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This isn’t some philosophical argument explaining the benefits I see in games that verges on apologetic. This is the story of how Sean and I managed to get our hands on a controller and get hooked. I don’t think most people that play games can trace it to more than a “my friend had an N64 I used to play on.” Sean and I are just lucky.

Sean’s not taciturn, but I think that it’s fair to call him introverted.  Our parents tell us that when he was a little kid, however, he was a ridiculous motormouth. They were used to being bombarded by his babble for hours during lazy afternoons, car rides, and I’m sure even when other people were trying to talk.

Actually, I just remembered that this feature of Young Sean saved his life once. On a drive to visit family, he went unexpectedly silent for a few moments. That prompted our dad to glance back in amazement. Then he realized that Sean’s seat belt had slipped up over his neck and was choking him, putting a stop to the monologue, so dad skidded the car to a stop and pulled the belt away.

Back to the video games story.

Sean really wanted an NES. Like, really wanted one. He probably just saw a commercial or something, but he was immediately sold on the awesome graphics and deep interactivity. Push button, pixelated Mario jump? Fuck yeah. It was almost all that he could talk about once the idea took hold of him.

But our dad’s more of an athletic guy, who grew up playing basketball. He bought the land Sean and I grew up on because he saw the big, open yard and instantly proclaimed “this is where my kids will play baseball!” And our mom looks out for our health. She didn’t like the idea of us spending so much time inside straining our eyes. They agreed that a console wouldn’t enter the house until one of us kids were willing to buy it with our own money.

Though they didn’t come right out and tell Sean “no,” their cool replies to his constant Christmas wish for a Nintendo Entertainment System made it very clear that he shouldn’t get his hopes up.

He and I were typical little kids that believed in Santa Claus. Sean, being older, was the first to start wondering about how Santa did stuff that was just so damn impossible. So he would occasionally ask our parents if Santa was real. But then he’d chatter on without even a pause for them to answer. And so they spent another year or more off of the hook even after he’d begun asking. Maybe Sean didn’t want to have his suspicions confirmed, or maybe he thought mom and dad really needed to hear about the tree fort he was going to live in once he was President of Earth.

Either way, during another long drive, I don’t know where to so let’s say it was to visit family like the last one, Sean posed the usual question to mom.

“Mom, is Santa real?”

Mom probably looked out the window. A pause came and went before she realized that Sean had stopped talking.

She didn’t say so when telling this story to Sean and I later, but I’m guessing that she took a quick look back to be sure he wasn’t choking. Sean was fine. Just waiting for an answer.

Mom took a deep breath. She was gonna be honest with her kid.

She admitted there was no dude in red breaking into houses and reverse-stealing. She and dad had always gotten us the gifts. Santa would have been in breach of copyright for producing them in his own factories anyways. Christmas didn’t need to stop, though. Maybe “Santa” was a spirit of giving people could sort of get into- like “get into the spirit of things” -and that was magical enough.

She didn’t get sobbing and bawling from him. He had been too suspicious before the reveal to really go to pieces. But he did start crying. Slow tears and sniffles that demanded unconditional sympathy.

“Sean, what’s wrong?” Mom asked him, reaching back to try to help comfort.

“If there’s no Santa, then I’ll never get a Nintendo, because you and dad won’t get me one.” Sean quietly lamented.

Mom was blown away. And that unconditional sympathy made her and dad go out and get Sean a new NES within days. It nearly gave him a fit of surprise joy when he opened it.

Then I played so much Bubble Bobble. I played all of the Bubble Bobble.

- Matthew (RAP, one of the few times)