Monday, June 1, 2015

2015 was no 1994

I am not a gamer.   Let me put that right out there.  I have occasionally played video games (love the Lego series!) but I have no real passion for them.  However, I am married to a gamer and I do have a passion for him; so I do play infrequently, just so I can enjoy something he enjoys.
My husband, Jeff has played video games since the 70's when the Atari 2600 first landed into his hot little hands, and he has never looked back.  I was given full disclosure before I married him that he was a gamer...that he'd always been a gamer...that he'd always be a gamer until the day they pried the holographing transmorgaphying controller module out of his cold, dead hands (hopefully around the year 2070 or so).
I didn't mind.  Every man is going to have a hobby.  Could be fishing, could be hunting, could be golfing...whatever.  It's gonna be something that takes up a certain amount of time and money, but they need it to keep them on an even keel.
I figured that video gaming would be more expensive than some hobbies...but less expensive than most (no bass boat needed).  And even if he spent a lot of time doing it, he was just down the hall in his man cave and not out in the middle of a lake.
Jeff and I got married in 1990.  It was a busy year. Getting our first real jobs, getting married, getting our first home up and running.  Somehow, some way...Jeff missed the fact that Nintendo was having their World Championship tournament.  There were 30 cities where you could qualify for the event, that was held over a single weekend.  One of the cities was an hour and a half away from our house.  Jeff was just sick.

He said at that point that he'd never, ever again miss anything like that.

Now children, please let me explain.  In the1990's, the internet was a wee, little baby thing.  In 1993, only 1% of the world's two-way communication took place there.  And that was mostly military and some banking (remember Hackers? That was 1995).  We old-timers had to get our information in print...monthly gaming magazines or via phone. (as in, a telephone...usually one mounted on the wall with a long cord that would stretch into the living room).  Nintendo had a TIP HOTLINE that you could call.  It was called the Nintendo Power Line and when you called, it hooked you up with a game counselor (a live human being) to help you if you needed hints and tips about a certain game.
One glorious day, Jeff read about this:

This list was just the beginning...They added LOTS of additional locations.  We had the time of our lives that summer.  Jeff would call the Power Line frequently to see what cities had been added, we'd sit down with our Rand McNally Atlas:

(This is what we used instead of Google Maps) and we'd decide where we would go in the coming weeks.  The events themselves were awesome.
Nintendo would roll in to the site:

This trailer would then set up with all of its pomp and circumstance:

At the ends of the trailer were the qualifying stations.  This is where you could put up a score for the "finals".  Generally, the event lasted all weekend.  On Sunday, the four high scores would compete and the winner had a trip to the finals in San Diego.  Besides this prize, there was swag aplenty...if you won your "heat"...during the qualifying, (you went up four at a time, if you won out of that set of four), you got a t-shirt like the one you see in the picture above.  You got a black Nintendo hat for playing a qualifying round...there were also magnets for just folks who wandered up.

(Me with a free hat. Could not really tell you why the only picture I could find of myself during the ENTIRE. DAMN. SUMMER. was posing with Ronald McDonald, but there we are. Do you love my ginormous glasses?  What do you love more? The glasses or my jorts?  Myself, I'd kick kittens to have those skinny, tanned legs back.)

Along with all of this neat stuff, we met people.  We met folks that were like us, trying to win at an event for a crack at the finals in San Diego.  Jeff's best buddy, Brad, started going to events too.  We met people who had already won their trip but were hitting regionals to practice for the finals because the game being wasn't available to the public. It wasn't even a video cartridge, it was an eprom  (eprom = erasable programmable read-only memory...another "thing gone by").  We swapped phone numbers and addresses.  We started looking forward to seeing these folks at the different events.  We got to hear stories of other competitors from some of the people who's travels took them to other locations. (We heard about the Jersey gang long before we met them).
Then, Jeff won his regional in Shelby, North Carolina.  We were going to San Diego!  The pressure was off for us, but we still went so he could practice.  We also wanted to be there to root for people that we'd come to know and love.  We had made some really close friends.
And we had a chance for Jeff to win the big prize!  The grand prize was either a Ford Mustang or $25,000.  We were talking about starting a family...$25k would buy lots of Huggies.  And, being 1 in 132, that was better odds than any lottery.  In fact, I think that's how Jeff talked me in to suppressing my rampaging maternal hormones until Powerfest was over.
Let me state this clearly, in case you didn't get that.  This thing, this Nintendo Powerfest 1994 was so big, and was so important that I delayed PROCREATION for it.
The regional competitions wound down and we were set to wait it out for the finals, which happened in November of 1994.  We kept in contact with some of the folks that we'd gotten really close to during the interim as we waited out the weeks to the big event.
It. Was. Fantastic.
We went to Sea World.  We had a party in the San Diego Zoo Tree House...AFTER HOURS!  We had the whole thing to ourselves.  We met even more people that we became friends with.  We created memories and relationships that would last our lifetimes:

