Why does Chaos reside in the spiders lair?

The tagline for my website, blog posts, podcast and videos is always Welcome to The Spiders Lair, Where Chaos Resides. I have spent a lot of time ensuring the branding and message is uniform across all platforms. I do this to ensure consistency, it’s the first rule of design they teach you in college. The capital C in CRAP. When I was in college my teacher told me she was going to teach us CRAP I was intrigued. I was drawn to the idea of using a catchy acronym that relied on irony to get the point across.

I chose to make the theme of my website chaos for a number of reasons. The most important reasons I see my work as a reflection of the chaos we experience as humans in this universe we try to make sense out of. I mostly use the lens of pop culture and geek culture to filter out the chafe and get to the heart of the human experience. Thus I like the idea of a site branded around chaos. It gives me the freedom to pick and choose the topics as I see fit. I don’t have to shoe horn my thoughts into a theme like movies, video games or what have you. I can keep the topics fairly open ended. I enjoy that. I decided on naming my website The Spiders Lair, no punctuation, because I want to demonstrate I am appealing to basement dwellers and rebels. The rebellion against punctuation is not so much a concerted effort, it’s laziness on my part but that can be a side effect of rebelling. I am a loner. That is not a word I band about lightly. I literally live lone and spend my life alone. I rarely get out and socialize. Yet I do not feel alone. It’s a concept some members of my family struggle with relating to. Nonetheless I continue to live my life my way. It works for me for the most part.

I originally used the tag line To Organize Chaos. I felt it worked on a marketing level because it conveyed the idea I was trying to get across, that is a website with no central theme to speak of out side my own experiences and observations. I didn’t exactly want it to be a personal blog so to speak, just centered on my personal experiences and observations.

There is an episode of the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond where Frank Barone tries to write a column for the newspaper called I was just thinking. In the episode he jots down random thoughts with no connection to anything. As a writer this is clearly not the way to keep an readers attention.

On the note of punctuation, I do my best all things considered. That being I dropped out of high school, earned a GED and then studied journalism at university. Between the quirks of AP style, my own deficiencies and well that pesky laziness I mentioned before, I often make grammatical and punctuation mistakes. I’ll admit I make an effort to look up a rule I broke after it is brought to my attention. I just don’t make much of an effort to learn the rules I am fuzzy on.

One thing that does appeal to me is writing a disjointed article with a few random, smaller topics to catch your attention. I suppose if one were to use sub heads to keep it organized it could work. Here are some random thoughts THE RAT would like to share with the world.

What makes Degrassi so damn appealing?

I first encountered Degrassi High when I was in middle school. I started out doing some detention during lunch and those kids who were considered at risk or prone to getting into trouble, like myself, were offered an opportunity to sit and watch Degrassi during our lunch period as a way to keep us, and our victims, safe from the violence we exhibited among one another. I wasn’t exactly a bully but I took my own frustrations of being bullied out on those weaker than I. It was not something I am proud of today. However it introduced me to a Canadian TV series I can honestly say shaped my life for years.

Once I grew up I decided to give Degrassi a second chance. I started at the very  beginning with Ida Makes a Movie. I enjoyed it enough to go through the next several iterations from Kids of Degrassi Street to the aforementioned Junior/Senior high incarnation. Then out of morbid curiosity I kept going well into Degrassi The Next Generation. I was several seasons in before I snapped out of my trance and walked away. I don’t know what it was that hooked me on this Canadian treasure but somehow it spoke to me in a weird way. I have contemplated going back to review the original series but I haven’t yet found an economical way of going about it. In a way it kind of makes me feel like a jerk asking friends and family to buy me the DVD’s for say Christmas or birthdays because I made a fuss about that one time I got a Jay and Silent Bob Do Degrassi DVD for Christmas. It was, at the time, a touchy subject because I was forced into the show for disciplinary reasons originally. Still, now that I have settled into my fate as an oddball I suppose I can go back to one of the shows that helped inspire my oddball behavior in the first place.

The Mortal Kombat, Freddy Krueger and The Mask connectivity

The story about how Mortal Kombat changed the video game rating industry is well documented and much discussed. The lesser known story is how Freddy Krueger is to blame for the famed film adaptation being slapped with a paltry PG-13 rating when the studio making the video game famous for its gore was itself famous for gore.

New Line Cinema chose to censor Mortal Kombat on the the grounds they already had A Nightmare on Elm Street as a violent, R-rated franchise. During the negotiation stage New Line picked up the rights to adapt The Mask, bloody/gory comic book series. Due to Wes Craven’s New Nightmare being a darker, gorier fare for the famed Springwood Slasher’s recent theatrical outings, the studio opted to use their new shiny prize, the recently signed rising star Jim Carry, to make a kid friendly comic book adaptation of a gory comic property. This worked so well the studio repeated the formula by scrubbing almost all the gore necessary from the big budget Mortak Kombat picture toning it down to a PG-13 action/fantasy martial arts flick rather than an R-rated horror/fantasy film it could have been. This has left a sour taste in the lives of fans the world over as the film, while a success, spawned a not-so-beloved sequel. Oh well.

