NES and the Meaning of Life

I’ve been a fan of video games all my life. ~Former NFL All-Pro Michael Strahan


Let’s face it…whomever invented video games deserves a special commendation. Maybe the Medal of Honor. No, wait, that’s only for armed services personnel. The Congressional Medal of Freedom, perhaps? Something is in order.

Like Mr. Strahan, I’ve also been a gamer my whole life, although I currently don’t own a gaming platform. There’s just too little time in the day and I know I could easily spend 4 hours or more playing Halo when I should be, say, writing my blog. The theory of relativity always rears its quantum head when it comes to video games. “Just another level” turns into “just another three levels,” and before you know it, the whole afternoon is gone and Mom is yelling at you to clean your room and walk the dog. It happens.

When I was a kid, though, and I had far fewer responsibilities, gaming was a real part of my life. I didn’t get an NES until I was 9 or so…my cousins had one, and I was jealous. Our family started out with a Commodore 64, that beloved Atari wannabe with a whopping 64K hard drive. Seriously. Remember, you Millenials, this was 30 years ago. This was when 8-track tapes were still being sold and Hall and Oates were considered kind of cool.

Did somebody step on a duck?

Anyway, I digress. I used to play and play until my fingers bled…Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, Bomberman, Tecmo Bowl, The Legend of Zelda. Since I was ten and couldn’t actually go out and be an elven hero or a superspy, NES was the next best thing. When I’d mastered a particular game I could go out and buy or rent another one.

It’s been said that epiphanies literally are bolts from the blue. Unexpected magic mushrooms, if you’d like to use an image from NES. This week, as I was interviewing for a promotion at work, I experienced one of those epiphanies.

The interviewer was asking me to describe a time in my past when I’d had to teach others a specific skill. (For all you job-seekers out there, it’s always wise to have a good stock of these anecdotes in your repertoire.) Quite out of the blue, I told of a time when I had to learn a new technology product at a former job to show customers. And for those of you who don’t know me well, I’m practically a Luddite when it comes to tech stuff. I’d rather go for a slow root canal than become a techie. Which is weird considering I used to be all about video games.

Missing Link?

 At the suggestion of a friend (she knows who she is, and I thank her for making me write this), I decided to dig a little deeper. I remembered all those times when I might have been playing Mario or Zelda and I picked up some seemingly worthless item. “Why,” I might have said in my 10-year-old voice, “do I need this?” Then, when I was at Level 9 instead of Level 2, I’d discover that the coin or jewel I’d dismissed as worthless was critical to moving on. I just didn’t see it at the time.

That’s what I’ve discovered as I’ve gotten older. Those people we work with whom we dismiss as useless? Don’t count them out. As the saying goes, be nice to everyone you meet on the way up, since you may meet them again coming back down. Those training sessions you sat through while rolling your eyes? Maybe they’ll teach you some skill for the future. That seminar where you spent the whole time drawing pictures of the Family Guy cast? It might be the X-factor you have that no other applicant does.

Of course, there’s a huge difference between trying to save virtual 8-bit princesses and living in the real world. We might not have to fight off evil wizards or dinosaurs with delusions of grandeur to get where we want in life. But work is a lot like video gaming. In each stage, we must learn something or accomplish something if we hope to get to the next level. We must vanquish our Level Bosses, either from without or within, and conquer our fears. Most importantly, the things we pick up along the way might help us when we least expect them to. There’s hardly such a thing as a “useless” skill or talent. Chances are there’s someone out there willing to pay for it. We only need look (and here’s a hint: not all doors are visible to the casual eye.)

Now that I’m a Gen X’er looking back, there’s a huge sense of regret that I’ll never be able to play NES or any other game system the way I did when I was little. As I’ve grown my priorities have changed. But I can still play it on special occasions. And, if I ever have kids, they’ll be initiated into the ways of Nintendo. Not to mention they’ll get the knowledge I’ve gathered from my video gaming life.

In the meantime I’ll keep “gaming on” and hoping I get my promotion. Even if I don’t I’ll be stronger for the next time. Like in games, usually people get more than one chance. That’s a chance I’ll gladly take.

Game on!

Happy NESing!

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on July 2, 2011.

108 Responses to “NES and the Meaning of Life”

  1. Great post. How you can make video games relate to life is interesting. I loved playing Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt when I had a chance, but only at other people’s houses. My parent’s were against it from the beginning.

  2. When I was little, I spent HOURS mastering Pitfall. Too bad I wasn’t able to translate those skills into adult life…


    Fun post — congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  3. Great post. Always pick up the mysterious time, you never know when it’ll come in useful… (says the man who’s probably walked over a few too many mysterious coins in his time!)

