Empire State of Mind: I'm one lucky guy

Empire State of Mind: I'm one lucky guy


By Chris Deback


It’s no secret that I love video games. 

I have loved them ever since picking up the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) — or what I called growing up “regular Nintendo” — controller and playing “Super Mario Bros.” I’m sure some of you remember how “Super Mario Bros” came with “Duck Hunt” on the same cartridge. I vividly remember the red and grey NES Zapper (gun) and how the plastic felt in my hand as I stood mere inches from the TV to shoot those darn ducks. 

While “Super Mario Bros.” was my first taste of video games, my true passion didn’t develop until my parents bought my sister and me a Sony PlayStation — also known as a PS1 — for Christmas one year. I believe it was Christmas morning 1996 when my 6-year-old self unwrapped the machine that would start a lifelong obsession with gaming. I don’t remember much about that morning; there are no pictures of a young boy with a wide smile or excited look on his face, but it changed my life forever. 

However, I would contend that the PlayStation was just as much for my sister and me as it was for our mom. Like most 6-year-olds, I went to bed fairly early. After my parents put my sister and me to sleep, you could find my mom playing “Crash Bandicoot” for hours. Instead of going to sleep, my sister and I would sit behind a corner and peek our heads around to watch her play. While she always had her back turned to us, I’m not convinced she didn’t know her two kids were back there watching and rooting her on to beat the dastardly Dr. Cortex. 

The PlayStation and Nintendo’s N64, which I didn’t own until later in life, were a giant leap for video games, graphically. Going from the mostly side-scrolling action of the NES and Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) to 3D graphics truly took video games to the next level, and Sony had me hook, line, and sinker. 

Those years are defined by memories of playing “Crash Bandicoot,” “Spyro the Dragon,” “Madden,” “Spider-Man,” “Ridge Racer,” “Tekken 3,” and “Twisted Metal,” among many others.

My obsession for gaming only deepened when I proudly used my own money to buy a PlayStation 2, which is far superior to the Xbox. In fact, it is the best-selling game console of all-time with worldwide sales reaching a staggering 155 million units by January 2013, which is more units sold than current-generation consoles the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 combined. 

Suffice to say that “God of War,” “Star Wars Battlefront 2,” “Call of Duty” and “Madden” defined my childhood. My friends and I spent days upon days playing those games. In fact, some of my favorite memories were sitting in my best friend’s bedroom playing Galactic Conquest on Battlefront 2 for hours on end, to the point where the game got so easy, it should have been boring. Yet, we continued to devour the darkside as the Rebel Alliance triumphed time and again. 

Then I moved on to an Xbox 360 (360), betraying my PlayStation roots for a critically flawed machine — the Red Rings of Death. Need I say more? But that’s what a majority of my friends had. While online play had been born on PC and first tried on the PlayStation and Xbox, it was this next generation the would truly define competitive online video gaming. The graphical differences going to high definition were astounding, but high-speed Internet connections and games like “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” (COD4) changed the face of video gaming forever. 

I can’t tell you the number of hours my friends and I spent playing COD4, immaturely trolling people online.  My family’s Internet router was located in our den. The Xbox 360 didn’t come with a built-in wireless connection — which seems weird, looking back — and instead needed a $100 accessory to connect the console wirelessly, so I had to lug my 360 downstairs to play online. I eventually saved enough money to get that accessory, and later versions of the console came with a built-in wireless connection, but I’ll never forget the thrill of hurrying downstairs and getting everything hooked up to the TV so I could play online. I’d eventually come to own a PlayStation 3, as well. 

That brings us to the current generation of video game consoles and what the heart of this column really is about: my wife, Megan. However, before I get to that, let’s take a step back to Jan. 15, 2013, when I moved to Vinton to be a sports writer. I moved to a town almost 1,000 miles away from family and friends without even a whiff of a family member within 500 miles. Those were lonely times, but a lot less lonely than they could have been, thanks to video games. 

It was the ability to play “Nazi Zombies” — a game mode in “Call of Duty” — that allowed me to stay connected with my friends, particularly my best friend, Matt. I’d get home from covering an event, jump on my Xbox 360, and we’d kill zombies until the early hours of the morning. We’d converse just like we were sitting next to each other on the couch. Those are memories I’ll truly cherish forever. 

Bless my mom, she definitely sensed my loneliness. I’ll be honest, I never really made friends while I lived in Vinton. I had people I would hang out with, but they aren’t people I still converse with today. In sensing that loneliness, my mom bought me a PlayStation 4 (PS4) for Christmas in 2013. I hadn’t asked for it, but she knew I wanted one, and I was completely surprised when I opened it. That was an awesome feeling. 

That PS4 carried me through until I met my wife in February 2015. My wife “gets” me. We’d talk about our interests like most couples do early on in the relationship, and I had mentioned a few times that I wanted a Xbox One, but I couldn’t afford one. There were a few games I wanted to play, and most of my friends were on Xbox, except Matt. Megan and I had been only dating for three months, but when she surprised me with a Xbox One for my 25th birthday, I’m pretty sure that’s when I fell in love with her. 

God bless my wife, she puts up with my endless hours of video gaming. She’ll sit there and watch me, ask questions, and try to take a general interest. Most recently, she watched me play “Red Dead Redemption 2,” which is basically Grand Theft Auto set in the Old West, and she would constantly ask me why I was spending a lot of time hunting animals. I had to explain that I needed certain “perfect” animal skins to get a certain satchel to increase my inventory’s capacity. It took probably close to six hours of gameplay (not all in one day) to finally achieve it, and she watched most of it. 

While she does occasionally complain about my habits, she has never right out told me I couldn’t play video games. I have gotten the “can we do something else?” question a time or two, but usually she reads a book on the couch while I scream profanity at the TV because I just “died.” It’s one of the many things I love about her. 

This Christmas I was once again overcome with shock when I opened a Nintendo Switch from her. I’m pretty sure I was in such shock that I forgot to smile. My wife “gets” me, and while she says that she got it because “there will be games we can play together,” I think we all know just how much she’ll get to use it — zero! Just kidding! However, that does complete the trifecta of owning all three consoles from the current (aka eighth) generation. 

By the way, Megan, you know you can’t complain about my video gaming ever again, right? You are an enabler, and boy, does that make me one lucky guy! 

Happy New Year, everyone!



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