Still, as someone who was always a fan of Freddy and became a fan of the Mortal Kombat video game independent of all the stuff New Line was plotting to do, I can say it was a strange twist of fate learning how interconnected these three properties became. I was already an instant fan of The Mask upon first viewing. Years later upon learning how it was loosely connected to the franchise that spawned, literally, my favorite film of all time, well that was a treat in itself.

Discovering Doctor Who for the first time was a thrill

I don’t often get into British shows. To be honest aside from the above mentioned Degrassi, I rarely find myself entertained by any foreign TV shows. One day I was flipping through the cable channels when I stumbled upon the Sci-Fi channel, before its rebrand. I saw a blue telephone booth smash into the side of a building and a disoriented man stumbled out. A blond woman asked a girl who the man was, she replied the doctor, and the woman asked “Doctor Who?” Then the opening credits began to scroll.

The theme song caught my attention so I figured I would give it a shot. I had heard references over the years to a time traveling space alien science fiction show called Doctor Who so I was curious to check it out. Following the first commercial break I lost interest. The so-called “doctor” was pointing a “sonic screwdriver” at a killer Christmas tree that was attacking the family. I rolled my eyes and changed the channel thinking I would never go back.

A couple of months later I was again flipping through the channels and once against landed on the SyFy channel, as they had since rebranded. I was puzzled by the odd spelling so I figured I would watch a little until I came across a bumper that might explain what I was seeing as networks often advertise rebranding. There was a British man talking to a young girl about her son who was killed by a bomb that wasn’t a bomb. The exchange between the two characters caught my attention. The next scene an American gentleman was sitting atop an invisible space ship hitting on that same blond I saw from before. I figured this was another episode of that Doctor Who but this time it didn’t seem so juvenile.

The episode, I found out later, was called The Empty Child. The episode got me instantly hooked. I sat there for what I quickly learned was a marathon. I followed it up with The Doctor Dances. The two-parter was all it took to get me sitting there for the rest of the day. Immediately following the end of the season the show began to unravel. The doctor had died at the end of the episode and suddenly a new man appeared in his place. It was that goofy looking fellow from the Christmas episode, which this time I watched to the end. Having some context, and a heart beat for Rose Tyler, I decided to give the show a chance.

It didn’t take long before I became a die hard fan. I ended up, thanks in part to Neflix and some other shadier portions of the internet, going back and watching the first 40 or so years of the franchise. Oh it was an instant love affair. I had been craving a science fiction show of this sort and here it was running not only the course of my entire life, but once I discovered it I learned my mom had watched it when she was a kid. So it became a tradition for the two of us to sit and catch the latest Doctor Who episode each week on BBC America. One of these days I hope to go back and cover my favorite episodes more in depth. I am only saddened by the way Netflix has discarded the show making it harder for me to view.

More Than Meets the Eye revival ignites the interwebs

The year was 2001. I had just finished my tumultuous high school education and was beginning to branch into the wild west of web design. Once online I discovered a community of Transformer fans who called themselves “TransFans.” Needless to say bonds were made, friendships were crafted and things were going good. Then as time went on the word Trans began to take on a new meaning, leaving Transformer fans unsure if they should continue using the moniker. Despite the growing tensions between the car-robots “trukk not Monkee” blow hards and the “Beasts are better” cult, things got heated. Eventually Hasbro discovered a way to tap into the community’s need for nostalgia by launching several retro lines intended to milk money from those fans now beginning to enter the work force. Everything culminated in the launch of a live-action series that started in 2007 with a love letter to those same fans. Finally the main stream was willing to recognize what me and my friends had known all along, giant alien robots make good entertainment.

This is only a small sampling of the insights THE RAT stores up here at the Spiders Lairs, Where Chaos Resides. For more deeper thoughts, unfiltered uncensored and completely uncut be sure to check out The Dark Web Podcast, a show made by a basement dwelling oddball for other basement dwelling freaks. Stay Cool.

Transformers Star Trek crossover

Crossovers have been a big part of the comic book and sci-fi/horror genres for decades. Sometimes crossovers make fans excited, other times they make fans angry.

Learning about a Star Trek meets the Transformers crossover sounds like the kind of fan service, on the surface at least, fans of both franchise should be excited for. If you consider the Transformers are sentient alien robots while the Borg, a race of sentient alien robots, exists in Star Trek the two certainly do have some room for crossing over.

The problem I have is based on the roots of the franchises. The issue for me goes back to the Marvel Comics days. Under the old Transformers comics published under Marvel the Transformers were grafted into the Marvel Universe. Numerous references, including a Spider-Man appearance early on, cement this point of view. Now Star Wars was a part of the Marvel Universe during the same time period and now, under Disney, they are also under the Marvel Universe officially now.

If this crossover takes place it could bring Star Trek and Star Wars into the same multiverse. This is problematic when you consider DC comics published Star Trek comics once. Paramount wants to launch their own shared universe. Their most popular science fiction properties are Transformers and Star Trek. Although G.I. Joe is popular, they’ve already done plenty of crossovers with the Transformers.

