How my Mom saved Christmas

This is a repost from a story I wrote a long time ago and has been featured a number of times, hope you like it.

In the age of online shopping and overnight delivery, the hunt to get the game or game system we want is less of a hassle than it used to be in the past. Sure, we can camp out for special deals and sometimes miss out on getting something on day one, but overall we have it easy. Regardless, for many of us gamers we had parents who struggled to make us happy on Christmas morning and it is important to remember what they did for us especially during the holidays.

NES Controll Deck

This is a story about my mother going on a hunt with me for my NES.

It was about a week before Christmas and the Nintendo Entertainment System was on every kid’s wish list. I had made bargains and promises and finally my mother agreed to get it for me. She was old school in that she did not keep up on anything technical and didn’t really even know where to go get it, so I was tasked to find out where to get it and she would go and pay for it.

It was Friday night and I was at home searching the phone book to call stores asking if they had the NES. Many of the stores were sold out and the smile on my face that I had when I started had quickly faded. Then I got a stoke of good luck. A Toys-R-Us had one, but the store was thirty miles away. To me that was nothing and when my mother walked in the door I had the address and directions to the store ready to go. I was bouncing around with all the energy of a child not taking notice of my mom’s condition. I doubt I even gave her a moment to rest before I was dragging her back out to the car.

Chicago

 

Now I grew up in Chicago, so in December it was bitter cold and snowing. There was ice on the ground and tons of people going home from work, out for the night or shopping as we were. The traffic was horrible, but all I could think about was my new NES and how I’d soon be playing Mario Bros.

We get to Toys-R-Us and I fly inside not waiting for my mother. In seconds I was at the electronics section. By the time my mother got there I was almost in tears. They had sold the last one just ten minutes ago. I had no back-up plan, no other store directions or addresses. I just wanted to die. My mom suggested we try a few stores on the way home which temporality lifted my spirits.

toys-r-us-nes-retro-ad

Seven stores later with no NES in sight I just wanted to go home and quit. I felt Christmas was ruined and didn’t even want to celebrate it anymore. Nothing my mom said or did make me feel any better. I had laid down in the backseat of the car when it came to a stop. I knew we couldn’t have arrived home yet.

I looked out the window to see another store. Now for the life of me I can’t remember the store name, but what I can tell you was it was not known for any toys or electronics for the matter. It was what I would call an “old ladies” store. My mom had dragged me there many times for clothes or home appliances and stuff.

I was actually upset that my mom had brought me to a store like this that had no chance to have my NES. However, I was pretty well behaved thanks to my mom’s firm hand so I did not put up a fuss. We entered the store and my mom headed for the electronics section. Then I caught a glimpse of it. My eyes widened, my heart began to race. It was a display of Nintendo’s behind a glass counter. There were at least ten of them. I couldn’t believe it and I guess that was the point. The store normally would not have carried NES’s, but since it was such a hot item and it was the holidays they did. I guess kids and parents alike did not think to go there to look for a NES so they had them in stock.

I was in heaven until my mom pulled out her checkbook. The lady behind the counter said they no longer accepted checks, only cash or charge. As I said my mom was old school and did not have a credit card and surely did not have the cash on her. I was ready to die again until the lady looked at my mother’s check number.

Now some of you might not know this but the number to the right of the check not only tells you how many checks you wrote but, at least back then, was an indicator of your credit status. Think of it like a credit score, the more checks you wrote the better your credit was. My mother had written over eight thousand checks which showed she could be trusted. The sales lady spoke to the manager and he agreed to sell my mom the NES. It truly felt like Christmas morning. I had my NES and all was right in the world. I was energized all the way home dying to play it.

Even though I was really excited I did take a moment to thank my mom and that was when I saw it. She was tired, like the tired you would have after working ungodly hours as a nurse. My mother was an LPN (licensed practice nurse) and she worked 12 to 16 hours shifts all the time. In fact many times she would work back to back and even overnights. As a kid with no responsibility, I did not fully understand the strength it took to come home after working that hard and having to drive me all over town for some game.

She could have ended our trek after the first store or told me to wait until the next day to go. I understood a bit more that day what it took to raise me and my sister as a single parent, but it took years for me to fully understand all her sacrifices. I made sure to think of that night whenever I got mad over something stupid. Sometimes I forgot and acted like she had never done anything for me, but then I quickly remembered that night and many other things she did for me.

