[Welcome to Game Start, an ongoing retrospective where various video game editors and personalities share their tales of growing up gamers. We kick off the series with the Editor-in-Chief of 2D-X, technology and video game journalist Jeffrey L. Wilson.]
It is, I suppose, more than a little odd that a man who spends his every waking moment pondering and writing about technology and video games didn’t think of himself as a geek when he was younger. It’s true. Despite the fact that I digested a steady diet of PBS’ 3-2-1 Contact, Newton’s Apple, and Nova as a pre-teen, I didn’t consider it nerdy or unusual. Many of my peers who grew up alongside me in a low-income Flatbush, Brooklyn housing development were into the same topics.
I was a geek before I recognized that I was a geek. I built model airplanes, robots, and even attempted to construct a rudimentary computer form a metal Band-Aid case and rubber bands. Hey, I was six years old and didn’t have a functional understanding of transistors, circuits, electricity, or technology. According to the lovely, wise internet denizens, I still don’t.
But it was the proliferation of ‘80s 8-bit home computers that took my gaming love and transformed it into an obsession. I didn’t own an Apple II or Commodore 64–the machines were too expensive for my single mom at the time–but I longed for them as my Atari 2600 looked like a savage’s system in comparison.
But it was the proliferation of ‘80s 8-bit home computers that took my gaming love and transformed it into an obsession. I didn’t own an Apple II or Commodore 64–the machines were too expensive for my single mom at the time–but I longed for them as my Atari 2600 looked like a savage’s system in comparison. Oregon Trail had storytelling! Summer Games had good-looking graphics! I wanted that. I needed that.
We couldn’t afford one of those 8-bit computers, but I received a NES for Christmas in 1986 and it was a wrap. It was the era of the pack-in game, and Super Mario Bros., the 8-bit world-changer, became the central focus of all my free time. I’d played Super Mario Bros. at various friends’ homes who were from a higher station in life. I was familiar with the Mushroom Kingdom, but now it was in my home–I could play before school, immediately after school, or before bed. This pleased me on two levels: As a gamer, and as a poor kid who didn’t quite feel as poor because he owned one of the most highly-desired entertainment items ever.
From there I amassed nearly every major video game system and handheld released both in the USA and Japan. SEGA Genesis? Had it. PC Engine Duo-R? One of my favorite systems of all time. Neo Geo Pocket Color? Total sweetness.
My love for all things shiny and digital lead to jobs penning gadget- and video game-related nerd-copy for E-Gear, Game Theory with Scott Steinberg, Laptop, LifeStyler, Parenting, PCMag, Sync, Wise Bread, and WWE. Outside of cloning technology breakthrough that will allow me to live my childhood dream of being a dinosaur wrangler, I’m pretty happy with my station in life. I’m surrounded by a circle of excellent nerds from all walks of life who I’m happy and proud to call my friends–a few of which are 2D-X compatriots. I’ve also had the chance to interview some childhood heroes.
This nerd’s done good, methinks.