From a purely story-telling standpoint there is plenty of room for the Robots in Disguise to exist in as many science fiction multiverses as those with the property rights desire to allow. The only issue I see is them falling into the trap of tying the Cybertronians to the Borg in a weird way. I would hope they find away to insist they aren’t the same but the robots have to prove this fact to the crew of the Enterprise first.

The next issue that I see is which incarnation of each fiction does this take place within? For example would it be Next Generation crew going up against Beast Wars characters? What about Voyager crew facing the G1 movie team? Or the worse match up, Original Crew facing Armada characters. There’s so many possibilities. Of course I haven’t read the entire details on what could be coming all I know is the announcement alone has me curious. It’s one of those annoying crossover stories that will probably end up being a highly sought after one off or mini series collectors and fans of both franchises must have. As an avid Transformers fan and passing Star Trek viewer I can say it certainly sits on my list of comics I might pick up down the road.

Saturday Morning Cartoon memories

It’s been a few years since the major networks ceased doing their Saturday Morning Cartoons blocks on TV. As a child in the 80’s and into the 90’s the whole ritual of getting up early on Saturday morning and being glued to the TV wasn’t just something we did, it was pretty much all we did.

Everyone has different memories of the Saturday Morning cartoons. For me it was often fighting my three sisters for control over what we watched next. Fortunately we did have 2 TV sets, although the smaller one was in black and white and was mostly used for video games, it still caused many fights that often ended with someone getting hurt. My oldest sister is 3 years my senior so she always wanted to watch stuff like Soul Train and in later years MTV. My immediately younger sister was barely a year and a half younger than I was so she typically had similar tastes in cartoons as I did, except she had this weird obsession with puppets so he gravitated towards stuff like Eureka’s Castle, Fraggle Rock and things of the like. I could get her into Pound Puppies, Snorks and Muppet Babies just fine, but she protested watching Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Transformers, G.I. Joe or even Scooby Doo. I never could figure out what she didn’t like about Scooby and friends. Then there was my baby sister. She had no say, all she wanted to watch was Rugrats and Nicktoons, didn’t matter what day of the week. When they moved Doug and Recess and all that Nickelodeon crap over to my network TV slots I sort of moved on and let her have it.

Of course not all the cartoons we watched aired first on Saturday mornings. Often times they were re-runs of syndicated shows and shows that ran earlier in the week. To that end we never really knew what we were going to get. My earliest memories were watching the Heroic Autobots battle the Evil Decepticons for control of the world’s energy sources. You could argue that watching this show about robots running out of energy contributed to my interest in alternative energy sources, but let’s not give too much credit to the animators of a Japanese cartoon. Save some of the blame for Captain Planet and his Planeteers that would come much later.

Another thing I liked to do during the week was record episodes of cartoons, commercials, and other shows that interested me and play them back on the weekend. I didn’t do this often but it was something I would dabble in. Normally I would end up erasing one of my sisters’ boy band concert videos so when they found out I taped over their boy crush for a bunch of random commercials and crap they would usually go ballistic. Most of my memories were fighting my sisters over what to watch more than enjoying the actual program. Because of this what we typically did was landed on one channel, watched it until commercials then flipped as fast as we could to the next and so on and so forth. This meant we were only getting bits and pieces of each show, but it was better than sitting through an entire episode of that lame New Kids on the Block cartoon that, in my opinion, never should have existed. Those brief moments in between when I got a glimpse of M.A.S.K., or C.O.P.S (why did so many cartoons back then use acronyms?), that’s when I would get excited.

I did eventually get crafty in my ability to turn my sisters on each other. I found ways to get the baby to play with her toys while I would get my younger sister and older sister fighting over a hair brush or article of clothing or something sisters cared about then I would sit on the floor way too close to the tube and claim it for my own. Once my parents would see I was firmly engrossed in a show if one of my sisters tried to change the channel they would get scolded with a firm “You weren’t even watching it, he was let him finish his show.” This strategy worked more often than not. I can’t be sure if they ever caught on because the oldest sister moved on to chasing boys and the youngest sister was easy to manipulate leaving the one opponent, the middle child. Even at the tender age of 8 I quickly learned how to negotiate with the middle child. I would usually agree let me watch this show and the next one and you can have it after that while I play Super Mario Bros. Since I tended to hog the Nintendo and always force my sister to be Luigi, it was easy for me to casually hint that she could play as Mario while I watched my shows. Then all I had to do was enjoy my programs while she romped through the Mushroom Kingdom with player 1 controller in hand for a change. This strategy didn’t always work as my parents were slow to increase our catalog of Nintendo games and my sister was quick to lose interest in the three games we did own for the longest time.

