Nostaljoy: Up All Night
This is another entry in our series of fond times gone by but still remembered: Nostaljoy.
Friends, Schmamers, Countrymen,
By the time you read this, I will have already purchased The Last Of Us. I will have also stayed up all night playing it, or at least until the wee hours of the morning. OK, I’ll be honest, all night. I actually recorded a solo Schmame Over specifically about the Last of Us, and since I finally got off my lazy ass (or, rather, stayed on my ass but overcame it’s inherent laziness) and uploaded the audio to our fearless editor-in-chief, you might actually get to hear it soon.
Let me tell you, staying up all night tonight is a terrible plan for me. Absolutely terrible. I have to be at work early this morning, which – with morning traffic – includes at least a 45 minute commute. Then I have to work all day, then come home, pack, and get ready to drive to Dallas on Saturday morning for a friend’s wedding. I’m already exhausted, and I’m not going to be feeling better rested if I just get a good night’s sleep Friday night, and I might be literally putting my life on the line by playing this game all night. But, hey, we all gotta go sometime, right?
But, although I’m sure you’re all immensely excited to hear me talk about the game that I haven’t played yet, that’s not what I’m going to write about today. I want to write about this phenomena; the feeling of excitement so immense that no matter how long I leave my head on a pillow, I will not drift off to sleep. It’s a feeling I don’t capture very much these days, not since I learned that Santa Clause wasn’t real and that I was never going to sleep with Lauren Cohan.
But it’s an experience that’s linked to my past, and an experience I expect I will still occasionally find myself enjoying. After all, despite the actually quite depressing mantra that college is the “best days of our lives,” most of us will go on to find much more to enjoy, and I’m hoping to hit those milestones as well – steady, meaningful employment, marriage, fatherhood. There will be plenty of moments that keep me up with excitement.
But the same kind of joy I had as a child – practically bouncing off the walls with joy-fused adrenaline? Or the moments I stayed up all night marathoning a game in college, not caring that I had six hours of classes the next day, secure in the knowledge that I’m still young and spry enough to make it through a day after no sleep? Those are moments that may be only experienced through nostalgia these days.
There were some moments where I stayed up late, but before I got really into video games they all involved books. I got into Animorphs in a big way, and then after that it was the Hobbit – which of course necessitated jumping to The Lord of the Rings trilogy and slamming those down. I still stay up all night flipping pages of a book (I will never adopt an e-reader, no matter how much society tries to make me!) on a regular basis, and apparently I’m still apt to game all night. But the books, and the game sessions today, usually only last until late, not until morn.
I remember clearly, though, the first time something would get me so amped that I physically could not sleep over excitement.
We used to have this tradition on Christmas in my family where, after everyone had opened all the presents under the tree, we got a second round of “elf presents” – presents claimed to have been left by Santa’s elves as supplemental gifts to what we had already gotten. Usually these were smaller gifts just to give us younger folks a boost of energy after the morning rush of excitement, but one year, one magnificent year, my elf present was a Nintendo 64. Now, I didn’t react as wildly as others, somewhat because I am a reserved person but also because I had already seen the present. We were playing hide-and-seek and I chose to hide in a small cupboard next to the “secret staircase” in my grandmother’s house (her old house was the first hospital constructed in Bentonville, AR, so it had a short, somewhat hidden staircase made for quick trips upstairs to wear the patients were probably dying from turn of the century medicine before their hurt, angry souls became ghosts whose auras had long term repercussions on my health.) When I got bored inside the cabinet, I started searching through bags and came across the N64. Luckily for my parents, I was a little moron so when they told me that there wasn’t an actual N64 inside, but that they had bought something from someone who gave it to them in the 64 box, I bought it.
Anyway, I took it home to my house, plugged it in and played through most of the day. It was, without a doubt, the greatest thing I had ever seen. My eyes were glued to the TV, and I was only torn away for Christmas dinner, which I consumed with the speed of a massive black hole consuming Romulus before sprinting back to the N64. At the time, though, I had a strict bedtime and was told I had to leave that magical world until 6AM, when I was allowed to get out of bed again.
6AM came and I crept downstairs, quiet, since my parents were still asleep, which is odd for my father. I sat down in front of the TV, with the volume just above an excited whisper, and began to play. My thirst for collecting coins and stars, and sliding down an ice slide next to some giant penguins, was insatiable. Finally, confused that my parents weren’t awake, I looked at the clock.
It was 4AM.
You might be thinking – did you game all day? Were your parents so passed out drunk on Christmas wines that they slept over 24 hours? Was Home Alone a biography based on your life? The answer is no, no – my parents don’t get drunk -, and no – I would be killed almost immediately if crooks tried to break into my house because I live next to the ghetto, A.K.A. Bella Vista, AR.
No, this is actually what happened. When I last looked at the clock while tossing restlessly under my quilt, it read 1:53AM. The next moment, I was opening my eyes, looking at the clock, and it was 6AM! Yes, time to be up!!! Time to game! Except, in reality, it was 2AM. Yes, my excitement for Super Mario 64 so took over my world that I not only could not go to sleep, but I tricked myself into thinking that a short, seven minute doze was actually four hours of sleep and that the clock read an entirely different time than what it actually said.
The joy I had from playing a simple video game, where all I did was run around a brightly colored world and perform various types of jumps and races, was enough to actually alter my perception of reality. That, ladies and gentlemen, is joy. It would be a while until I experienced another all-nighter with a video game; when I would be given a game that had been out for a while on my birthday, and a group of four of us isolated ourselves from the rest of my friends at the party to take turns holding the reigns. But I called the shots, because it was my birthday and, therefore, my right to shape the game we were playing. And I’ve been playing in the same way ever since.