[Column] Retro Gamer Stories


I blame my elementary school for shaping me into the nerd I am today. I am completely serious.

To add some context to this article, I was just recently tuned into this company Man Crates, a company that sells gifts for men packed in crates that must be opened with a crowbar, themed around all kinds of stuff like zombie survival, meat, whiskey, and retro gaming. They wanted to know what stuck out in my memory bank of gaming nostalgia, which took no effort because it’s a thought that comes up every so often while searching my pile of poorly bundled cords and floppy disks for an extra analog aux cable or cat5.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I grew up in a very small town, the kind of place that has one main road and zero franchise presence. I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to be in second grade when my elementary school installed its first computer lab, by which I mean they took the foldout tables normally stored until the gymnasium was used for voting and put computers on them in the hallway.

The administration either bought the cheapest boxes they could find or didn’t understand computers (which was common in the mid-90’s), because they ended up buying an IBM rather than ones based on a GUI like Windows or Apple. I can only imagine how painful it was for a teacher, who probably didn’t use a computer or have much experience, trying to explain to a room full of children how to properly insert a 5 1/4 inch floppy, mount the drive, and boot a program. Talk about the blind leading the dumb.

But it was a learning experience for everyone, and after a couple of weeks we managed to get most of the class capable of booting and even running Oregon Trail, Math Blaster, and other educational games in some capacity. What’s important is that I took to the system very quickly, before anyone else in the class and even before the teacher. When you’re a kid younger than ten, there’s not much that boosts the self esteem quite like knowing something that an adult doesn’t, especially when they aren’t playing ignorant to make you feel smart.

So my earliest days of gaming involve sitting in the computer lab during recess with the carton of chocolate milk I’d smuggled out of the cafeteria, plugging away at a keyboard in a dusty, unused hallway behind the gymnasium. I’ve been asked to detail my personal retro gaming crate, which would include a handful of games on big floppy disks, chocolate milk, and an IBM. I don’t think I could bring myself to play it, better to keep the memories as they are, but it would be a nice shrine to show my nonexistent wife and children.

As for the image, the school bought Hero Quest not knowing that it was a Dungeons and Dragons game and subsequently gave it to me to save having to throw it out. I wish it hadn’t been destroyed when our basement flooded, it’s worth quite a bit of money today.

Man Crate offers a retro gaming pack for $99 that includes a bunch of candy, a Retro-Bit NES system, and a random pick of two NES cartridges.

(Disclosure: This is not a sponsored article)

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