Mowing lawns was my game from 1988 to 1992. For $25-35 a mow, usually about one mowing a week, I earned the money needed to be a gamer. Perhaps I should take a step back a bit though, because it all started just about a year before this.

My family had owned an Atari 2600, along with Pitfall, Adventure, Combat, Empire Strikes Back, Asteroids and even ET at one point. While I played the heck out of all of them, I'd never gotten to the point where I thought I had to have a game, and when my family's Atari broke I didn't really miss it all that much at the time. When the NES craze came along all of my friends got one, and I played the heck out of virtually every game anybody's ever mentioned over at my friend's houses, but I never played a game I thought I had to own myself, even though for weeks at a time I did enjoy each and every game I played.

I had a foster brother who I really looked up to, since my real brothers were either off to college, or off with their friends a lot. One night as he was hurrying out of the house I heard, actually, it was more of a feeling, I felt the word "arcade" come out of his mouth. With a jolt I sat up and asked "what's an arcade?" After a brief description of what sounded exactly like heaven, I politely asked if I could tag along, and my brother graciously, and eagerly, accepted.

Okay, this requires elaboration so that you can adequately understand what a great man my foster brother was. He was a six foot tall, football playing, high school age black man, getting ready to go out and have some fun with his friends, and I was an 8 year old, geeky, white kid with more than one nervous tick (hey, Iíd yet to find myself a worthwhile hobby ). There now, since you know exactly what I was asking, and what my foster brother graciously accepted, we can continue.

I actually donít remember anything about that evening, I donít even know if my brother stayed in the arcade, all I remember is After Burner. More specifically, Afterburner with itís own force feedback flight stick and about five bucks worth of tokens. I was absolutely hooked, and immediately set forth to find what gaming system I could buy to have this much fun at home, and what job I needed to be able to pay for it. From then on Arcades were my obsession, and that didnít die until they did.

So, needless to say, I saved up my $100 and made my first console purchase. My dad only found one place in town that had both the Sega Master System and the Nintendo Entertainment System, and it had them available to play. So, after my dad took one of his classic hour-long restroom visits, and with a word to one of my friends that Iíd already decided to buy an NES, we set forth to the electronics store. On the way there I began talking to my dad about the arcade version of Robocop, and how the NES would be getting it soon. He replied that I shouldnít get excited because the home version was just going to be a square for Robocop and a bunch of other shapes for the bad guys. The rest of the trip was comprised of me lecturing my dad on how far arcade games had come, and him replying with a bunch of ďHmmĒs.

Upon our arrival and subsequent playing of the two demo units I began to realize I had no idea what was in the store for me. On the right was my pre-selected purchase, the NES, with Super Mario Brothers and Rad Mobile in all their 16-colored glory, and on the left was the surprise, an SMS with 3D glasses and Missile Defense 3D, Hang On, After Burner, Quartet and Wonder Boy. My dad and I both were astounded by the differences in the two systems, and after what must have been hours of playing Afterburner and Quartet I made my way to the register and bought my Sega Master System, without 3D glasses or games because I only had $100. It was boxed with the 'Light Phaser' and Hangon/Safari Hunt.

My dad took the opportunity to buy Quartet, Afterburner, Wonderboy, and the obligatory control stick for me as well, at which point I felt that waiting an hour for him to take a dump was well worth it. I still have the receipts from The Federated Group electronics store dated 6/25/1988, one for $167.28 and another for 62.29, quite a bit over the measly $100 Iíd saved up.

The next decade was comprised of me buying up every game and console that had games I liked from the arcades on them. An NES, Genesis, TG16, Sega CD, 32X, Saturn, and Dreamcast, along with a significant amount of SNES envy and a brief flirt with the PS1, were some of the best highlights of my youth and life from 1989 to 2001. I then went back and picked up an N64 and SNES, and went forward and purchased a PS2 and Xbox. I still find myself picking up those old action junkie arcade ports more than anything else. Really, my web page ( Game Pilgrimage ) contains the rest of the story, but itís very possible that none of it would have happened were it not for my brother introducing me to arcades, and my dad both allowing me to buy my first console, and helping my habit along with an overdose of games right away.