My siblings and I had kind of bad upbringing. Not “oh no I’m grounded because I did something stupid and I can’t get my way” kind of bad. Tumultuous, hungry, turbulent, lonely, even violent bad. We poor, abused, confused.
In the mid to late 90s, we found solace and solidarity in otherwise mundane things. Fall afternoons shooting Nerf guns at each other. Hours wasted away watching Nickelodeon and The Simpsons. Three controllers plugged into a curvaceous, charcoal Nintendo 64. Small, unremarkable bubbles that kept us safe.
I’m not interested in discussing sales numbers or the rate at which new releases appeared on the Nintendo 64. I’m not even interested in discussing the quality of the games. All of that whiny shit is just fodder for boring people with no other way to measure the worth of the dollars or time spent on some appliance that now rests, slanted to one side, somewhere in their closet. The value of the Nintendo 64 is not measured in numbers or dick waving for me.
To understand the value of the Nintendo 64 is to understand what it is like to have nothing else when dinner is but toast and watered down Kool-Aid. The terrifying feeling of not knowing when your parents will be home. To know what it’s like to be scared, to not know where you might sleep tonight, to absolutely hate every other moment of your life. Four controller ports. That’s all it took to stave off depression, anxiety, frustration, anger. Nothing else at the time could have bound us together.
The Nintendo 64 was a port in a storm. Shelter in a disaster. It brought me and my brother and my sister together around a mediocre 20″ tube TV, its cord severed and taped together after our father cut it in some fit of rage. Cartridges shoved into a console. Loose, wobbly analog sticks. Shit talking, wailing, complaining, mostly just laughing. We had so very little else. It’s not a number, it’s not just an appliance, it’s not just video games. There is no argument; it might have been all we had.