Unnecessary Pondering

Some hazards that may come with believing all you read.
October 14, 2011
I'm a sucker for semantics!

Yeah, that's what this is going to be all about, semantics. My first and last article was about video games during my childhood, and this'll also cover video games, but from a slightly different angle.

Before we get to that, we'll need an introduction. Just bare with me on this one.

Growing up, I was a Nintendo guy. I started playing the NES, which my father purchased from some friends of the family who were a bit older than me, seeing as it wasn't in stores anymore. I loved every second of it. I didn't have a lot of games, seeing as they weren't in stores anymore either, so I made the best out of Super Mario Bros. (the first and the third one) and Metal Gear: Snake's Revenge. Not that difficult really, because they were all great games, and there were no saving possible so you had to use your time in order to beat them.

The Super Nintendo wasn't a priority for me, because some friends of mine had it, and playing it at their houses was enough for me.

Not much time passed before the N64 came out though, and that I NEEDED to get. Lucky as I was, my father took me to the mall to pick one up. There was only one game I saw as important to get first up, and luckily it came with the console. Super Mario 64. This game took me to another world every day I played it, which was... Just about every day for a long time. I loved how it had two objectives: 1. Save the princess and 2. Get all the stars. Super Mario was completely transformed. You had the paintings in order to get to the different levels. It wasn't linear anymore, you had the castle as a starter point and all the different levels to choose from. Of course it was linear if you consider the fact that a certain amount of stars was needed in order to enter the different doors with the different paintings, but you get my point.

Some more games followed such as Mario Kart 64, Pokemon Stadium, F-Zero X, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Yoshi's Story, Quack Attack!, Mischief Makers and Perfect Dark. Those were the games I found interesting at the time, before Game Cube took over the market and all the N64 games were taken off the shelves.

Now that we have the introduction done and ready, I can get to the point of this article.

I am now 20 years old, not too far away from 21. Recently something odd has been going on in my life. A lot of stuff is now a closed off chapter, such as all the stuff mentioned above, elementary, jr. and high school, old friends have faded, some new have entered my life. It is in these times I have found myself in a pre-midlife crisis of some sort. If this is a much gentler well-recognized form of the "real" midlife crisis (supposed to happen sometime in your 40s, I assume) then kill me now.

Where do I begin?

I'll start with the first thing I remember bringing me to this state. Or the first thing that I connect with this nightmare anyway. For the longest time the big cleaning of the cottage was on my list of to-do's, and finally one day, I managed to get to it. I went through all the stuff I saw as immensely important to keep back in God knows what year and reduced by 40-50%. Lots of toys and all kinds of other stuff. Funny how you see things a lot differently with age. Anyhow, I came across the instruction manual (or booklet, whichever) to the Pokemon Yellow Version for my Game Boy Color. I had all the other manuals in my room, nice and organized, so I started wondering how this one had ended up in the cottage. Without giving it too much thought, I neatly placed it where it belonged in my room.

Having almost finished my clean-a-thon, I came across my old Pokemon trading card album. It was in good shape, with all of my cards in good condition as well, all in order. I took it with me to my room, and just like the manual, placed it neatly on one of my shelves.

One evening I was at my laptop just browsing the Internet. All of a sudden I started to get this urge to look for some Pokemon material. I was thinking games. It was kind of sad that Pokemon was important back in my elementary school days, having collected it, but never owned either Red nor Blue Version for the Game Boy. I mean... They started the whole thing, right? Sure, I had the Yellow Version still in great condition, and it's basically the same game. It even had Pikachu following you everywhere, just like in the anime, that's why I picked just that one, because I loved the anime. Yeah, come on, no biggie. Maybe I'll just forget the whole thing, I thought to myself. I closed the laptop, switched off the lights and went to sleep.

The next day the thought came creeping back into my head. For some reason, it was obsessing me. I started to look for some answers on the Internet again, finding dozens of forums where people discussed the older Pokemon games. Basically it came down to people all disagreeing which was the better game, Red or Blue, but all in all laying the point forward that those were the only "true" games. You didn't own either one of those, you weren't a fan to begin with. I could feel how those opinions struck me. Yes! It's just what I feared, I missed out! No worries though... Getting both of those games won't be a problem, I'll get them for an easy buck at eBay or something. And so I did. A few days later I got them in the mail. I started with the Red Version and played for hours. Many memories came back, well sorta. It was like playing my Yellow Version, only... The Red Version. Soon, it sort of faded, and I took the game out of good ol' Game Boy Color, put them both back in their places. I was planning on playing it again soon, I just had to clear my head for a while, or at least try.

