We all have that moment when the right fandom property at the right time changes our course, and we go on to dedicate our life to something. The Catalyst to My Fandom is a place for all of us to share those life-altering moments in fandom. For me, a Nintendo Entertainment System taught me many useful life lessons.
I was around seven years old and just participated in my First Communion (Irish/Polish/Italian household, so yeah, I was definitely Catholic). As was tradition, my family got together and celebrated with a huge meal and presents. It was here that I received a gift that would have a lasting impact on my life: the original Nintendo Entertainment System. I had played video games before, but this was different. It was a touchstone, both culturally and personally. It started me on the lifelong road as a gamer and helped me learn and discover the world at large.
Before the NES
I was already on my way to fandom. I loved cartoons, reading books and comics, and was able to quote Star Wars and Ghostbusters at the drop of a hat. My brain was a sponge, absorbing all types of nerdiness and science. It was around that time that I started to discover video games. My first real exposure to them was with my cousins who had a Colecovision. I had an Atari 2600 system briefly, but never really got into it; plus our dog at the time chewed through the power cord. I remember playing video games in arcades but at the time my focus was more on getting tons of skeeball tickets.
I was still pretty young, so while early video games were fun they never really stuck with me. It was more the context that I loved. I was either with my parents or family or with other kids from class. Even now, it all kind of blends together as adventures in growing up with nothing really standing out.
The Catalyst for My Fandom
When I tore off that wrapping paper and saw what was underneath, I was floored. Even as a kid, I knew what a huge deal this was. The NES had just come out and it was blowing up. All the kids in school were talking about it and every time another kid got one, the rest of us would get jealous. When I got home, I rushed into the living room and spent an hour poring over the instructions before I hooked it up to the TV. Once I popped in Super Mario Bros., hit Start, and those iconic first notes started playing, my eyes went as wide as saucers and I was forever hooked.
I think I played for almost 2-3 hours, the first “mini-marathon” session of my gaming life. That first Saturday morning, I started what would become the pattern of oh-so-many weekend mornings. I snuck downstairs while my parents were sleeping to get a couple hours playing time in before the Saturday morning cartoons started. Just me in my pj’s with a bowl of cereal and our dog chilling out next to me.
Why the NES Is So Special
The NES served as a catalyst for a lot of things when I was growing up. I learned how to meet and make friends by talking about and sharing video games. How to collaborate on tough challenges and think outside the box. As well as figuring out how to fix a cartridge-based game system when it wasn’t working. I discovered how to set goals for myself and work towards surpassing them, whether it was a speed-run of Ninja Gaiden 2 or finally beating Contra without using the Konami Code (FYI, it still hasn’t happened).
Even now, a lot of those games are meaningful to me and so many other people. They hold nostalgia and memories that we hold dear, as well as still being kick-ass games 30 years later! It’s amazing to look back and see how these timeless classics were created using what we see now as such finite technology.
I’ve kept up with gaming going on for another 30+ years now. I’ve had all kinds of systems throughout, and while I don’t play as much anymore, it’s still an important part of my life and my fandom overall. I still have that feeling of excitement whenever I hit the power button on a new game. Technology has changed, so while you don’t have the laughs shared when you were playing with friends next to you, it’s now simple to get on a headset and talk across the world like they were still there on the couch. The NES showed me that creativity and adventure are everywhere, and I could access it as easily as the press of a button.
Fandom is built on a foundation of passionate people with deep and unshakable knowledge spread across the entire pop culture landscape. The only way for that to manifest is timing: the right fan with the right property at the right time. Luminaries of film, music, television, games, and comics have all had that watershed moment where something infected them, and the impulse was too strong to ignore. We have shared some of those moments, and hopefully, you will join us in doing so as well.