That was not the first or last time that my mother and I went off on an adventure for something gaming related. Perhaps one day I will tell you about our hunt for Texas Instruments software. For now, think about your own parents and what they did for you and if you can, tell them thanks.

What impact did gaming have on your career path?

Career Path Drive
Career Path Drive

Often something during the growing up stage is what leads people to what they will do later in life. It can be an experience where you saved someone’s life and go down the path of helping others or that you were exposed to a situation that led to a field you want to work in. Although many of us will change our minds on what we what to become many times before we reach working age there are some jobs where the people doing them can easily trace it back to a time when they were young.

For me personally I always loved video games from my Atari 2600 to my first computer, the Texas Instruments TI-99. Even before that I loved to take apart electronics just to see the parts inside. I also loved to make up and tell stories so playing a video game took on another dynamic because I would visualize storylines even for games that had them like Yars Revenge.

When I moved to Miami in 97’ the first thing I wanted to do was get back into computers and meet like-minded people and that led to my time at Alienware where my love for gaming flourished. It was then that I took my love of storytelling and turned it into a writing career.

If I was not exposed to computers and video games at such a young age I am sure I would not have developed a love for them in a way that would lead me to work in the computer and gaming field. In addition, my mother always supported my love for gaming even when dragging her all across Chicago looking for a Nintendo.

For this week’s insider discussion we asked our panel what impact did gaming have on their career path.

Jason Shankel from Stupid Fun Club wrote:

I first got the idea to go into game development in Middle School after seeing _WarGames_ and _Tron_.  I remember being especially impressed with _WarGames_.  I wanted to create my own Joshua.  Later on in high school, I read _Goedel, Escher, Bach_.  I became fascinated with machine thought, particularly how it differs from human thought.

As a game developer, I’ve always been more oriented toward using games to help people understand how computer systems work, what their capabilities and limitations are.  Games make machines more relatable, infuse them with some personality and engage human emotions.

If I had to break it down to one moment, though, it’s the first time I saw the end of _WarGames_, when David asks if there’s anything that can be done to make the machine learn faster and Professor Falken says “yes, number of players: zero.”

Of course, since then, I’ve always hoped to have a somewhat larger market than that 🙂

Corey Dangel from Detonator Games wrote:

When I was in college words like “desktop publishing” and “WYSIWYG” were new and exotic sounding. The notion of pursuing a career as a game artist, at that time, was inconceivable. So upon graduating from college I hit the pavement with the dream of being a graphic designer. I experimented briefly as a post production artist for video but ultimately started my own tiny graphic design studio to create album covers for Seattle area musicians. It was the late 80s/early 90s and the music scene was really taking off. Turns out getting the work wasn’t nearly as difficult as getting PAID for the work…

After scrapping for a few years I got an opportunity (thanks to a good friend) to contract at Microsoft. I was employed to create the “coffee table books of the future”…remember multi-media? My friend and I worked our butts off in the multimedia group and were eventually offered full-time positions. MSFT didn’t make games at the time but they had publishing agreements for Flight Sim and a Golf game. I soon discovered that the business unit in charge of these publishing contracts was preparing to grow so I made it my mission to get them to hire me.

You see, I had been a gamer since the first day I played Parcheesi with my grandmother and a fanatical gamer since first playing Dungeons & Dragons in 1980. Thanks to D&D I discovered that making games is as much fun for me as playing them (possibly more fun). I’d never considered that I could do anything but create games as a hobby…which I had for years. I’d written programs on the TRS-80 coco, the Atari 800XL, and made my own games (creating story, game design, and art) both digitally and traditionally.

Once presented with the possibility of working on games for a living I pursued the dream I didn’t know was possible like a ravenous cheetah chasing a meat wagon. And somehow I caught it!

Fifteen years later I’m still amazed that I get to do what I do for a living.

Juan Gril from JoJu Games wrote:

In my case, a few hours with a friend’s Atari 2600 made me realize that I wanted to make games for the rest of my life.

Aaron Hunter from Playtechtonics Inc wrote:

Gaming was everything in my career path. I started developing as a child, also playing them at the same time. Richard Garriott was already a millionaire from PC games by the time I started high school. Making games appealed to my self-motivational tendencies and preference to learn at my own pace.

So what about you, has gaming steered you toward your career or do you feel it will?