Manipulating my sisters was only half the battle. I also had to find crafty ways to get my parents out of the house in order to prolong the part where dad would kick me out of the house to play outside while he napped on the couch with the TV tuned to some fishing show or NASCAR or whatever else it was adults watched to fall asleep. Normally by the time the parents told us to play outside I would casually, sometimes sneakily, make my way into whichever side room had the video games and try to get in as many rounds of Atari or Nintendo as I could. We still had both systems well into the 90’s so this usually worked out until my parents just decided to give me my own TV set and I ended up winning the war for the TV after all was said and done.

For me it was mostly fought on Saturday mornings. Everyone remembers those blocks. I didn’t have much preference either. I would sit through an episode of the Alf or Teen Wolf cartoon, flip it over to an episode of Care Bears or even sit through an episode of Rainbow Brite if that’s what it took to keep the cartoons going and the old westerns my parents enjoyed off the TV. The battle continued Monday through Friday as I would get up at 5 in the morning, turn the TV to a minimum volume and sit through episodes of The Odd Couple, Perfect Strangers, Mork and Mindy, even Kate and Allie, just so I could stake my claim to the TV set before school.

I had a set list of shows I couldn’t miss. Transformers was TOP priority. It didn’t matter if it was Saturday morning, before school, after school or a random tape I rented from the video store, if there was a chance I could get my buddy Optimus Prime on the TV set I was going to do whatever it took. Priority number 2 was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I would also watch this regularly whenever it aired as well as rent tapes from the video store. Priority 3 was X-Men the Animated series. This came alter but once I discovered it this show became a must watch. Fortunately for me both of my younger sisters developed an equally strong interest in X-Men characters (they each also collected the comics and trading cards as did I) so it was much easier to get them to call a truce when that show came on. Then down the list the priority was, shows with robots, shows with magic, shows with mutants, shows with cute girls that had purple or pink hair (yeah I was weird sue me) then at the bottom of the list was shows with talking animals. This, of course, only applied to cartoons.

Live-action shows was much different. I prioritized shows with a cute girl I crushed on, Saved by the Bell it was Kelly, Sabrina the Teenage Witch/Clarissa Explains it All it was, you guessed, the awesome Melissa Joan Heart, and okay well there wasn’t a cute girl on Boy Meets World, I just found that show funny as hell. And in case you are wondering, it was the red head with glasses on any show that had a red head with glasses. Or any girl with glasses. For some reason I was into chicks with glasses… Okay moving on…

By the time the 90’s rolled around I was shifting into more live-action stuff like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Super Human Samurai Cyber Squad, and CGI animated shows like Reboot and Beast Wars. I only gave Beast Wars casually passing as I was a die-hard TRUKK NOT MONKEE type. Still I eventually came around and became more interested in that show. The 90’s also saw my tastes briefly shift to anime. I got into Sailor Moon, Ronin Warriors, Dragon Ball Z, The Slayers, Patlabor, and even Digimon for a while. By the time my anime watching friends were getting into Powerpuff Girls I had snapped out of it and the anime spell was broken. I haven’t hardly looked back either. I do remember though, the Saturday Anime block that came on the Sci-Fi channel. We didn’t have cable when we were very young, so we didn’t have the Sci-Fi channel (as it was called back then) until mid-95. By that time I was pretty much over the Saturday Morning cartoon craze.

Those are some of my memories, please comment your thoughts, memories and stories plus favorite cartoons from the 80s and 90s, anime excluded if you can.

My G.I. Joe memories

In 2009 Paramount Pictures teamed up with Hasbro to make a live-action G.I. Joe film. It was loosely tied into the Michael Bay live-action Transformers film series. I personally enjoyed the film. I went into is expecting a science fiction action movie based on a cartoon, based on a toy, based on a generic Vietnam War soldier. Yeah, it was a complicated mess. I was never a big G.I. Joe collector. I was, however, very into the Transformers, Hasbro’s other popular action figure line.

This is just going to be me looking back on all of my memories of the G.I. Joe franchise.

As far as I can tell my earliest memories are sometime around 1987. I vaguely remember having a couple of random Joe action figures, to this day I couldn’t tell you any more about them, honestly even if I saw them in a catalog or on a collectors shelf I don’t think I could pick them out. What I do remember is the cartoon. Mostly because, at least where I lived, it aired immediately following the Transformers cartoon. I was such a huge Transformers nut that I didn’t want the show to end. I would keep watching G.I.Joe because it was close enough it almost had that Transformers feel to it. It had a good vs. evil plot, diabolical robots, a futuristic science fiction technology, and most importantly, many of the same voice actors. Even as a kid before IMDb or Wikipedia, I know that Starscream and Cobra Commander were voiced by the same guy. In a lot of ways the two shows were connected.