Some days passed without me even touching one of those games. Finally, without giving it too much thought, I was at ease with this whole thing. It was out of sight, out of mind. Funny how things have a way of coming back to haunt you, because before I knew it, I was doing some dusting in my room. I did the shelves, and suddenly I noticed the old trading card album again. I started looking through my cards. The more I looked at them the more the feeling of nostalgia slowly turned to regret. These were all shitty cards, when I thought about it. I never pulled (or whatever the hardcore collectors call it) a Charizard card for instance. Man, that sucks. Suddenly all the happy memories turned to crappy ones. These cards didn't represent good times anymore. Now I could only think of all the times some jerk tricked me into trading a good card away, and all the nights I spent crying myself to sleep over my losses. This album would now more and more become a constant reminder of how I never became the ultimate Pokemon master who were in possession of all the original 151.

Well I wouldn't have it! This ends today, I thought. What did my mind tell me? To throw away the album along with all the cards and let the past be the past? No, of course not. My objective was to start collecting again. I needed a hobby, so why not? A lot of grown people still do it today. I wasn't going for the biggest collection in the world, I was just going to complete the original collection I had started. Just the first line of Pokemon. Soon I was doing some hardcore research. In order to get all the original cards, I would have to get three sets of packs. This would include the first one, the Base Set pack, the Jungle pack and the Fossil pack. Naturally this was easier said than done. No stores had them anymore, this didn't surprise me. Even the Internet offered no solid deals and all the sites were always low on stock. In this case time was literally money. I had to act fast, expensive or not, soon there'd be nothing left. I did some more searching before I finally found a booster box that contained 36 Base Set packs for a surprising low price. Very affordable indeed. Done and done. I purchased it on eBay and waited for it to arrive.

Days passed. It seemed like that box just wouldn't show up. I did whatever I could to make the time go by faster. Bite my fingernails, play some video games, watch some TV, surf the Internet looking at some more opportunities to buy some more pack of cards while waiting... NO! Gotta forget that now, remember, make time fly! Uhh... Hang out with friends, see some movies... And finally! In the mail I found an... Envelope? It's gotta be a mailorder. Probably just some note telling me I have to go to the local post office and pick up my huge box of Pokemon cards that couldn't fit in the mail box. Might as well open it.

As soon as the envelope opener had done its work out popped a single Base set pack. I was baffled, stunned or horrified really. This had to be a mistake...

I sent the guy a message asking him to explain the whole situation. It didn't take too long to have my nightmare confirmed by a moron who assumed that having a picture of a box, having no mention in the description that it wasn't a box, telling me that it wasn't a box he was selling, but just one single pack. I hate it when my instincts are right, but just a little too late. I tried to persuade him to give me a refund, no luck there. Opened up a case where eBay was supposed to review my case, but having no progress after two weeks, I just ended it and gave the guy a negative review. To top it all off, the cards were German, which mean German versions of all the names and German descriptions of all the attacks, you know, the works. Not that I opened the pack (which says "11 Sammelbare Spielkarten"). Just that after so much research it is common knowledge that when you have an unopened German pack of trading cards, you know what to find inside. No, sir, the pack is still unopened and in great condition, so if you want to take it off my hands, be my guest. Not that I'm trying to turn this article into a buyer's market, but you can't blame me for using all the chances I get in order to get rid of this thing. Contact me here and we'll figure something out, alright? Thanks.

Seriously though, I put the pack in one of the drawers in my night table, just trying to forget the whole thing.

Now we're moving away from Pokemon for a bit, and back to N64 games which I mentioned in the beginning. Fearing at this point that I might be dragging this whole story on, I'd like inform anyone who might be feeling this way that my previous article was enjoyable, but too short. So I'm trying to work on that now. Hopefully this won't turn out crap, but long. You can all let me know in the comment section when it comes to that though.

Anyway, back to Nintendo.

