Lesson from a Super Nintendo Controller

The Power of Nostalgia

The original, with countless hours of game time.

The Backstory

There’s nothing like picking up an object and having a flood of memories come back to you of video games that were conquered.

It was only a matter of time before I’d find something to write about that encompassed so many hours of my childhood… okay, and adulthood too… that would be a great fit for a story. It’s no secret that I like to play video games, and it all started by in 1987 when we got our first Nintendo… the original, a.k.a. “regular Nintendo.”

We would play for hours — classic games like Super Mario Brothers, Blaster Master, Star Fox, and Jackal. We were dedicated… playing with the original, non-ergonomic controllers that had corners that weren’t rounded or smooth. Really… they created blisters on our thumbs. But…

No worries! We would wrap Kleenex and Scotch tape over the blisters and kept on playing. Like I said… we were dedicated. Hard times, I know. Kids have it so good these days with their fancy joystick controls and touch screens. I’m not jealous… I have those things now too.

The Object

Hand-eye coordination trainer. The Super Nintendo controller.

When asked which video game console is my favorite… while a tough choice, it’s the Super Nintendo and the classic controller that introduced an advanced era of hand-eye coordination skill development.

Yes, the Super Nintendo controller… the new B, A, Y, X buttons, with the entry of the L and R buttons… a layout that changed the future of video games. The beginning of “all hands [and fingers] on deck” gaming; no finger or thumb shall go unused or go without purpose.

I still got it.

I still have the original Super Nintendo I played with when I was little, along with all of the original games that we played at the time. When I unraveled the ridiculously long cord wrapped about the controller (because controllers used to have wires), I had immediate flashbacks to a slew of video games and button sequences that I haven’t thought about in a long time — and surprised I still remembered. The glory and defeats.

It probably helped that the controller fit like a glove. Cold, slightly yellow with age, but as responsive and durable as it ever was. Products with this type of quality don’t get made often any more… reminds me of the story I wrote about a Hot Wheels car.

Hello, old friend.

I just sat in my chair pressing the buttons, as if I was playing a game. I mentally played out levels in my head without even thinking about it. Like I never stopped playing. Button sequences of finishing kills in Killer Instinct, racing through the track sequences in Uniracers… man, those were the days of mindless gaming when victory meant crossing the finish line or brutally mutilating your opponent. I miss those days; however, somehow, I started growing up.

The “Growing Up” Transition

It was was the fall of 2015 when I was catching up on playing a Call of Duty game from 2013 when something came over me. This wasn’t fun anymore. What?! I spent hours mindlessly going through levels blowing up stuff and racking up my head shot count in earlier games of the franchise. Why wasn’t this fun anymore?

This question perplexed me for a long time. Playing games where timing, completing levels, and gearing up is what I spent 28 years doing… that is crazy when you think about it. Mid-life crisis? Maybe. Getting too old for video games? No way. Wanting something more? Yea.

I realized that I had “graduated” from that style of game play. Wow. What a revelation. I subconsciously started to realize this when I played Assassin’s Creed III in 2013 and experienced “open world” game play for the first time. I got so wrapped up in the story and the history. This is the next level… the appreciation for a good story… like you’re “playing a movie.”

Apparently, I’m not alone.

A research study actually backs up my personal observation that the older a person gets, the less competitive they tend to be with video games (or maybe life in general):

Nielsen Norman Group
Evidence-Based User Experience Research, Training, and Consulting
https://www.nngroup.com/articles/game-user-research/
Average gamer scores, expressed as standard deviations from the overall mean across all ages and genders. High scores indicate people who are more motivated by competition. Source: Quantic Foundry and this article from Nielsen Norman Group’s study, https://www.nngroup.com/articles/game-user-research/.

The Lesson

Arguably, the hardest part of this whole “graduating to the next level” of game style is me “breaking up” with Nintendo. I’ve been a loyal fan of Nintendo for almost 30 years… all the way through the Wii U, which I still think had a ton of never-realized potential.

That’s a long time to be fan, but the reality is the style of games that I like to play now are not being made for play on Nintendo’s console. It’s sad. And now, it will be another console that will be stored away, so one day it can later be discovered, and the nostalgic memories of historic games can once again be played out in our minds.

The take-aways:

  • You never really forget what you practiced many hours doing.
  • Appreciate what got you where you are.
  • Memories are meant to shape who we will become.
  • Sometime, we just need to evolve… or grow up.

The strange thing is… holding the Super Nintendo controller somehow felt like I was back in control. Like I was a kid again, only this time, I knew how the story would turn out. We evolve and are creating new memories; new stories; new experiences. But once in a while, it’s important to go old-school and appreciate what got us here. Thank you Nintendo.

Written by Shaun Holloway.