I continued watching G.I. Joe even after Transformers went off the air. My earliest memories, I think, were around 1987, I would have been 5 years old. I am not talking life memories, just these two shows. I do very distinctly remember watching Transformers episodes with a giant Optimus Prime robot and a little boy, I later learned this would have been the 1987-88 season, around the time the show was cancelled. I used to tune in to he same channel I thought Transformers had come on, never finding it but always looking. I kept watching the Joes in vain hoping that some day the Autobots would return to their war against the Decepticons. I remember watching the 3rd and 4th seasons of the cartoon with Cobra Commander becoming a real snake, then turning back into a man, and them introducing Serpentor, then the show got too weird for me, I didn’t recognize enough of the characters to stay interested, plus this was around the time I discovered the TMNT cartoon. This distracted me from the lack of Transformers, and was a satisfying alternative to G.I Joe: A Real American Hero, to the point I was able to finally stop tuning in. This was also around the time the Disney Afternoon cartoon block became popular so my interests had shifted. At this time I no longer had any connection to the Joes or Cobra. I would continue to pick up random action figures at flea markets, thrift stores and yard sales, always frantically looking for Transformers, or even Go-Bots figures, but I would pick up a Joe or a Cobra from time to time, if I came across them.

I wouldn’t come into full contact with G.I. Joe again until 1993. This was the time when Transformers Generation 2 launched on TV and just like before, Real American Hero was on immediately following. This time I watched the 5-part G.I. Joe: The Movie episodes, bought, or was gifted can’t really remember, one of those multiple puzzle murals featuring depictions of G.I Joe characters. It was one where if you had all 4 puzzles you could take off the edge piece and connect them into a large mural. I never complete the puzzle, let alone the set, but I did work on it day and night for a good couple of weeks or so. It was around this time I came across an original Sgt. Slaughter action figure for sale at a Good Will for like fifty cents or something, it was dirt cheap. I snatched it up, he was one of my favorite characters from the show, and wrestling too, which I was still sorta of into around this time.

Something else happened in 1993. I was introduced to the Mortal Kombat arcade game. I was immediately hooked and began playing that game obsessively for the next 2 decades. Yes I still re-play the original arcade games to this day. Mostly I switch back and forth between MAME and the collection on PS3, plus I also own Midways Arcade Treasures. Anyways, getting off topic. I also got into collecting comic books, trading cards and TMNT figures at this time. Plus I was just starting to get back into Transformers collecting full force with all of the G2 stuff coming out. In the summer of 1994 I started reading Wizard Magazine, and inside there were all of this kitbashed toys where someone would take one action figure and turn it into something else. I was super obsessed with Mortal Kombat. MKII was all the rage and Kung Lao was my favorite character. If you can’t guess where this is going let me assure you toy collectors, yes I kitbashed an original Sgt. Slaughter action figure to look like a Kung Lao action figure. Or at least, I tried. I ended up destroying the toy in the process. The ironic thing is, just months afterwards I was in K-Mart and there on the shelf was an actual MKII Kunk Lao toy, not surprisingly as they were made by Hasbro, they used the same style of figures as G.I.Joe toys, so needless to say I destroyed an 80’s classic trying to turn it into a $3 toy that was available for sale at K-Mart the whole damn time!

I skipped G.I. Joe Extreme or whatever it was called. I had grabbed a few Transformers comics along the way during my comic book collecting days, including some of those Transformers and G.I. Joe cross over comics. By 1997 I was pretty much done buying toys altogether. I lost interest in Transformers once Beast Wars came on the scene, TMNT had fallen into the toilet by this time, and I was never that into G.I. Joe to start off with so I was done with it for the next few years. It wouldn’t be until 2001 with the launch of the Robots in Disguise toy line before I would slowly start to get back into collecting Transformers. I was also discovering retro game collecting at this time, mostly NES, SNES, and SEGA, so my money was spread pretty thin. I 2003 my sister married a guy who told me about his G.I. Joe collecting day when he was a kid and I started to learn more about the toys from him, not much but more than I had ever known. This wasn’t enough to spark any interest in me or desire to collect but it was enough to read up on the newly popular internet about the history of the franchise and how it intersected with Transformers and Star Wars. Since I was already a huge fan of Star Wars also, this knowledge started to pique my curiosity so I began learning more about the history of the toy line.

I didn’t have any further connections or experience with the toys until sometime in 2004 or 2005. I remember buying one of my nephews one of the Joe figures for Christmas. He was kind of excited for it for a while, then, he wasn’t. I did end up picking up a copy of both Transformers: The Movie and G.I. Joe: The Movie, the original cartoons. This was around 2007 I think. This sparked some nostalgia within me and pretty soon I learned about the upcoming film. Since the Transformers movie just released that same year, and I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, in fact I bought an HD-DVD player and a copy of the movie to watch it in HD on my new HDTV in 2008. This was right around the time they announced they were discontinuing the format so I was able to get the player and movie very cheap. Actually free, because a guy bought it for me as payment, or thank you, for fixing his computer.

Then in the summer of 2009 I dragged a few of my unwilling friends to go see this new movie and, I loved it. I shouldn’t have,  didn’t have very strong ties to the series, I didn’t have much nostalgia for it, but I thought it was a fun movie. By this time I had also picked up a Blu Ray player so I was able to get the film on Blu Ray when it released. A few years later I watched the mess of a sequel, which I still can’t stand and refuse to re-watch.

