The Game Room
When my parents started hearing the theme from Super Mario Bros. so often that my father began humming it over dinner or while he was shaving, they decided that "the Nintendo" needed a room to itself. That way, it could occupy me without driving anyone else further towards madness. They set it up on an aged, nine-inch TV and gave me a decrepit armchair that looked like Archie Bunker's - that is, if Archie had ever shot and skinned Oscar the Grouch to use as a slipcover.
As the locus of all household gaming activity, the room attracted more systems and games than could be easily stored. Soon we were buying extra bookshelves to hold rows of gaming magazines, NES and SNES cartridges and bulky computer game boxes decorated with artwork that invariably promised more excitement than the games delivered.
It was the room to which I retreated when I wanted to be among games, and it was the room I was locked out of when I brought home a bad report card. My mother would tell me, "That's it, no more Nintendos for you," and, seeing the opportunity to strike a savage blow, I would say, "They're not Nintendos, they're videogames." Then, leaving her crushed and mangled in the jaws of logic, I would march off to my bedroom like Sidney Carton to the scaffold.
Later, at night, I would soundlessly slip from my room to the game room, avoiding each squeaky floorboard and whipping the door open before the hinges could remember to whine. I jammed a towel under the door to block out the light from the screen and played until I could barely keep my eyes open, at which point I would restore everything to its original place and scuttle back to my bed.
The game room meant more to me than I knew at the time, and so I didn't protest when my parents cleaned it out. I couldn't articulate why I wanted to hang onto the boxes for all my old videogames, including ones I hated.
I helped them reorganize "the game room" until it became "the office," and on some hot summer afternoon I walked down the driveway with a black Hefty bag full of the boxes, manuals and many of the discs and cartridges for games like Steel Panthers, Excitebike, F-15 Strike Eagle II, Fields of Glory, Links (my father's), Rad Racer and the original box for the NES. I put it in a powder-blue trash can that smelled of compost, and that was that.
We kept most of the games, but piece by piece the collection evaporated, and after I went to college most of my old games disappeared or I simply forgot where I had placed them. Perhaps they were still somewhere around the house, and at the very least I still had my collection of PC Gamer and Computer Gaming World. But when our house was destroyed in a flood last September, among all the other irrecoverable losses to my family, I lost my last connections to the game room.