Every generation has an artifact that can be attributed to them. The sixties kids banner the counterculture through music; the seventies had their fashion. The eighties started the digital revolution, with the rise of technological powers in the far east making electronic appliances cheaper and more mainstream. Nineties kids like me received the initial boon of this boom: it is during our time when nearly all chores were made automatic.
Super Mario Brother
With this technological transformation also came a change in how we consumed media and enjoyed ourselves. One of these is gaming. I harken back happily to my youth when an uncle working in the middle east (most of us Filipino kids got our first gadget this way) gifted us our first console: the Family Computer or FamiCom. The 16-bit graphics didn’t deter us from having the time of our lives. The console introduced us to the likes of Super Mario Brothers, Contra, Street Fighter, and all other games that made our after-school hours and weekends. With the continued industrialization of cities and subsequent crowding due to population growth, it actually became a somewhat better way to spend time with friends. Sure, we would still play taguan, agawang-base, luksong-baka, and patintero, but gaming became a way to escape going outside, especially for introverted kids like me. It also paved a way to make a different kind of connection, as you have your “outside friends”, and then your gamer friends. Oftentimes, these are the same people.
The advent of handheld gaming brought an even wider range of media consumption, and thus even more alternate ways to escape reality. It started with the simple brick game that you can mindlessly play all day as it consumes so little battery. The Tamagotchi craze, which predated the Pokemon series, also started in the early nineties. Then came the first real handheld console: the Nintendo GameBoy. I personally never had one, as even then, handheld consoles can only be afforded by the rich. They had no rechargeable batteries and each game costs so much that I had to sneak some playing time when my cousin came around to visit. Eventually I was able to get the early PSP and DS, the absence of either of which would have made commutes and trips to the province unbearable.
More than the consoles themselves, the games bound us nineties kids more. We are the generation that saw the first of the RPGs like Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda, and it is funny but heartening that you will see thirty-somethings enjoying these games to this day. The fact that the franchises still exist means that there is still a market for them: particularly for that seven-year old in 1995 who never really grew up, like a postmodern Peter Pan. We were the first geeks who established gaming conventions, the progenitors of gaming sports, the ones who traded game secrets and cheat codes through word of mouth before the internet existed. It is okay if people don’t understand us. In fact, it is expected.
Our dads have their music that we never understood, and our kids today may have their memes and social media fetishism that we will never get into, too. But the nineties will always be a special time that can never be replicated. An era that we can only look back on with nostalgia, and memories of our first “Game Over” or “You Win!” on a flickering vacuum tube television. It is ours, and ours alone.