In late March 2015 my wife and I welcomed our beautiful daughter, Jasmine, into the world. In the last couple of years since her birth we've been through a massive amount of change- some of it good and some of it bad; staying up most of the night to her howls and calling NHS Direct worriedly at 3 a.m. only for her to fall asleep inexplicably happy after half an hour, hearing her say her first word ('Dada' if you were interested) and seeing her walk for the first time with a huge grin on her face. As a parent these moments of joy and and fear make up much of your waking life and you'd be surprised at how quickly you adapt to it- it becomes a part of your life as naturally as breathing. I've written already about how my gaming life has been impacted by the introduction of a baby into my life but something that has not changed in all this is the presence of Nintendo.
I first came to gaming when I was 6 and lived opposite a video rental store in East Ham, East London. The shop had a few arcade machines including the sit-down Pacman table, Space Invaders and some other ones which I can't remember. I fell in love with the colours, lights and sounds and blame it for getting me run-over when I was rushing with my pocket money across a busy street. Luckily I only had a graze on my head and lived to tell the tale and play games. I asked my parents for a computer but money was always tight so I had to content myself with playing my friends' computers. They had a ZX Spectrum and Spectrum +2 and the games wowed me but when my best friend got an NES for his 10th birthday my whole world changed- Nintendo was in my blood now. Together we would play our way through Double Dragon, Mario 1 and 3, Zelda, Micro Machines and many more. At the time I was playing the NES I was bought an Amstrad CPC 464 with green monochrome screen for my birthday. I loved the aged Amstrad machine, particularly enjoying Rainbow Islands, Bubble Bobble, Dizzy and Target Renegade, but wanted an upgrade and so worked hard on my car-washing round to purchase a Master System as the NES was still very expensive. The Master System was a good machine but the NES was much better in terms of gaming catalogue and so I still played it much more around my best friends house.
When the Megadrive came into the picture with Sonic my friend got that for his birthday and again I played through many of the best games with him, including Streets of Rage 1 and 2, Aladdin and Street Fighter 2. These were the times of the console wars and you were either Sega or Nintendo but never both. I was definitely Sega but this changed when another friend of mine gave me his beat up old Gameboy. It was scratched up real bad and had no back for the battery casing but that didn't matter, I loved it! So between my fix of the Megadrive and Gameboy I was all set. Later on I would swap my Master System and library of games to get a second-hand Megadrive. I missed out on the SNES as none of my close friends had it but I came back to it once the new console generation began. This was when Nintendo would become my gaming constant. I got the N64 second-hand and completed Zelda: The Ocarina of Time and Goldeneye. The N64 was awesome at the time but due to the huge gaps between games I also purchased a second-hand Playstation 1 and loved that too- completing amongst others Final Fantasy 7, Syphon Filter and Parasite Eve II.
When the Gamecube came out in 2002 I bought it on the day of release with my brother, giddy from the money from my weekend jobs at a clothing chain and a youth centre. It was the first ever console that I bought brand new and so it has a special place in my heart. Even though it had quite a small library it did have some of my favourite games ever including Zelda: Windwaker, Resident Evil 4 (an exclusive at the time) and Metroid Prime. As the consoles library dried up I purchased a second-hand Playstation 2 specifically to play Ico. The game had me intrigued and so I brought a shrink wrapped copy of that game and the console one Saturday after work at the youth centre and devoured the game in a few days. Of course I played loads of other PS2 games but Ico was my in, a strange in to be sure.
I bought the Xbox 360 in 2007 and loved that system, it's online service was amazing and I played some phenomenal games including Bioshock, Assassins Creed 2, Gears of War, Red Dead Redemption and Deadly Premonition. However I noticed something; all those achievements and the quest for useless XP points was getting in the way of the games for me. The simplicity of the games were being diluted with fetch-quests and the search for random doodads, a lot of the games coming out had no respect for my time and I started to dislike them for this; why did I need a 3 hour tutorial on how to move my character around a screen?
When the Wii was released I was one of the lucky few who had pre-ordered at from Game and got it on the day of release. The system was a revelation and yes I am one of those people who have the story of 'my parents never played any computer system but they did play Wii Sports.' The image of my dad playing tennis with my older brother by waggling the Wii-mote around is a happy memory for me and not at all as sinister or sordid as it sounds. The Wii had some amazing games including Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Muramasa: The Demon Sword, Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 and Donkey Kong Country Returns but as usual the games dried up and the shovelware came in. When my wife and I moved to Cambodia for 2 years she bought me a cracked Wii and I had over 200 games on it. She went away for a girlie weekend and found me in a catatonic state, sleep-deprived and I'm sure a bit smelly as I am a completist and had stayed up pretty much the whole weekend playing loads of the games worrying about how I would complete them all. That is obviously not a good state to be in and so I decided to relax about games and not get caught up in the whole 'complete everything' spiral. I went back to the Xbox 360 but was very picky in what I played as so many were very padded experiences, I started critical pathing some of the games which made them still very worthwhile in my opinion. I also only played the Wii games I was interested in and completed pretty much all the ones I had wanted.
I then bought a Wii U and even though it has been a commercial failure, it has had some phenomenal games; Bayonetta 2, Super Mario 3D World, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (which incidentally has one of the greatest soundtracks ever) and Rayman Legends. I've found myself more relaxed about my gaming habits and again have only played the games that have interested me and respect my time.
And so on to the Nintendo Switch. I've pre-ordered it and am awaiting it with bated breath. Even though many of my friends and colleagues are worried about it as they feel Nintendo's last few entries into the console market have been underwhelming, for me it doesn't matter. I play Nintendo games for the Nintendo experience. They very rarely create games that have fat and take liberties with your time. Their games are usually polished and refined to the highest degree and this is what I pay for.
I've found that even though I have more responsibility in terms of finances and family, Nintendo has been a constant. It offers me hours of comfort and pound or pound has given me more joy than any other media. I often get people asking me when I have the time to play games and the funny thing is that even though I don't have the time I used to have when I was in my adolescence or teens, I do have a spare couple of hours most evenings.
My daughter goes to sleep at 7 ish most nights and my wife is close behind at 8:30, being a lark whilst I am most definitely an owl. This means I get a couple of hours gaming in most nights and have smashed through tonnes of games in the past couple of years. I could spend a few hours working my way through tutorials on some 360 games but most Wii U games don't have long-winded openings and so I just jump in and there I am collecting bananas and trying to stop my island from freezing, or there I am trying to smash Peach off the arena with my Falcon Punch... it goes on.
Nintendo is a constant in my life and even though the company doesn't always get everything right, what it does to is provide a library of bonafide classic games that stand the test of time (for the most part). I hope that as my daughter grows up I can share my passion for gaming with her and show her the Nintendo universe and the wonders contained within.