New consoles always come packaged in boxes and dreams, promises of games to come. I can remember my first days with every console. As an adult, I’ve favored computers, so consoles have always been gifts from my parents, evidence of their love for me. I spent my 11th birthday alone in our California apartment. That day, my mother had to take her final licensing examination in order to work as a dentist in the United States, while my dad drove her to UCLA, where the exam was held, and remained there, in case she needed anything. Neither of them had a job. She was studying day and night while he occupied himself with daily chores and taking care of me. He was also a dentist but had not yet begun the licensing process. So, we were living off our savings, accumulated in Spain and Argentina. And our savings were running out.
In that context, which I was vaguely aware of at the time, receiving a Nintendo 64 seemed like an unlikely miracle. I remember how, the night before, I went to sleep fantasizing about one of those crappy handhelds that came programmed with 100 or 200 cheap games, half of them different versions of Tetris. I had seen an advertisement for it on television and secretly hoped it would be my birthday present. Why I hoped this, I scarcely know, considering I had never informed my parents. What I really wanted, of course, was a Nintendo 64. But back then, our dinners usually consisted of beans, because there was not much money to go around, and the prospects of being given an expensive console were dim. I could hold out hope, however, for a handheld with 100 versions of Tetris and 100 versions of something else, probably random racers and platformers. Imagine my shock when come morning light, my parents revealed to me a Nintendo 64. It came with Star Fox 64, a game I had admired at a local Circuit City. A month prior, walking home from school with my mom, I had explained to her in detail the internal workings of it. “Your wing mates react to your actions!” “You can roll and shoot bombs!” Apparently, my enthusiasm had made an impression on her.
At any rate, I sat down for breakfast, pretending to be mature about it all, holding off my unwrapping of the Nintendo 64. First, I decreed, was breakfast. Civilized gulping down of milk and cereals, frantic dipping of toasted bread, absent nodding as mom and dad discussed the day’s schedule. Yes, I was not a child. I could have patience. I would not disrupt the completion of my daily habits. I would simply complete those daily habits faster so I could get to my Nintendo 64. Which I did. My parents helped me connect the console to my television and, after hugs, kisses, and smiles, they left for UCLA. Before parting, my dad pointed out to me that, when he bought the console, he made a reservation for an upcoming release, Zelda: Ocarina of Time. “What’s that?” “I don’t know,” he said, “this guy with a sword and pointy ears. It’s probably going to be popular and you’ll probably want it. So I reserved it.” I thanked him, with some uncertainty, and there I was. A whole day to myself, with my Nintendo 64. The hours whizzed by. At some point, I probably made a trip to the kitchen, where my mom had left food for me to eat. Every now and then, I would stop playing and turn off the Nintendo 64. “I don’t want the console to get overheated. I need to be mature about it.” My breaks never lasted longer than twenty minutes. This being Star Fox 64, every session started out again from the opening level, but I was so mesmerized by the experience that I did not care. And, besides, there were multiple paths to take. There were stormy suns and tumultuous, melancholy seas. There were massive, stippled dogfights. There were ruined crafts and debris dancing in forgotten space. There were dreamlike, psychedelic wormholes. There were three-dimensional characters and voice acting. A quantum leap from my Super Nintendo. That afternoon, my parents returned and we celebrated my birthday in the traditional, familiar manner. But my mind was elsewhere, flying around the Lylat system. No first day with a console ever compared to that one.