Jeff in his lucky shirt with Georgia (she came and stayed the weekend with us back in 2012) and Scott (aka, Beavis...still in contact with that guy via Facebook.  He's now a very handsome (and I'm betting some day famous) actor in New York

Mike Iarossi...THE 1994 GRAND CHAMPION, Billy Chappell (still in contact with...and he's visited our home several times...he still calls us to let us know when he changes jobs or his wife has a baby), James Coker (also visited us over the years) and for the life of me, a guy whose name I can't remember

Jeff didn't win the we never had to have that conversation about how many diapers $25k would buy vs. how cool he'd look in a Mustang, but we had the time of our lives.  Except we all thought this would happen again.
Maybe they'd make it like the Olympics...every four years.
We got back home from California and settled into our new, non-Powerfest routine.
Jeff kept in contact with a lot of folks for awhile and even sent out a newsletter to the Powerfest brethren who had given us their addresses.

This is "The Binder" It holds all of the addresses, phone numbers, letters, postcards, copies of the Newsletter, etc. from Powerfest.  That's my toe in the bottom right corner.

I got pregnant a few months later...we had our daughter...we even named her after a video game character.  Time went on and we didn't hear anything about another Nintendo championship or powerfest or otherwise.
We got busy with our lives and raising our daughter.  We bought a bigger house.  We acquired many pets.  Life rocked on.

Behold, the result when nerds mate.

Funny thing, our daughter always loved video games...must be in her blood.  She really didn't fit the mold of what your typically think of as a video gamer...cheerleader in high school...sorority chick in college.  But she has played her whole entire life.  At the University of Alabama, she'd have half a fraternity over at her dorm just so she could kick their butt at Mario Party. 

I used to think of how absolutely cool it would be if Nintendo ever had ANYTHING like Powerfest again.  I know that Jeff and our daughter would have had a blast.  And what a story!  She is who she is BECAUSE of Powerfest.  We had her when we did because we were chasing the Powerfest events all over kingdom come.
And then, last month we heard that Nintendo was having a World Championship!  Holy freaking Moly!  We were SO excited. Mileena (I told you...straight outta Mortal Kombat) was home from college for the summer and everything.  This is what we had been waiting for!
Sadly, the whole dang thing fell short.
The only way to qualify was to participate and win at one of eight Best Buys. The "Southeast" location?  Was in Miami.  Not even kidding.  The other locations were just as inaccessible from Alabama.
Then there was the competition itself...the game was going to be on the Gameboy 3DS...Ultimate NES Remix.  Again, I am no gamer...but Jeff bought a 3DS and the game and gave it a whirl.  He really wanted this to be something...but he said that the randomness of the game put the risk too much on luck.  Besides, the events were all far away, there would only be one winner per site, and (we were told....seems like there was some dispute later) only one shot at a score.
Frankly, the whole thing looks like it was slapped together over a weekend employee retreat and then someone's assistant was told to make it happen with little or no flash to bang time.
I've been in contact with a lot of the old '94 crowd...I've read a lot about the whole event (it took place this past weekend) from video game bloggers...and the resounding cry I've heard has been one of disappointment.
I think that Nintendo missed a golden opportunity to bring a life-altering event (that's not even an exaggeration, as I hoped I've shown) to a whole new generation.  As it is, I don't think they made any new fans...and I know they disappointed their old ones.

1 comment:

  1. That guy that you can't remember his name is Magdiel Torres. That's me. I found your blog & it brings back memories! It's also me in the first picture walking by the black trailer.