Since this time the most I have connected with the series is reading the entire Transformers cross over comics, buying a couple random action figures for nephews over the years, and watching some Angry Video Game Nerd videos where he reviewed the old games based on the cartoon.

My most current tie was about three weeks ago when I picked up a sealed 25th anniversary figure of Storm Shadow, sealed, at a yard sale, for $5. Based on preliminary research on ebay/Amazon/craigslist, this would appear to be a fairly good deal. I am not going to sell the toy, but also I am not going to start a collection either. I just thought it was an interesting piece to add to my collection.

And there you have it, my 30+ year history with the Hasbro/Marvel/Sunbow/Paramount franchise known as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

Chronicles of a Nintendo fan, the end of an era

Everyone has played Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, Legend of Zelda, Duck Hunt, Wii Sports, or Pokemon at some point in their life it seems. A lot of people grew up playing some form of Nintendo. I wanted to chronicle my life as a gamer, my evolution as a Nintendo fan, and my recent decisions regarding the current state of the Nintendo I once fell in love with.

For the world it began in 1985 with the release of Duck Hunt/Super Mario Bros. combo pack. For me it began in 1987 at a laundromat in Delphos Kansas. A small town the people in the next town over haven’t even heard of. Up to that point I was an Atari guy, we had an Atari machine at our house we used to play the crap out of that thing, mostly games nobody ever remembers the names too along with a few favorites like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Asteroids, Haunted House, etc. My arcade experience was mostly confined to Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man at the local bar in town we sometimes ate at as it doubled as a restaurant. Then there I was sitting in a laundromat bored out of my mind begging my mom for quarters to play one of the video games they had in the corner. I don’t for the life of me remember what the other two games were but I do remember the one I dropped my $.25 cents into, it was a game called Donkey Kong featuring this tiny man jumping over barrels and climbing ladders. At first I hated the game, man it was hard compared to Pac-Man my previous arcade favorite, but something about it kept drawing me back.

I remember it was 1987 because I was barely 5 years old, I hadn’t started Kindergarten yet, I was living in Delphos Kansas and I was born in 1982 so it had to be 1987. I also remember having mixed feelings about the game. Then we moved to another town called Minneapolis, Kansas. It was New Year’s Eve going into 1988, my family was attending a party with some friends my parents had made, this kid named Marvin who I remember very little about. What I do remember is when I asked if they had an Atari they said no, I should have been bummed but what they did have was so  much better. They took me downstairs to the play room where they kept all their toys, had the TV set up for the kids and they was this VCR-sized machine with these funny gray “tapes” stacked up beside it and the kid was holding an ugly little square controller with 2 buttons playing a game I never seen before, it was called The Legend of Zelda. He let me try it out and I was hooked immediately. Forget Atari man I wanted one of these, what were they called Intendos? I wanted one so bad. I spent the rest of that year BEGGING my parents for an Intendo I needed an Intendo bad. (yeah I didn’t learn it was Nintendo until we got one, that Christmas.)

It was the Christmas that almost didn’t happen though. See my mom had promised me a younger brother and in April of 1988 she brought me home, nope not the brother she promised, but ANOTHER sister, I mean come on I had one older and one younger than me I was surrounded by icky girls I was ready for a boy in the house to help me tear the place down. Well needless to say the “bundle of joy” came along early enough in the year there was some doubt what sort of Christmas we would end up with. Turns out most of the fears were for naught as under the tree was a present in a HUGE box larger than any we as a family had seen up to that point. Christmas Day arrives and we tear into it me and my two sisters that were old enough to do so and BEHOLD the Intendo machine I been begging for! Yeah parents made me forget that my baby brother was missing some parts. Oh well plugged my gaming machine into the TV, powered up some Duck Hunt and blasted Ducks till it was time to go back to school. Yeah it was a year after I had gotten my first taste of Nintendo before we had one in our home but man it was worth it, my tiny little six-year-old hands couldn’t be seen without a Nintendo control pad in them for a VERY long time.

Fortunately for us there were not on, not two, but THREE stores in town that rented Nintendo games so I was lucky to get to experience so many “great” games ranging from the hotly anticipated Who Framed Roger Rabbit to the nobody heard of before Little Nemo, to a bunch of games I can’t even sarcastically pretend were good because honestly I totally forgot their names they mostly sucked. Still even if the rentals were hit or miss, we had one gem at home, Super Mario Bros. Not Mario Bros. no we had SUPER Mario Bros. In the 80’s Rad, Awesome, Ultra, Super, Radical, or Mega, if your thing didn’t have one of those words in the title it wasn’t really worth your time. I played that game to death, literally poor Mario died countless deaths on his quest to save the poor princess from the evil turtle.

I don’t know if it was coincidence or what but it also happened that my favorite cartoon at the time and accompanying toy line also featured some beastly looking Turtles, so I was able to “pretend” my Leonardo action figure was “King Koopa” and any Optimus Prime action figure was Mario and I could re-create my favorite “scenes” from the game over and over, with toys. It was about this time my hobby of Nintendo began to become an obsession the likes of which would dominate my youth for many years to come.

