Dads are very interesting and unique creatures. They grew up in a completely different time, which often results in a huge generation gap between us and them. That simple gap can lead to many misunderstandings. In my case, it had to do with video games. They did not exist when my Dad was a kid, and if he saw me sitting around, playing for hours, he would say something. This had a lot to do with the fact that the main TV in the house was also had my N.E.S hooked up to it. SO if I was playing, and he wanted to watch something, that would cause drama. Well, one day something very different happened. He saw me struggling on the infamously hard Double Dragon 3 for the N.E.S, and he felt compelled to tell me how much I suck and how if he played, he would do much better. I smiled, and passed him a controller. “Good news, old man. It is two player. Let’s see what you got.” He took the control in his hands, looked at it for a minute, and sat down with me, ready to go. Little did I know across the next week we would build up one of my favorite Father son memories ever.
Did you know “bare hands” is considered a weapon if you are tough enough?
So of course, as he held the controller, he had no idea what to do. I decided rather than use this as a moment to mock him, I would use as it a moment to inform him. It took a good hour of explaining A and B to him, and he started taking to it. What you need to understand is, Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone is one of the hardest games ever made. You get one guy. Period. No extra lives. No second tries. You get one guy to beat the whole game. Oh, and if your partner hits you (by mistake or on purpose), it counted against your tiny, three bar health bar. Why, of all games, DD3 brought us together I will never know, but it did.
First hour or so, my Dad just wanted to brag about beating this guy up or that guy up, but he quickly figured out we need to learn to work together if we are going to mine our way through this mess together. I could feel within an hour that this was seriously bonding us. See people, Nintendo was bringing family together LONG before the Wii.
It was funny, he came at me regarding this game with the desire to beat me at it, but once we sat down and started really focusing, we became like some insane, two man team. It was like Dark Souls 2 is now. Every time we would die. We would play again in the aims to make it fifteen steps further. The odd part is, after a day or two of playing, we were actually getting good. My Dad slowly figured out that the best way to beat guys was to bring them in between us, so we could just unload on the enemies. As much as it was taking serious time to make progress, we were actually slowly making it happen. I would come home from school and do my stuff making sure it was done by the time he got home so we could play DD3 and eat dinner. It may sound lame to some people, but it wasn’t for me. My Dad had always worked really hard, and the result was we didn’t always have time to bond or do stuff like that in my teenage years as much as either of us would have liked. Plus, I was a teen experimenting with sex and drugs, so half the time I was pissed off at nothing or somewhere else. The simple fact that it was Double Dragon 3 bringing us together still stands as a testimony to the true power of games.
I believe I can fly…
When me and my Dad played Double Dragon 3, it was not the normally pissy teenage kid playing with the reserved adult. No, we were equals, and it bonded us hard. Plus, a game like DD3 is like fighting in the trenches with someone. It is brutally hard, and under those circumstances, even the most stoic of us would bond. I, for one, was shocked my non-gamer Dad took to the game so quickly. It was not easy, but he was right when he looked down and said he would be better at it then me. I swear, I was secretly convinced my Dad was getting up at night while I was sleeping and playing this game, mastering it, because he became that good. It was clear to see after two or three days that we were giving all we could in an attempt to actually beat this game, and that we just may pull it off.
The best part is, in between all the ass kicking and purple haired boss fight and stupid pipes we needed to climb, we were bonding, big time. We also became like a fine-tuned machine. We knew when punches were coming, we knew how to handle the boss fights, and we creeped closer and closer toward the end of a game most people would never be able to beat. A game I have KNOWN I would never be able to beat again.
Granted, every now and then we would throw a punch at the other one to remind them how we started, but really, we just got in the zone. Which we needed to considering the game’s finger blistering difficulty. Thankfully, in the last few missions they give you a single continue, which makes all the difference. I will spare you any drama and just jump to the good part. Yes, we beat it. We beat the shit out of it. It was funny. In that exact moment, I think we were both sad. I think there was a pride in beating it, but also a realization that it was very much a one time thing. A moment in time that we would never be able to reproduce again. It was my Dad teaching me how to throw a football (yet, in that instance, I was the teacher), and it was also far more evident to him from that point forth why I played games. It took us both to a different world. Made a Father and son who were slightly distant from each other grow closer. It also made us into badass martial artists, which was a great deal of fun, too.
An actual photo of my Dad and I playing football when I was younger.
It’s funny. Your Dad is such a superhero you, usually. Larger than life, and very much the alpha, but what was so great about gaming with him is. In those moments, we were equals. We were just two dudes trying to help save some girl’s life and find some cool stones. For as long as I live I will never forget those few days, and just what it meant to our relationship.
So the next time someone tells you gaming has no real merit. Or is just a silly past times for nerds, send them this article. Let them know it is actually so much more than that. In this case, it brought me and my Pops closer, and showed him and I just how similar we really were, despite the years in between. That, my friends, is a real display of the power of gaming.
Thank you, Nintendo, and thank you Dad. That is one of the greatest memories of my life.