Remembering Collectible Card Games

Magic

Rexis here!

I haven’t played a CCG in over 13 years. I’m so old.

In all seriousness, CCG’s used to be a bigger hobby than video games for me. It began when I was about 14 and a friend introduced me to Magic: The Gathering. The only thing I’d ever seen like it was Overpower, and only because I got some cards from a cereal box (IIRC). I don’t think we had a full grasp of the rules at the time, but we played it to the best of our abilities and, honestly, this is the first thing in my life I recall collecting. I was never good at the game. The funny thing about CCGs when you only have one friend to play them with is this: you build a deck tailored to beat your friend and then he counters your deck with a new one of his own. Rinse. Repeat. Ad nauseam.

My nostalgia for this kicked in recently when I opened an expansion box for Cards Against Humanity. When I pulled that string on the wrapper and heard that familiar crackle, when I smelled that “fresh deck” smell, I was flooded with memories. There’s nothing quite like a new pack of cards.

Eventually, I moved from Magic onto Pokémon which released shortly after the massive success of the GameBoy titles. I preferred it because it was easier to understand and play. I was a kid then and we didn’t have the internet to clarify things, so it became the go-to game for my growing group of nerdy friends. This is when I discovered competitive play, but I never enjoyed it. I played in a few tournaments and I think finished in fifth place once. I’ve never been very good at these types of games. I just liked the atmosphere and being part of something bigger than myself.

My final foray in the CCG world was with Dragon Ball Z. Of the three games I had experience with, this was my favorite. I was already a huge fan of the series when this was released, so it was a natural fit for me. All of my friends played, but as high school was coming to a close, collections were sold until only two of us were left. And once more we were building decks just to beat one another, ad nauseam.

I sold my DBZ collection two years ago. I’d hung onto those cards for a decade and I believe I was the last of my group to let them go. I don’t know what ever became of my old Pokémon and Magic collections. What I do know is that I miss the camaraderie inherent with these types of things. All of my friends have gone their own ways and we rarely, if ever, see one another. There’s just too many miles and too many responsibilities.

Those card games were introductions to friendships I still consider very dear to me to this day, friendships forged in deck building, friendships built on a shared passion. Every relationship that remains with me since middle school can be traced back to one of these games. I may not have met my friends while playing them, but playing them bonded us.

I miss those nights when there’d be four or five of us in a room building decks and challenging one another.

Sometimes I wish things were still so simple.

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Sonic 2, Yoo-Hoo, and Honey Buns – A look back…

sonic2poster

Rexis here!

Are you guys having a really good day? I’m having a really good day. I’ve been meaning to get another post up and I’ve been wrestling with rewriting one from before I deleted my old blog. So I think that’s what I’m going to do. This particular video game story means a lot to me. You see, anyone who knows me will tell you I am a huge Sonic the Hedgehog 2 fan. I love that game. I can sit down and play through it on muscle memory. I’ve loved it from the first time I opened it.

It was many years ago, actually, on Christmas of 1992. I was eight years old. A Christmas is Louisiana is a hot, brown affair and this particular year was no different. I was no stranger to video games at the time. I’d had my fill of Mario, Contra, Joust, Paper Boy, and Excite Bike. I loved all those games, but I was no avid gamer like I am now. When I woke up that morning and tore into the large box under the tree, I had never heard of a Sonic. Genesis wasn’t even on my radar. This was Louisiana in 1992 after all. We were lucky to get any channels on TV, so I wasn’t inundated with commercials at that point.

I believe the gift was my father’s idea. Looking back, this is kind of a surprise. My dad and I are completely different people. He is not into technology and video games. He is not a nerd or a geek. He doesn’t care for a star war. He is a frog hunting, turtle eating, squirrel pelting, backwoods hunter. He has a gun collection as extensive as my game collection. The fact that he would have bought me a video game console without my begging for it is… perplexing…

None-the-less, that little blue hedgehog raced off the screen and into my heart. I had the game poster above on my bedroom wall and it followed me through many moves until the corners were practically shredded from all the thumbtack holes. When I wasn’t playing this game, I was running as fast I could, pretending to be Sonic. I was eating chili dogs, his favorite food. I was saving the world from Robotnik every day, on the screen and in the yard. After so many lost lives and continues, one day I beat this game. I remember almost crying as I watched Sonic fall from the sky after defeating Robotnik only to be rescued by Tails. It was the first game I had ever beaten on my own.

I played it a lot because I was often alone. My little brother was 7 years younger than me and my father was away for work a lot. This is one of the few memories I cherish from my childhood. To me, my dad was always this larger-than-life guy. He’s been to places on this planet that I could only dream about. He’s done things I would never even attempt. The different jobs he’s had have given him those opportunities. He was even a golden gloves boxer in the early 80’s I think. I can’t find record of it, but times were different then.

I remember he would take me fishing when I was little. Most people can’t understand my love for Yoo-Hoo chocolate drink and gas station honey buns, but those combined flavors take me back decades to those days on the banks of some river with my father when I still called him Daddy. Here we are 23 years after I opened that box. I have a CIB copy with the framed poster on the wall (not the originals, mind you). I’m also a father now. My 6 year old son and I have been playing this game together. He loves controlling Tails. It feels amazing to play a game that’s so important to me with my own son, especially because he loves it like I do.

Late last year, this game took on a whole new meaning for me. My father came to visit and dropped a bomb on me. He has cancer. He didn’t go into specifics because he’s not that kind of guy. I know what you’re thinking. I’ve seen enough movies that I know how people are supposed to feel. I don’t feel like that. He has stopped treatment because the medicine causes memory lost. He came back to reality once standing at a gas station is West Virginia with no memory of how he got there. Instead, my father has opted to die in a place he loves. His visit was to ask me face to face if I would take care of my brother when the time came. My brother, of course, always has a home with me. When that time does come, my father will go out to this lake he loves, he will live there off the land, and he will die there. I don’t feel sad because even in his last years on this planet he is just as big to me as he ever was.

I don’t understand how a man who missed many of the biggest events of my life, who was rarely there when I was younger, who neglected to tell me about this cancer when he found out… I don’t understand how I can possibly hold him in such high regard, but I do. I feel like I know him better than anyone possibly can because I am him. I know that his absences kept food on our table. He put his family’s needs first. I know that he regrets deeply. I know that he hurts. I think this is what he hides from everyone, but I can see it. I can feel it. To me, in my eyes, he is bigger-than-life, he is stronger than death, and I will remember him every time I look at my son, every time we share a Yoo-Hoo and honey bun, every time we play Sonic 2. And every time I look at that poster I’ll ask myself if I can be half the father he was. I’d like to think I’m up 2 it.