How Nintendo Games Shaped My Childhood, and Continue to Shape My Adulthood

Anybody who knows me knows how much I love my Nintendo games. While I’m not some insane collector who owns every system and every game the company’s ever produced, I’ve always felt a certain loyalty to the brand. As I’ve gotten older, this love for Nintendo has only increased, though I recognize the company is not without their flaws. Their online system is a piece of garbage, they make of lot of decisions (read: WiiU) that leave me scratching my head, and their (occasionally purposeful) understocking of items is not very consumer-friendly.

But despite everything, I find myself falling in love with their games time and time again. I was beyond hype for Super Mario Odyssey, and I have over 160 hours logged into Splatoon 2, more than any other game in my lifetime. Considering I still call myself a semi-casual gamer, that’s a lot for me.

This intense passion comes from a mixture of nostalgia and a need to escape to somewhere where I’m always the good guy and everything works out in the end. While I can appreciate some darker games, something about Nintendo’s charm pulls me in every time.

‘Pokémon Yellow’ taught me how to read.

Photo by Melvina Mak on Unsplash

On September 12, 1998, Pokémon Yellow was released in the United States. At that time I was only 4 years old. I don’t think I got the game that close to release date, but I did recognize the Pikachu on the box art. I had seen the show many times and it was one of my favorites—I remember going to Blockbuster every week to rent episodes to watch over and over again. At that age I already knew I liked video games; though they were mostly educational-ish computer games like Freddie Fish and Jump Start Typing.

I begged and begged and begged my mom for this game. I threw tantrums to get my hands on this game. I think I got it, along with a Game Boy Color, in 1999 for Christmas. At 5 years old, I was introduced to a world of trading, battling, and getting to emulate the show I loved so much but play it out the way I wanted.

There were a ton of words that I didn’t understand. But in order to progress the game, I needed to be better. I learned words like “leer” so that I could remember what that move did. The more I played, the more I read, and the more I learned. Suddenly this game had not only been fun to play, but it made me learn without forcing it on me like some educational games would. No more, “What number is this?” You could have six Pokémon on a team, and you had to understand that number as a concept.

‘Animal Crossing’ helped me become more social.

I was a very, very shy child, which was a bit of a surprise to my incredibly social mother. Video games started to become my haven where I could just run around and do whatever I wanted. I could capture monsters in Pokémon and run around in Super Mario Sunshine without anyone telling me I was weird.

Sometime in 2003, I went over a classmate’s house and she turned on her GameCube. While her brother got mad because he had wanted to play Smash Bros, she popped in a game called Animal Crossing. You got to interact with cute little animals, go fishing, collect fossils, and do whatever you wanted. It was little Katie’s dream game.

After getting the game for my birthday that year, I dove into the little world. Because it ran in real-time, I had things to do each day when I got home from school. That gave me a sense of responsibility; if I didn’t play, my neighbors would get lonely. I had to talk to them, clean up the town, and do favors. I made what felt like, to me, genuine friendships from just being kind to the animals.

Suddenly it made my real life friendships easier to manage. From interacting with this virtual animals, I learned more about how to talk to others and what behaviors would make people mad at you. I learned that you have to keep in touch with people if you want to stay friends, but you also don’t have to be friends with everyone. I didn’t like all my villagers, and I didn’t have to.

Today, the Nintendo Switch makes my life, well, better.

“person holding Nintendo Switch” by Corey Motta on Unsplash

I’ve already written a lot about how much I love the Nintendo Switch so I won’t go too much into it, but this console has really had an effect on my life. After kind of dropping gaming in late high school through most of college (besides the occasional 3DS game), the Switch brought me back into the world of being expected for upcoming games and introduced me to the idea of caring about a company on a bigger picture level.

I suddenly cared about how the Switch was doing sales-wise, cared about Nintendo’s stock price, and saw my console as not just a fun thing to play, but an investment. I was an independent consumer now, and had to make important financial decisions. I could spend all the money I wanted on games, but now they were choices I had to make, rather than asking my mother for a gift.

And you know what? Nintendo games are, for the most part, worth that $60 price tag. Maybe as a kid I could ask my mom for a game knowing very little about it and not think twice about the cost, but now I can’t fathom how people pay $60 for some games. That’s a LOT of money for what I often believe is not enough content.

The thing about Nintendo games is that they are just pure fun.

I can run around in Breath of the Wild for hours doing nothing of importance just like I did in other games when I was a kid. I can escape the struggles of my high-stress job for a few hours at night and ride a horse across a seemingly endless map. Nintendo games take me out of the reality that surrounds me and stresses me out to the point of panic attacks. When I went through a really bad breakup earlier this year, hiding under blankets playing on the Switch distracted me for a little bit. It was ironic, seeing how something that had originally brought my ex and I together ended up healing me from our separation. Even though we had often played them together, these were still my games. My escape. My realities.

Nintendo games have always been there for me.

While I have a connection to video games in general, the one to Nintendo games is special. They helped to raise me as a kid and continue to help me care about the industry today. I don’t doubt that it’s the same for many people in my generation; and others might have a tight connection to Xbox or Playstation games. That’s the beauty of it, in the end—everyone is inspired by different types of games. If you hold your 200 hours in Call of Duty near and dear to your heart, more power to you. At the end of the day, if video games had a significant impact on your life, whether they were developed by Nintendo, Sony, Ubisoft, or anyone, it’s something to be proud of.