N is for Nostalgia…

Sometimes, a small trigger can lead to a lot of memories bubbling to the surface. This morning, I read this short post from The Daily Post:

Daily Prompt: Toy Story

What was your favorite plaything as a child? Do you see any connection between your life now, and your favorite childhood toy?

Two things came to mind immediately: my collection of Transformers Gen. 1 toys (which I cherished so, that they’re still in almost pristine condition to this day), and of course my NES console.

NESI still recall unpacking it — the clean, fresh look and even the smell of it. Compared to my Atari 2600, it seemed like a real console. The strange joypads — the first I’d ever held, only having experienced Atari’s notorious cramp-inducing joysticks. The blisters, from playing too much Super Mario Bros. and the frustration of those last levels. Wondering how the Zapper worked — whether it was seeing the colored object on the screen, and if the game somehow prevented two identical objects from being on screen at the same time. It wasn’t long until I found out it must be something different… Even then, I had a great desire to know how things worked.

Despite owning many different consoles now, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier getting one, than I was back with the NES.
It’s a shame that I had to replace old Nessie just last year. After about 20 years of loyal service, she finally gave up and just wouldn’t read the majority of my cartridges anymore. Still, I can’t bring myself to throw her out.
Speaking of NES cartridges and being overly sentimental, I’ve always felt that cartridges were more fun to own than CD’s. I had this feeling when CD-ROM’s first started to come out for the PC, but even more so when consoles began to favor CD’s (and of course DVD’s) over cartridges. Now, we’re even seeing digital purchases being downloaded onto our consoles. Old games can be played on emulators. Even less tangible evidence of owning something when you get a new game. No box to unwrap, no booklet to leaf through, nothing to cherish, lend to a friend, or come across at a flea market. I feel like retro-gaming won’t be the same in 20 years’ time.

Anyway, I think I’m drifting off topic. “Do you see any connection between your life now, and your favorite childhood toy?”
Well, games have never let me go, obviously — it’s still one of my main hobbies. I still consider myself a console geek, even after playing PC MMO titles for years. I think that my preferences and opinions on games have been shaped for a large part by the old NES titles. Because the technology was so limited back then, graphics played a minor role in those games. It all had to come down to story and gameplay.
I don’t think I started my education in Computer Science with the intention of finding work in the game development industry per say, but it has always been at the back of my mind. For one, the desire to understand how these programs did what they did, in general and in the case of games. And then comes the desire to create that same magic that was somehow bottled in those small plastic cartridges.
As far as the Transformers toys go…sadly, I have to confess that I don’t own a transforming car. Does an old toy collection and a course in Robotics Programming count?


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