and kiddo were asleep, and I sat in the glow of my CRT, playing through the Adventure Mode in 'Melee.' I beat Master Hand, shot at the credits screen, and watched my character's trophy slowly descend and clatter to the table. As the gentle strings played out the quiet victory theme, I felt tears leap to my eyes. I hadn't seen this screen since 2002, down in the safety of your basement. Immediately, so many memories of you, me, and all of our friends gathered around a CRT just like this one without a care in the world. You grow up, you get married, and life just dumps all of this crap on top of you. You forget what it's like to legitimately not have a care in the world, focused only on having the time of your life with your friends.

This moment stuck with me. For a brief second, I felt that same spellbinding exploration of imagination, that love that truly started the first time I held that horseshoe controller with its odd little button configuration. That wonder, that excitement and exhilaration of simply playing a game that you absolutely adore: you started this. You're the reason I'm writing this article right now, Jeff. You helped me realize that this hobby of mine is worth immersing myself into, and that there's still magic in it. It's the escape that keeps me from fully succumbing to the cynicism that threatens to drown me every single day.

And it's all thanks to you and that little purple cube with the weird controllers.

Aaron Waite rediscovered 'Viewtiful Joe,' and it holds up remarkably well.

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