Please forgive me, this is one of my first blog posts.
Talking to my dad about Earthbound today was surprisingly emotional. I only stopped by to mention it in passing, but I found myself sitting there on the edge of tears with him.
When I was a kid, a year or two after my sister was born, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. For the better part of a year, my sister, a few of my cousins whose parents were in jail, and myself were looked after by my dad and his best friend, "Animal". They each worked multiple jobs to support us and didn't have much time to themselves but they were always there for us.
All of us were into videogames, and Animal was able to get them for cheap since he worked at "The Wiz" on Union Square so we often took turns playing games with dad and Animal.We played lots of different kinds, but everyone in my family loved RPGs.
I can't remember the year, but I do remember the season. I'm sure it was summer. Animal said they were having a clearance on this one SNES game they couldn't shift, so he brought us a copy not even knowing what genre it was. Once we realized it was an RPG we were hooked. We spoke to every NPC, did every side-quest and saw every room we possibly could. I wasn't in school, but I'd still wait till dad and Animal got home to play, and we never played past my bedtime. We were in it together, we even passed around the controller for battles. However even when the game got a bit slow, my dad convinced us, specifically me, to keep going. He always insisted that I help, it seemed as though this was a game he wanted me to experience.
It was always about our family.
Then one day it was over. We were up way past our bed time, the lights were off and the TV dyed the room read while we fought Giygas. As the fight ended, and we sat there watching the children being reunited with their families it stopped being just a game.
There I was, a 6 year old kid, completely conscious of the situation I was in, and knowing that my family could be ripped apart. At that point, it had been over a month since I was last allowed to see my mom. I was terrified.
There they were, a bunch a kids with their parents, their prayers had been answered and the families were once again whole. I wasn't sure what would happen, but whatever it was, I wanted to be like Paula, I wanted to stand up and fight for my family. No matter what happened, things would be okay because I would make sure they would be.
It was starting to get cold when my mom came home. When she got settled, one of the first things I did
was show her the Super Famicom games my brother and I got our hands on. I convinced him to do odd jobs around the neighborhood to earn enough money for them. I used to also help pay for food, cloths, and on the rare occasion chipped in to pay the rent.
When I was in high-school Animal passed away. For a few months my dad would just sit in a corner of the room not talking to anyone. Sometimes I'd watch him, trying to figure out what he must be going through, trying to think of a way to help him. One day while we were cleaning, my dad found Animal's SNES. I still have it; The once gray panels are now a ugly piss yellow, there's cracks in the corners and the dustflap is loose because I pulled out the tabs with a pair of pliers.
My dad cleaned it off, hooked it up, and had me play Animal's all time favorite game, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It was the same old cart that couldn't save games. While I was playing, he started talking to me about Animal, about what the two of them tried to teach us and finally he stopped me playing and told me, "I'm sure he's proud of you, just like me".
For my father and Animal, Earthbound was an expression of the kind of man I should be, and for me, it was a defining point in what I believed I should be. It was more then just a game, or even just a father and son, but an experience that changed our lives and gave us an understanding of each other.
My dad still plays games, we recently played through Red Dead Revolver together. My sister plays games with her son Lucas (named after the protagonist of Mother 3) and my mom still loves her RPGs(She just stole my 3DS to play Soul Hackers). Although Animal is gone, we always talk about him.
When I mentioned Earthbound, I could see his eyes clouding up almost instantly. He has this weird policy of never replaying a game, but he remembered clearly, not only the game but the circumstances of the time. Hearing him talk about how much he missed mom, and Animal, and how proud of me he was, I almost lost it.