  4. I had an Atari with a knob to turn and buttons to push on the box. It was the original pong I think. Had breakout and basketball too. 7 games on it in total. It was super cool at the time. I date myself!
    Congrats on being FP!

  5. i miss them, i used to play them when i was child. anw, this is a cool great post with great screenshoots 🙂

  6. My earliest memories were going to my friends house across the street to play Duck Hunt and Mario 3. So fun.

    I always thought I would grow out of video games, and I can’t. It’s embedded into our generation. Our next politicians are gonna be total gamers.

  7. I dig it. Interesting revelations.

  8. Ummmm.. are you saying Hall and Oates aren’t cool anymore??!!

  9. Love the post! I find it interesting that even though you admit that games like Halo could burn through your time even today, you decide not to go in for them. I’ve had to play less and less games recently (hopefully I’ll get my first ‘proper’ job soon, so I can’t binge on them in 8-hour sessions) but I very much enjoy writing about them and hearing how people like yourself think about them. I know from long experience what the general views of fans and hardcore gamers are towards their hobby but I really enjoy hearing from people who aren’t in that slightly steretyped demographic, so this post made for a great read!

    • Thanks so much. I was hoping I’d hear from some more active gamers than myself and I’m glad you enjoyed it. (I’m a 30-something female so I’m not a stereotype at all.)

  10. The Tecmo nose tackle move was the best…

  11. USB \O/

  12. Wonder if you can turn working in a call centre into a game.I’m going to think about that one! Great post

  13. I love the comparison from playing games to a job hunt- how very true!! Very clever post! Love it!


  15. Wow great post, i played Atari all the time.

  16. great story

  17. i learned to assess value through video games, too! but it only took one: maniac mansion. the greatest NES game that ever was.

    (by reading that you impliedly agree to accept that point as fact).

  18. Awesome post! As a missionary I meet a lot of people and I can testify that everyone is unique and has their own talents and abilities. That is something to cherish, not chastise. We need to be nice to everyone and love each others differences.

    Some of my best memories are equated with the NES, SNES, N64, Dreamcast, and Xbox. Oh good times, good times. Thank you video games.

  19. My husband and I have NES with the old school games. Found it at a garage sale for like $10. It had the remotes, the dunk hunt gun, and various games. My husband was like a little kid, it was great. :0)

  20. great story

  21. Cool

  22. I can still run the clock out completely with Bo Jackson.

  23. I’m proud to state that I own one of these…….I make my son play it every so often as a reprieve from his xbox360…………..

    spread the

  24. I was just talking about how great the days of playing NES and SNES were. If only I had a time machine…

  25. Tecmo Bow +Bo Jackson =The most powerful combination in the universe!

  26. duck hunter. amen. unfortunately, about 7 years ago i gave my ex-boyfriend my classic nintendo. haven’t seen it since. although i recently discovered a super nintendo in my parents basement…attempting to find the second remote and games so i can play me some mario 2.

  27. One of my favourite games was the Alex the Kidd series…

  28. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit my first game being Burger Time. Wait, no I’m not, that was the shit when I was five!

  29. Great article 🙂 It’s nice to see an article about the positive, practical applications of video games. I swear, Mario Kart taught me how to drive!

  30. I’ve spent precious free time and money acquiring vintage video games, but haven’t had hardly any time to play them – i just like knowing they’re there.

  31. Great post!! Huge gamer here myself & I grew up loving many of the games mentioned:)

  32. I own 750 videogames including 8 NES, 12 SNES, 8 genesis, but 100 8-bit and 16-bit roms on my Caanoo

  33. thanks dude and will try not to be so blind but honestly even the advice bit or cludo clue is over my head. this is truth, the primary school i went to once sent me to the special class. i know i can have a bright spark now and again which may confuse some folk because i am also a total air head when it comes to other aspects of life.
    in relation to duck hunt, dude i’d turn my back for a second to give homeboy a scoobie snack and you’d be right up to the screen, the dog on the screen would be knackered pickin up ducks,
    all the best

  34. Great post, as a long time gamer I can totally relate and the real life experience made the post a lesson too, thanks.

  35. Sometimes, when life can’t teach you critical life skills, video games often do! ^_^

  36. Well written. I’ve read other pieces like this before but you’ve made the point simpler- video games teach puzzle solving skills, if you let them. Even researching solutions on Google is a skill.

    Nothing in life is a waste unless you allow something to become one.

    btw, there are worldwide advocacies supporting the preservation of old games. My gravatar was originally drawn in the Commodore 128’s built-in sprite editor.

    Best wishes

  37. Fun post! I used hold the gun right up to the bottom of the screen while playing Duck Hunt. Perfect shot every time!

  38. haha great post! although, I’m not as big on the games as I used to. there’s still a lot to appreciate about them.

