Geeks like stuff. Lots of it, from books, to memorabilia to collectibles. We hang onto old comic books, with the hope that they’ll one day be worth the millions that a good copy of Action Comics #1 fetches at auction, or out of nostalgic whimsy, looking back on the rosy days of our childhood, when out crushes and favorites weren’t hampered by a modern, cynical viewpoint.
Over this past winter, I bought an X-Box 360 Pro from a fellow 501st member. The price was good, and it’s been something that I’ve had my eyes on for a while. Many of my friends are gamers, and there’s a number of games that I’ve enjoyed playing over the years, but I’ve never gotten any good at almost all of them, simply because I never had a regular opportunity to play games.
This purchase, not counting my computer, marked the first gaming system that I acquired since my very early childhood. My first was a classic Game Boy. It was gray, green and darker green screen and only had a couple of buttons. I had just a handful of games for it: Tetris, Return of the Jedi and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I loved all of those games, especially Zelda, and played it through high school, when the more advanced gaming systems began to hit the market.
I still have my old Game Boy; it’s sitting on the bookshelf across the living room from me, unused, out of the way, out of batteries. Every now and then, I’ll fire it up and walk around the Koholint Island. When thinking back to my childhood’s geekier moments, this game inevitably played a larger part. I remember very clearly the day that I got it, and promptly, the disappointment at struggling to complete some of the earlier tasks. It would be years before I actually finished the game, not for the lack of trying. It was an exciting game, and for that reason, I still have the unit sitting here around my apartment.
While I’ve been in the loop with gaming in the years between first getting the Game Boy (probably 1991 or 1992, when I was 7 or 8, making this particular unit 18-19 years old – still in good working order, although the screen is blacked out on one side) gaming has exploded in so many ways. Graphics, story, gamplay, etc have changed so much during that time, as has technology. Comparing the Game Boy to my phone, it’s simply amazing to see what has changed in the years since. And, considering the error rate in the X Box 360, my Game Boy is considerably more reliable.
However, I don’t believe that improvements in graphics and computing power are necessarily better, and for this reason, I wouldn’t trade this particular piece of my childhood for anything. It’s a milestone item from my own childhood, something that lends itself a certain amount of geek street credit, as my friends have pulled it off the shelf to stare at it, not having seen one in years.
Thinking back to the things that I’ve accumulated over the years, there’s other similarly geeky things that I’ve found and held onto that I would hold up as pinnacles of my own geekiness. A battered and tattered copy of The Science Fiction Hall Of Fame, Vol 1, edited by Richard Silverberg remains one of my favorite books of all time, although at this point, I’m a little afraid to read it, considering that the book is quite old and somewhat falling apart. I’ve been tempted to buy a new version of it, but haven’t, out of money, attention and the realization that there’s something to the stories that just wouldn’t live up to my memories of them outside of that copy. The same thing applies to my old copy of Ringworld, with its gorgeous cover. A toy Space Shuttle that sits on the window sill above my sink is quite a bit more durable, but equally seeped in memories from the past.
Someday, maybe I will be able to set aside space, time and energy to properly take care of these artifacts from my childhood and from the history of geek-things, putting them under glass to preserve them for others who will hopefully see them and appreciate their impact and meaning in the greater scheme of things. Certainly, other people around the world have put such things into museums, for their cultural impact has been far-ranging and great, inspiring generations of people to live out their fantasies of being able to create and recreate treasured stories from their childhoods.