It’s Christmas. I can’t even remember how old I am,* or what I got for Christmas this year, but my brothers have unwrapped something that they’re extremely excited about. I can’t remember–I didn’t recognize what they’d unwrapped, but they were so excited I knew it had to be something amazing, so I was excited too. (At this age, “something amazing” probably mentally translated to “unicorn,” but I’m pretty sure you don’t unwrap a unicorn in pieces.) The item they’d unwrapped came with a note. A clue, actually. A clue to where the next piece of the puzzle was hidden.
We traipsed around the house that morning, giggling with excitement. I trailed behind my brothers, still with no idea what we were finding but just as excited as they were. Each new piece came with another clue directing us to the location of the next. Eventually, we sat in the living room, all the pieces collected and the gift revealed.
It was a Nintendo Entertainment System. It came with Duck Hunt and Super Mario Bros. It was blocky and gray, hardly the most visually exciting gift to look at, but from the reaction of my brothers I knew it was going to be something totally amazing. (And possibly involving unicorns.) I had no idea at that point that the NES was going to play a role in determining the direction of my life. It was the first droplet to fall, the beginning of what would eventually become a trickle, then a stream, then a river.
The only game I actually played on that console was Duck Hunt, and I cheated by sitting less than six inches away from the TV and just blasted everything that moved. To this day, I’ve never beaten the first level in Super Mario Bros. I watched my brothers, though, and I was entranced. I can remember the sound of Yoshi eating a turtle and it’s like someone’s playing the game right next to me. Those blips and bloops had a kind of charm to them, and they’re as much a part of my childhood as our dog Sparkles and my school friends and the books I read. They were the catalyst, and my current career is the result.
It wasn’t a direct path, of course. More on that later.
*I looked up when the NES bundle with SMB and Duck Hunt came out. It was 1988, so the youngest I could have possibly been was 3. That sounds about right.