I enjoyed the early days of the NES tremendously, randomly renting one game after another as my parents were too cheap to buy us that many games, and the few they did buy were sadly from the bargain clearance rack which meant they usually were games nobody heard of or nobody wanted to play. I wasn’t complaining though man I loved that little gray box. I loved it so much my parents bought me a small black and white TV and set it up next to my bed so I could sit and play at night before I fell a sleep. I thought once I discovered Nintendo there was no going back the world had changed and Atari was quickly fading into memory.

My love of Nintendo even stretched into other areas of my life. I begged mom to buy Mario valentines day cards for my friends, I had Mario on my folders and notebooks for school, I watched the cartoon/TV extravaganza the “Super Mario Super Show” faithfully, even more so than my previously beloved Transformers. If Mario was on one channel and even Ninja Turtles, which I enjoyed, was on the other, Mario one every time. I even watched that movie, I won’t say the name you remember, and I was, well I liked parts of it, seeing Mario and Luigi on the big screen in their costumes was, um sorta satisfying, but, okay it was a mess of a movie that almost killed Nintendo for me but I sat in the theater hoping to enjoy it nonetheless, I even convinced my parents to buy a copy on VHS because as a kid I believed if I kept watching it would eventually get better. Yeah I was wrong sue me.

Things were progressing along just fine until one day I questioned Nintendo’s value to me. A friend of mine showed me his new game consoles, the Turbo Grafix 16. He bragged how it was so much better than Nintendo because it was 16 bits and Nintendo was “only” 8 bits. I didn’t know what the hell a bit was but if this machine had more of them it must be better. So I started looking through comic books to read Turbo Grafix ads and saw, it had a few games that looked cool. I started putting the work on my parents to buy me a new 16 bit machine and they shot it down dead with, when Nintendo makes one we will consider it. I thought that will never happen Nintendo is stuck in the past their machine is too popular there is no chance they will ever replace it. Of course I was 8 at the time what did I know. To be fair Super Mario Bros. 3 had just came out and well that game, 16 bit or not 16 bit, was a damn fine game that reminded me bits, what are bits, this game is FUN and fun is the name of the game. So  my interest in Turbo whatsitcalled faded and I plunged head first into my world of Nintendo.

Then everything changed in 1992. I was at another friends house who was showing me his newest toy, the Super Nintendo! Wait a Nintendo that was SUPER and not “regular” I had to have one. This put me on a quest to once again convince my parents I needed a new Nintendo player. Dad wasn’t falling for it, he just got the Nintendo three or four years prior, if they can’t last ten years he felt they weren’t worth the money spent on them. And so I waited. Christmas 1993 came and still no Super Nintendo under the tree. By this time I had begun to amass quite a collection of NES carts so I wasn’t exactly in a huge hurry to you know upgrade. That is until one fateful day everything changed for good, this time there was no going back. Sitting on the bus another kid showed me his new toy, the Sega Game Gear. My best friend at the time had a Game Boy and I already had dozens of those Tiger things at home so I was vaguely familiar with the concept of a hand held gaming device, but the tiny screens I just wasn’t sold. He was playing a game called Super Star Wars. I had played this game on NES and felt the Game Gear version definitely played better. Then he plugged in his Sonic cart. WHAT IS THIS? A “Mario” game that was actually as good as or even *gasp* better than Mario? Oh man I fell in love so hard with Sonic I immediately began to lose all interest in that lame Plumber from the Mushroom Kingdom. (This was the SAME Mario my mom had used to convince me cleaning the toilet was fun because “Mario is a plumber and plumbers clean toilets” yeah I fell for it, Doh!)

With my friends posters and Sega promotional material I now knew I had to have this new machine, the Sega Genesis. I had forgotten all about Super Nintendo and abandoned my quest to get one now I turned all my attention to Genesis. It was an easy sell, my parents were Sunday school teachers, the word Genesis is in the Bible it must be good right?  It worked, a little nudging, some careful planting of evidence and on my 12th birthday my parents gave me a Sega Genesis console with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 packed in! Whoo hoo I was happy. Yeah sorry Nintendo, Sega had Sonic, Mortal Kombat WITH the blood, Turrican, Shinobi, Streets of Rage, the BETTER Mighty Morphin Power Rangers games (shut up I was 12,) and it had not one but TWO totally amazing X-Men games and boy was I an X-Men nut by this time. The 16 bit wars were easily the best time to be a gamer and I loved drawing battle lines and picking what I knew was the right side, Sega Genesis all the way baby, it had games, it had Sega CD, it could play music, it could play Karaoke CD’s (didn’t know what they were but hey it could play them so it was cool!) Man I jumped on the Sega bandwagon so hard, to this day my online discussion forum handle more often than not is Sega Gamer 12, a throwback to getting a Genesis on my 12th birthday. Good times were had for a very long time.