My video game Christmas Story

Adult gamers Wii
Adult gamers Wii

You never do it all on your own, this is true in life and true in gaming. Something or more likely someone is there at some point giving you a helping hand. For most of us our life of gaming began during childhood and when we found our love of gaming we dragged our parent’s right in with us. This series will talk about Gamer Parents and their effects on us and the industry.

I have a number of stories of interactions between my mother and I regarding gaming but one sticks out in my mind. It was about a week before Christmas and the Nintendo Entertainment System was on every kid’s wish list. I had made bargains and promises and finally my mother agreed to get it for me. She was old school in that she did not keep up on anything technical and didn’t really even know where to go get it, so I was tasked to find out where to get it and she would go and pay for it.

city at night
city at night

It was Friday night and I was at home searching the phone book to call stores asking if they had the NES. Many of the stores were sold out and the smile on my face that I had when I started had quickly faded. Then I got a stoke of good luck. A Toys-R-Us had one, but the store was thirty miles away. To me that was nothing and when my mother walked in the door I had the address and directions to the store ready to go. I was bouncing around with all the energy of child not taking notice of my mom’s condition. I doubt I even gave her a moment to rest before I was dragging her back out to the car.

Now I grew up in Chicago, so in December it was bitter cold and snowing. There was ice on the ground and tons of people going home from work, out for the night or shopping as we were. The traffic was horrible, but all I could think about was my new NES and how I’d soon be playing Mario Bros.

We get to Toys-R-Us and I fly inside not waiting for my mother. In seconds I was at the electronic section. By the time my mother got there I was almost in tears. They had sold the last one just ten minutes ago. I had no back-up plan, no other store directions or addresses. I just wanted to die. My mom suggested we try a few stores on the way home which temporality uplifted my spirits.

Seven stores later with no NES in sight I just wanted to go home and quit. I felt Christmas was ruined and didn’t even want to celebrate it anymore. Nothing my mom said or did make me feel any better. I had laid down in the backseat of the car when it came to a stop. I knew we couldn’t have arrived home yet.

I looked out the window to see another store. Now for the life of me I can’t remember the store name, but what I can tell you was it was not known for any toys or electronics for the matter. It was what I would call an “old ladies” store. My mom had dragged me there many times for clothes or home appliances and stuff.

Nintendo NES box
Nintendo NES box

I was actually upset that my mom had brought me to a store like this that had no chance to have my NES. However, I was pretty well behaved thanks to my mom’s firm hand so I did not put up a fuss. We entered the store and my mom headed for the electronic section. Then I caught a glimpse of it. My eyes widened, my heart began to race. It was a display of Nintendo’s behind a glass counter. There were at least ten of them. I couldn’t believe it and I guess that was the point. The store normally would not have carried NES’s, but since it was such a hot item and it was the holidays they did. I guess kids and parents alike did not think to go there to look for a NES so they had them in stock.

I was in heaven until my mom pulled out her checkbook. The lady behind the counter said they no longer accepted checks, only cash or charge. As I said my mom was old school and did not have a credit card and surely did not have the cash on her. I was ready to die again until the lady looked at my mother’s check number.

Now some of you might not know this but the number to the right of the check not only tells you how many checks you wrote but, at least back then, was an indicator of your credit status. Think of it like a credit score, the more checks you wrote the better your credit was. My mother had written over eight thousand checks which showed she could be trusted. The sales lady spoke to the manager and he agreed to sell my mom the NES. It truly felt like Christmas morning. I had my NES and all was right in the world. I was energized all the way home dying to play it.

Even though I was really excited I did take a moment to thank my mom and that is when I saw it. See was tired, like the tired you would have after working ungodly hours as a nurse. My mother was an LPN (licensed practice nurse) and she worked 12 to 16 hours shifts all the time. In fact many times she would work back to back and even overnights. As a kid with no responsibility I did not fully understand the strength it took to come home after working that hard and having to drive me all over town for some game.

She could have ended our trek after the first store or told me to wait until the next day to go. I understood a bit more that day what it took to raise me and my sister as a single parent, but it took years for me to fully understand her sacrifices. I made sure to think of that night whenever I got mad over something stupid. Sometimes I forgot and acted like she had never done anything for me, but then I quickly remembered that night and many other things she did for me.

That was not the first or last time that my mother and I went off on an adventure for something gaming related. Perhaps one day I will tell you about our hunt for Texas Instruments software. In the coming weeks I will talk more about gamer parents and what they meant to us and the industry. For now, think about your own parents and what they did for you and if you can, tell them thanks.