    I’m new to this site and I’m trying to find more
    “blogging friends.” Would you mind checking out my page and telling me what you think? Thanks!


  39. looks lame 😛

  40. In video games, if you mess up you can always restart.

    However in real life you only get one go I’m afraid, and we all have to reap what we sow. Hopefully we sowed good seeds not bad…

  41. It’s nice to see someone else who equates video games to important life lessons make Freshly Pressed! Those little acquired skills throughout life are what make it spicy, indeed.

  42. Those games bring back a lot of fun memories 🙂

  43. Congratulations for such a fine post. It’s good to see that there are plenty of people who agree that video games can teach you valuable life lessons. Not just how to shoot, kill, maim, and destroy your opponents. Thanks for sharing this with all of us here in the wordpressaverse.

    Keep on blogging blogger. 🙂

    -Devin M. D.

  44. Well-said! I think I just found a new blog to follow.

    Good luck with the promotion; if you get it, you should celebrate by buying one of the last Wii systems!

  45. sweet memories we grow up with this game

  46. Video games were my inspiration to learn to write computer programs, and through doing the sorts of mathy things you need to write good looking games, I got into mathematics too. Now I have job offers from Amazon and Google which I’m turning down to pursue a PhD in math. I see the post-hoc flaw there, but I have to admit that video games prepared me (at least motivationally) to succeed.

  47. NES ❤

  48. ah!! dunk hunt is my favourite game when i was a kid!! i still keeping the actual gun =]

  49. aaah gaming.. the love of my life

  50. Wow, RENTING video games?? Remember that stuff!?! The worst part of renting old NES games (where you could never save and if you died, it was “game over” and start the whole thing over again) was that renting them just never gave me enough time to actually beat the game!

  51. I’ve likened life to Super Mario before – one of those levels where the screen keeps scrolling so you have to keep moving forward. You just hop from platform to platform in more or less the direction you’re aiming for, but you never know where the next platform is coming from or how long the current one will support you.

  52. now i feel how many things have changed in so short time!
    thank you for this piece of memory!

  53. I often wonder what marvels will come upon us in my life time. “Pong”, (which I was never good at) was big when I was young, you plugged it into your t.v. and then “Frogger”, (this too I was never good at), and of course “Mario Brothers” (which a 6 year old showed me where all the hidden coins were, though I hardly ever made it through to the end where you fight the dragon), oh and “arcades” were big. I WAS good at “Tempest”, (not really much to brag about there lol.) Then came along cable boxes, remote controls, (where you didn’t have to get up and “turn the knob” on the t.v., my dad would always yell “Stop spinning it so quickly, you’ll break it.”) It is apparent to me, even at that time, the very taste if the “gimme it now” had engulfed my very soul) and “rotary phones” you no longer had to actually dial, (it was a real bitch when a phone number had a number 9 in it, the wait for the return of the rotary, allowing you to dial the next number, seemed to take days). I was born only in 1969, and it seems just in the last 100 years or so, what once seemed impossible, has become possible. I cannot imagine what the future holds for us. What is their left to conquer, to improve, anything? Unfortunately, I think mankind has reached a point where self-destruction is more likely to happen than any real advancement, even as large as the remote control, will occur, in my life time. The chances of someone nuking someone (again) seems on the horizon, and science is being slowly snuffed out by religious extremists here in the USA that are in a holy war with other religious extremists from around the globe. It seems to me, we have to make a decision, as a race. Do we step back into a time when fear was the greatest motivator? Where people, mostly woman, were burned for being “possessed” by the devil? Sadly, in certain places today, some in Africa, people are still burned alive and called “witches” due to religious beliefs. (We can thank the US government for “spreading” democracy, and Christianity for that, while American’s tax dollars are sent by the millions if not billions as aid to these places, basically meaning American’s are paying for the gasoline and matches that burn people alive in those communities). Sorry about that, it all boils down to the amount of religion in politics to me, because history has proven, the more religion equal the less rational thought, science and advancement of mankind. Is there hope for us in the USA where so many believe the earth is just 6,000 years old, where the USA is a “Christian nation” and where we are in a holy war to bring on the “rapture”? Maybe I am too worn out and thinking like an elderly man, though I’m not even “middle aged….yet. Or maybe, I haven’t had enough coffee this morning…yet. Either way, what scares the be-jezus out of me is that I can almost hear Galileo trying to explain to people why it is the earth moves around the sun and that we humans, are not the center of this Universe, and that this is not an unholy evil belief, but a reasonable, logical, scientific theory that has been proven time and time again. Without this, would we even have been able to see the day when we can chat to anyone we want to with a very small hand-held device? I don’t think so.