Just like the transition from Atari to Nintendo then Nintendo to Sega I felt there was always going to be a newcomer to take out the old timer. Atari failed to make a comeback with their Jaguar, and even before it was announced I knew Saturn would bomb because it was over priced 32X and 32X was a joke, even I could see that at only 12 years of age. So where was I to go now that Nintendo had lost my interest? Don’t count the lovable house that Mario built out just yet my friends. Nintendo and Sega were battling it out in the home console and handheld market, Sega was killing it in arcades and I was a huge arcade fan, something was brewing that made me rethink everything. Virtaul Reality. We stopped calling it VR pretty quickly and then just called it 3D gaming but between Doom, Area 51, Virtua Fighter, Virtua Racing, Tekken, Cruisin USA, Killer Instinct, Star Fox, this new “VR-3D” gaming craze was upon us and I had to get in. The question then was which of the new 3D consoles was I going to set my sights on? There were four on the market or just around the corner.

It was middle 1995, summer, I had a job now I could save up my money and buy my OWN machine. No need to involve the parents anymore. I was saving up for a new 3D gaming box but which one do I go after? The Sega Saturn, and it’s blocky, ugly games that were not at all fun like Genesis? Or would it be Atari and..  not not even on my radar was the Jaguar sorry pass. What about Sony and their new fangled Play Station majigger? Not sure how much faith I have in a company known for making tape decks so I turned my attention to the one last hope for gaming, Nintendo Ultra 64, which was just around the corner. I enjoyed Killer Instinct and Cruisin USA in the arcades, I played the heck out of Area 51, and I was even starting to feel some nostalgia for Mario after playing Super Mario All-Stars at a cousins house that summer. This had me thinking Nintendo was going to be my next purchase. I saved up, went down to K-Mart in August of 1996 and put my N64 machine and Super Mario 64 game cart on advance layaway. It was going to cost me a whole bunch of money but I felt it was worth it I wanted 3D Mario.

The day before I was supposed to pay it off/pick it up something changed. My dad had taken me into this pawn shop, which introduced me to a whole new world of shopping I had never experienced before, and they had a complete working Super NES for a mere $40 bucks! I was like wow wait a second drop $250 on an N64 and ONE game, or take home this machine, a shoe box full of great Super NES games, and have money left over to buy 3 pieces of a 5 piece drum set? I had to cancel my Layaway, take that money to the pawn shop and load up on Super NES games.

With a Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis safely tucked away on my TV in my bedroom I was set for life baby. I was quickly reminded how much I enjoyed Nintendo games. I never fell for the 16 bit wars, I finally had both machines and I could honestly say they both gave me equal enjoyment over the years. Eventually this would morph into a half truth then Super NES would not only win out for me as the better machine overall, I would eventually settle on it as the greatest video game console, of all time.

Things were going good I was firmly back in Nintendo land. I grabbed me an N64 a couple short years latter, got a Game Boy Pocket then Game Boy Advance along the way, followed that up with an amazing and to this day very memorable Game Cube machine, got me a Nintendo DS and enjoyed it tremendously then suddenly Nintendo did the unthinkable, they made a machine I not only wasn’t excited for much, I grew to HATE. Unlike Super NES where the alternative was just as good for the most part, or the N64 where you kind of had to recognize it was your second machine with Playstation being the bulk of your source of gaming, now Wii was an entirely different beast. I quickly went from not that interested to HATING that worthless pile of garbage. I hated it so much that it was 3 years into Wii U before I could even consider getting it and despite having the same name, I personally felt it was the superior machine, it was the last straw for me. I never picked up a 3DS, I sold my DS when it became nothing more than SNES 2.0 with a few N64 remakes and a bunch of the casual crap flooding the Wii library. I realized my love was not for Nintendo the company, or even Nintendo products, it was always the Nintendo games and the characters within those games. I gotta say with Wii and Wii U I lost a lot of respect for the company, I began to lose hope and now just a few months away from their next machine, the NX, I just don’t think I can muster the energy to go through all of that again. This could be my final good by to Nintendo once and for all. Wii hurt me, bad, and Wii U didn’t do much to mend those wounds, in fact it just rubbed salt in a few cases and was barely a band aid at best.

I am here to say that barring a really mind blowing game that I absolutely can’t live without, that does NOT rely on some controller gimmick, and isn’t outrageously over priced outdated hardware, I am just not likely to even bother with NX and Wii U might be my last Nintendo console I ever buy, and if I sell it to buy more Game Cube games, which I might do, it won’t even be a console I own forever. I love Nintendo, at one time I loved them a lot, but I feel like the time has come to file for divorce and go our separate ways. Sony surprised me over the years consistently making the games and consoles I just wished Nintendo would and I figured I am done wishing Nintendo would JUST make a Playstation/modern Super NES and say to hell with it I am firmly now a Playstation gamer.

There is a chance I might buy that new NES Classic Edition console they just announced yesterday. Can they win me back? Only time will tell but as of right now I spend all my time gaming on my PS4 anyways, and I am saving up for a Playstation VR so it’s a long shot. I might download that Pokemon Go app in the meantime though.