The Gamer Who Came in From the Cold pt. 1

After More Than a Decade Away, it Feels Good to be Back.

Felix Quiñonez Jr.

In the fall of 2016, Nintendo was setting its hype machine into overdrive as they prepared to release their new console, the Nintendo Switch. This was nothing new, of course. Every few years, we see companies put on the same song and dance routine to usher in the “next generation” of video games. Usually, this includes talk of bits, memory, or how realistic the graphics will be. Sometimes they incorporate vague, technical terms like blast processing. But it always feels, generally the same. However, this time, well, there was something different about the Switch.

It had been about 14 years since I last bought a video game console, and in that time, I don’t think I played video games more than a handful of times. In fact, by this point, it had probably been about a decade since I even paid attention to video game news at all. But that was the thing, even someone who actively avoided video games could sense that there was something different on the horizon. During this time, you couldn’t visit any website covering pop culture without seeing countless headlines about the upcoming Nintendo Switch. And they were all trying to convince readers that this new machine would be something special.

Initially, I didn’t pay much attention. After all, these kinds of claims were nothing new. Eventually, I caved and watched the trailer for the Nintendo Switch popping up on every website I visited. I watched it, almost begrudgingly, as if it to prove to myself that I didn’t care about video games.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was genuinely intrigued. When I hit play, the first thing that caught my attention was that, in the trailer, the games themselves were secondary. It was like the real attraction was the console or, more accurately, the people playing it. And I have to say; it worked for me. I remember being genuinely excited, and that surprised me. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt anything resembling excitement towards video games.

Of course, it didn’t take long for my natural skepticism to kick in, almost as if I was embarrassed to be excited about a video game. I immediately proceeded to tear it apart, mentally. I scoffed at the sight of someone using a Nintendo Switch as an ice-breaker at the airport. I rolled my eyes at the idea that bringing a video game console would make you the life of the party. I wondered why those guys playing basketball weren’t sweating, even a little. But behind all that posturing was a single thought, “Damn, that looked awesome.”

The system would launch the following spring (March 2017), and as the release date approached, I found myself returning to that trailer. I lost count of how many times I re-watched it. And every time I did, I felt a kind of excitement I hadn’t felt in a long time. For a few minutes at a time, I could feel the pessimism that comes with age melt away. I felt like a kid who wasn’t too cynical to get swept away by the promise of adventure. Afterward, I moved on to reading anything I could find about the console and all its upcoming games. The main attraction, for me, was Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

When it finally did arrive, I paid close attention to the reviews and sales numbers, but I didn’t buy one. Having just spent a lot of money to move into a new apartment, I couldn’t convince myself to buy a video game console. There was also the matter of time. It was hard enough to find time to write or make art. Did I need another distraction in the form of video games? I couldn’t do it, I told myself. But I still found myself always drawn back to it. I would read reviews of games I would never get to play. I asked my friends who owned a Switch how they liked it as if I was trying to play it through them vicariously.

Time went on, as it does. It was now the summer of 2019. My interest mostly died down, but it was still in the back of my head. Now and then, I would see someone playing one on the subway or the sidewalks, and I felt a tinge of jealousy. I still really wanted one. It also made me notice what a cool looking machine it was. I had gotten so used to consoles looking like rectangular boxes, and the Switch seemed so different. Sometimes I would find myself at a Best Buy hovering near the Nintendo switch area, observing it from a distance. I was too afraid to try it myself; it had been so long since I played video games. I was worried that I didn’t even know how to anymore. But every time I saw a Switch out in the world or stumbled on another video game clip, my desire to get one of my own grew.

Then I got the final push I needed. I was about to start a new job with a considerable pay raise. This new job would also require me to commute. I finally had it, everything I needed to convince myself to buy the Nintendo Switch. I would have more money, And I would have plenty of time to play it during my commute. I wanted to make sure it was a sound investment. I read up on games, watched YouTube review videos, and gameplay footage. Then on Labor Day weekend, 2019, I finally decided to buy one. The day I made up my mind, I even received a Best Buy coupon. I told myself it was fate. The Universe wanted me to have a Nintendo Switch. I placed my order online, and after getting my email informing me my Switch was ready to be picked up, I headed to Best Buy. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Like a lot of 90’s kids, video games went hand in hand with my childhood. My siblings and I moved to the United States from Paraguay in December of 1992. After spending the first few years of my life living with an aunt, we all moved to the United States to reunite with our parents. Like so many immigrants, they planned to come here, make some money then return home. That’s why they didn’t bring us with them. But life has a way of changing everyone’s plans. They kept extending their stay until they finally had to face it. We all had a new home now.

Having been so young when they left, I felt like I was going to meet my mom for the first time. Up until that point, she was only a voice I heard once a week. We didn’t have a phone, so every Sunday, we would go over to a neighbor’s house and wait for our parents to call. Our father had flown back to Paraguay on several occasions during that time, so I was more familiar with him.

Here, we reunited with our parents, a few cousins, and other family members who had previously made the trek. We entered a whole new world, filled with strange, new things. I saw snow for the first time, experienced my first Christmas during winter, and, more importantly, I fell in love with video games.

Movies. TV. Comics. Video Games. Writer. Illustrator. Editor

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