1992: My 16-bit Christmas

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System came out in 1991. I hadn’t started subscribing to Nintendo Power yet, so I didn’t know this. At this point in time I was still loving my NES and my young mind couldn’t imagine anything greater. By Christmas of 1992, my family was living in a duplex in Derby, KS. My parents were saving up to buy a house, and I was all of six years old. I don’t think we lived in that duplex for more than a year, but I know that on Tax Day, 1993, we moved into the home where my family resides to this day.

I only remember ever spending one Christmas holiday in that duplex. I honestly don’t remember all that much about living there, but I seem to have a couple random memories involving me either injuring myself or learning how to ride a bike. All those memories aside, the only one that truly mattered was Christmas of 1992.

I couldn’t tell you any of the toys I got, but I can tell you nearly everything that happened on Christmas morning. Santa brought me something I didn’t know I wanted. He brought me my Super Nintendo Entertainment System that I still own to this day. I couldn’t wait to play the game that I got with it. I’ve got this new system that outputs these beautiful, colorful 16-bit sprite graphics, and I couldn’t wait to spend the rest of my holiday playing… Mario Paint?

What the fuck is Mario Paint?? Where’s my new Super Mario Bros game?

I wasn’t wise to the whole “Santa is a lie” thing yet, but for a brief moment I felt betrayed. Santa, that asshole, brought me a system and a game that of all things used a mouse. It wasn’t even really a game as much as it was a creative tool. Of course, being a Nintendo title, there were all these interesting game elements to it, but I was upset. I was really hoping for a new Super Mario Bros game to go with it, or even one of these other beautiful, colorful games advertised to me on the back of the box. I wasn’t a very grateful child when it came to this, but later that day, my dad went to Blockbuster Video to rent a couple other games. No Super Mario World, as I had learned it was called, but he did return with a golf game for him to play, and for me, Super Mario Kart. Now we’re playing with power.

I played with Mario Paint, but I didn’t get truly sucked in until later. Super Mario Kart had become my game of choice, and I spent most of Christmas day playing it. This was the last time until the Wii that my parents ever really played video games with me. My dad was so impressed with the system that we actually took it to my grandparents’ house to show it off, and it was a great experience all around. I think that may have been the last time a video game console other than a handheld ever made it to my grandparents’ house.

We came back that night and I finally started digging into Mario Paint. My mother had shown a level of proficiency at the fly swatting game, and my young mind was having fun just playing with the coloring book pages. When I stopped playing for the night, my dad ended up moving the console into their room so he could play his golf game and mess around with Super Mario Kart while I slept. I know now why they bought me Mario Paint, and the effect that it had on me was profound.

I pride myself on being a writer, but I’m in school for electronic media, which is kind of a blanket term for graphic design, audio production and to an extent, journalism. Mario Paint was my first real exposure to that world. It had rudimentary capabilities, but I could build songs using the sounds provided. I could draw whatever came to my mind. If I had the patience, I could even crudely animate something like the examples that were in the Mario Paint official guide. The possibilities were endless.

I never took to drawing on paper, and I never picked up a musical instrument until I was in high school, so those things were still a ways off, but it planted ideas into my brain. It helped my developing brain find a creative outlet, and to me that was a big deal. I played a lot of games on my SNES, some I played and never really touched again, but I kept coming back to Mario Paint. I later found out some of my friends had similar experiences with the game, and I guess I was kind of shocked to find I wasn’t the only one who really got something out of it. It really has shaped my love of Nintendo and why their games are still magical to me. The worst part of Mario Paint to me is that since we never got the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive in America, we never got the “sequel” to Mario Paint, Mario Artist. Perhaps had that been released here, I may have gotten into game development, or even dabbled in 3D modeling!

I actually don’t know if I’d be where I was now if it weren’t for that bizarre tool wrapped in the shell of a video game. Of course, I did get Super Mario World a few weeks later, but Mario Paint would forever be what introduced me to 16-bit video gaming, and later an interest in audio and design.


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