Being player two

(The featured image is from Alphacoders).

Written by William Campbell 

This video cropped up this week.

It’s about video games and being player two. Unexpectedly, I was moved because I’m player two (or three if you want to get literal with the birth order of the fam).

Working on Un/Settled, we’ve realized this is as much a conversation between siblings as it is an exploration of our rural past. All kinds of memories have bubbled to the surface, now even those of gaming together.

It’s silly really, since we think of video games as a bit of a childish activity. But when you’re writing about childhood, you see them in a different light.

As kids we would all hang out at our cousins playing the next Nintendo game that came out. Super Mario Bros. Excite bike. Tecmo Super Bowl.

We felt like digital explorers, discovering secret codes and warp tunnels. Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A. Then we would run outside and explore the run down old barn for real-life secrets. Too bad the konami code couldn’t prevent me from breaking my arm.

We got the gold painted Zelda II and made everyone jealous. Turns out, the game was nearly impossible to beat. But it’s the first time I remember my sister and I working together, discovering the hidden spots of the game. We never did beat it (and I tried years later after undergrad – still couldn’t beat it).

After months of slogging away at a different hard game, Super Mario Bros. 2, Bryna did beat the end boss. We cheered when she hit the trumpet creature with the final turnip. Then we found out it was all Mario’s dream, and Bryna turned around to help me beat it next.

Bryna was the first to find the warp whistle in Super Mario Bros. 3 (probably after watching the movie The Wizard), and then she showed us how to find it, skip over the worlds too hard for us, and beat Bowser without even touching him.

Of course, our brother Bob also played plenty of games, but his were sports games. Tecmo, Madden, and NBA something or other. I didn’t jump into those games with him because really we didn’t have the same gaining interests (other than the fact that we both had an amazing capability to rage quit and throw our controller against the wall).

I just picked up Crash Bandicoot out of nostalgia, but in every level I keep thinking, is this how Bryna and I solved this? I still remember us getting to the end of the game, confused that we hadn’t hit 100%, and but then we discovered the hidden gems throughout the game that would take us to the secret boxes.

I followed Bryna from games into theater. When she was the Wicked Witch of the West in her high school production, I was a 6th grade munchkin in her high school production.

When she went to state speech competition, the fam. watched her group perform, and I knew I wanted to do the same. When I got my chance, we brought our choral reading group just as far in the state competition (only for me to miss the bus when we went on to All-State). Ironically, that was the time that Mom felt so bad she bought me a playstation 2. I wasn’t sure why at the time, but I wasn’t going to complain. Her love language is gift-giving, so I wasn’t going to turn it down.

After Bryna left for college, I moved on to more single-player games. I discovered Final Fantasy VII, which opened up my world to RPG’s and emotional storytelling in video games. For sure, I continued playing video games (and still do). They grew up with me in tone and style. I stopped playing those cooperative games and explored worlds on my own.

Bryna was the first to graduate college and move away from Iowa, and I followed suit. Though I didn’t go to the same school, I wanted a similar experience that I observed. After she moved to D.C. and then down to St. Louis, I wanted a similar big city experience. So I chose Chicago, but instead of moving on to another city, I planted myself.

Now years later, we’re both writing. We’re in the same place (metaphorically), thinking about the ways we want to return to our past and our upbringing. It’s like Zelda II all over again. I’m not following her into the game but we’re playing it together.

I think I might boot up Crash Bandicoot today. I honestly can’t remember how get those dumb hidden gems again, but maybe Bryna does?


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