  54. I have to say we cannot forget the classic Elite. I even saw a documentary on it which was enlightening. However now I’m forced to use a Amiga emulator. It still is fun though ^_^. But yes I guess we could all try master games so that we become proficient in all areas of life, even if throwing bricks off a bridge to make a line is not one of them (Tetris).

  55. Ah! Awesome post! I am still a teenager so apart from Mario and Tetris I really don’t know any ‘old’ games 😦 The latest addition to my favorite PC games is Angry Birds 😛
    Age Of Empires is my favorite as of now…
    But I’d trade it for Mario anyday 🙂

  56. I had an Atari with a knob to turn and buttons to push on the box. It was the original pong I think. Had breakout and basketball too. 7 games on it in total. It was super cool at the time. I date myself!
    Congrats on being FP!

  57. Love the post! I find it very interesting.
    If you can drop in to my blog:

  58. Awesome! This is why you have to have kids – so you can play all their games! I had all the old games, had the first Atari with the JOYSTICK and one button ONLY (I’m older than you all apparently). Now I get to play PS2 (can’t decide if we need/want to upgrade) and wii anytime I want AND spend time with the kids. I’m an expert at all Lego games but they kill me at most everything else (and they call the Bosses “Masters” for some reason). Life lessons – find the magic coins and play with the kids. It’s FUN. Well done!

  59. apart from this videos games are good for developing hand eye co-ordination.

  60. I refuse to believe that Hall and Oates was ever cool 😉

    Great post!

  61. Good luck to this game.

  62. nice

  63. he games bring back some memories:) Thanks for sharing.

  64. I started playing on NES from the time when I gained senses. Even when I grew up and started to act young, I played the games on vNES (Virtual NES) on the internet.
    I learned public speaking, grammar, blogging and programming with NES as my inspiration.
    This post refreshes me with all those childhod memories and it does make me remember the time when I started my journey to the technology world.

  65. I enjoyed this post a lot – brings back good memories. I would’ve titled it ‘The Pursuit of HappiNES’ or maybe that’s a little on the cheesy side.
    Anyway, have you seen the movie, ‘Snakes on a Plane’ with Samuel L. Jackson? There’s a scene where a young gamer is the only passenger who was willing to fly a plane after the death of the pilot. The only flying experience he had was from a simulation game he completely sucked at, lol (Spoiler: They landed safely though).


  66. Used to play Super Mario 3 all the time when I was little… and I personally believe Duck Hunt was essentially the precursor for Wii, haha.

  67. cool post I’ll definitely be checking this blog

  68. Sweet post! I lived and breathed NES as a kid.

    Check out my blog in your spare time, I have a post called Greatest Nintendo Games of ALL TIME. I would like to hear if you agree or disagree with my picks. They are just my “personal” picks though.

  69. Thanks to Japan for bringing video games into 21st century! 🙂 Great post btw. 🙂

  70. Awesome! Look at what I missed while I was away. You know I am all about this post and so glad you got Pressed. Sweet.

  71. I knew my grandma had ulterior motives when she bought me a NES.

  72. Good luck with your promotion.

    I’m still a gamer, but like you, I saw my cousins get the good stuff first. We (my brother and I) only had to consoles- the NES, and a PS2. So we watched our cousins get the other ones in between.

    Lucky for me I’ve grown now and I don’t rely on my parents anymore. So I have a PS3- well, my wife and I do. And we use it a lot. Probably more than we should. And I love to pick everything up… it makes it more interesting.


  73. The best part about NES and why I consider it the Golden Age is that there were no cheat codes. No forums. No spam-filled walkthroughs. It was you vs. Ganon and when he schooled 50 times in a row, your only option was to try it a 51st time and see if you can’t figure it out for yourself.

    “Gaming” gets a bad rap in the business world. Don’t dismay over the lack of owning a console today. You’re only missing out on the 7,000 Call of Duties that are all essentially Goldeneye. Beating the original Legend of Zelda is resume-worthy. What demonstrates your work ethic better than the infinite amount of hours you’ve spent on problem-solving a single, dedicated task with no form of reward other than the satisfaction of completion.

  74. True games have changed a lot.

  75. Awesome post really enjoyed reading it

  76. Enjoyed your post!

  77. I enjoyed gaming much more when I was younger…SNES being my favorite. But there’s always the classic up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start.

  78. I like how you’ve drawn similarities between professional life and gaming. I came across this at an appropriate time too, when I’m looking to level-up myself. But, for the time being, it’s back to the daily grind tomorrow. Or, is it just grinding daily for the exp? I wonder…

  79. Your post reminded me of this doc called Discover The Gift, heard of it? I really love the way you found some deeper meaning in video games… Now I don’t feel so bad about playing them, because there really is something to gather from it. Thanks for sharing man!

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