I've had a Wii since it came out. The first console I ever bought with my own money. I purchased some games along with it, and it was good fun for a while, before I lost interest after a short while. However not too long ago, I thought to myself that I had all these great games that I spent a great amount of money on. I should at least try to beat the games and have a good time while I was at it. I picked up Ghostbusters, and ran through it like a truck. It was actually an awesome game. Very true to the movies, which I love. All in all no complaints on any aspects of the game. I picked up another one, A Boy and His Blob. Again, beat it sooner than I could realize, and had a great time with it. Wii was certainly an overlooked console on my part. It's a great video game device with many soon-to-be classic games, I must say. Next up was The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Boy, oh boy had I been missing something. If all these games were as good as this, I certainly should have checked it out ages ago.

All I could remember was that Zelda Ocarina of Time was the most popular game for N64. Why didn't I wish for that game as a kid? Maybe it wasn't all that good? I suddenly remembered that a friend of mine owned two copies of the game. So I build up enough courage to ask him if he'd be interested in selling me one of his copies. He agreed, and I got it for a fair price. I paused my Twilight Princess gaming and started to get to work on Ocarina of Time. I could see how the game was much fun and why it was so great back then. I started to surf forums on the web again and pretty much figured out that the general opinion of the fellow gamer was that if you didn't play Ocarina of Time as a child, you weren't a gamer today, or a Nintendo fan, whichever. It had been ranked as one of the greatest video games of all time on several web sites, even by big-time gamer sites such as IGN and whatnot.

So I have now reached the point where the past tense is no longer necessary to use for the sake of this story. This is now the present. I have gotten fairly far into the game, and I've enjoyed it so far. Maybe some of you can see where this is going, but in any case I started thinking. Why, oh why didn't I like Zelda before? I started to think really hard on it. It really started to bother me, just like the Pokemon Game Boy games and trading cards had bothered me before. Come on, man. You loved N64 and you didn't even pick up Ocarina of Time like your friends did, or even wish for it? You have no excuse! It's like my soul is telling me that my childhood is worthless after discovering these facts. You didn't play the original Pokemon games, you didn't get all the valuable trading cards of the bunch and you never even played Ocarina of Time. Talk about missing out on some of the greatest icons of pop-culture for your generation. And even worse, this was tainting all the fun I had playing Twilight Princess. Why should I play that when I didn't even grow up playing Ocarina of Time?

Right after those thoughts had entered my mind, a new one presented itself, and that's when I decided to dot this all down. And there were no other places to dot all my thoughts down than here. This would make a perfect second article, I thought.

My soul wasn't telling me that my childhood was worthless, but the opinions of random people on the Internet. It's not like I can blame them, I was open to those opinions. I seeked opinions on something I shouldn't have bothered with to begin with. Like I mentioned at the top, I am now 20 years old, and haven't given the whole Pokemon franchise a single thought since it ended about 10 years ago. Why the hell would I start spending money on it now?

The point being, for anyone out there who's suffering from these same delirious thoughts that I have suffered under for some time, that you can't change the past. What's done is done, and you can't let all those good memories go to waste just because you failed to collect all the cards or play every video game out there. I'm not saying that collecting Pokemon cards at my age is stupid, but doing it the way I was thinking is completely insane. I was tricked many times back then, but getting all the cards now in order to... Prove a point? Well that'd be just... The best word for it is sad, I guess. Very sad. As for the Pokemon game boy games, I don't know too much about the newer ones, but I gotta express my opinion on this... The Red, Blue and Yellow Version are pretty much all the same, aren't they? You got some different Pokemon in all of them, which couldn't be caught in the counterpart, but how'd they get away with that? Some variety in Pokemon, but all in all the exact same gameplay? Maybe I'll never know.

Which brings me to Ocarina of Time one last time. Yes, it was a good game, I enjoyed it, but giving this whole situation some extra thought, I don't think I would have enjoyed it as a child. Zelda came into my life exactly when it was supposed to, when I was ready for it. Ocarina of Time would've been way too hard back then, and thereby boring to me. Twilight Princess is a game that I can brag about telling people was the game that opened me to the series. However, I'll tell you what I won't do. I won't add that anyone who didn't play it back then lost a piece of their childhood. It's just a game, and there's no REAL way to decide how a video game is the all-time best. That's for you to decide.

So there you have it. How I let semantics steal some of my time and money. I hope the article entertained, amused or even helped someone going through the same thing. On that note, I'll be going to sleep.

- Chris
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