If you exist in the northern hemisphere, then you're currently in the thick of summer. In fact, if you're anywhere near the neighborhood of the east coast, you're currently cradled in the burning arms of a dangerous heat wave.
This breed of stifling summer weather reminds me of the hours I spent indoors, playing video games. That might sound strange—even a little blasphemous—in an era where parents are doing everything they can to pry their kids off Fortnite and shoo them out the door. Sure, the adults of my era were likewise concerned about making sure we soaked up as much fresh air as possible, but I think they were a little more reasonable about it. Nobody expected my friends and I to run outside and die under the 2 p.m. July sun. Instead, we struck an unspoken compromise: If we spent the early mornings and evenings outdoors, we could hide inside and play games during the hottest hours of the day.
Summer means no school, no real obligations. That, combined with the permitted stretch of indoor time during the sun's peak, allowed me hours of guilt-free gaming. No homework, no tests to study for, no extracurricular activities outside of an occasional softball game. Talk about the perfect set-up for some of my favorite video game recollections.
I can think of five great summer gaming memories off the top of my head:
Retreating indoors to play NES games after going swimming
There's only one thing that might convince me to leave my dark, cool cave during a high summer noon: Water. I love to swim. Give me a lake, a pool, an ocean, a bay—I don't care. Plop it in front of me, and I'm jumping in. Whenever I spent time with my friends during the summer, we'd often do some swimming at a community pool (don't ask me to think about how much pee I might've splashed through) or an apartment complex's lanes (ditto). After we exhausted ourselves, we retreated to a cool basement to eat some lunch and play Mega Man 3. When night finally dropped, we usually walked to get some ice cream. Dang. Summer slaps.
Staying up until ass o'clock at night to play Final Fantasy IV
The summer I turned 15 was the same summer I received major surgery. While I still spent plenty of time outdoors, I had a finite store of energy. Moreover, the medication I was on did weird things to my sleeping schedule. My parents knew I was going through a rough time, so they let me stay up and play SNES for as long as I liked.
That's how I played (and finished) Final Fantasy IV for the first time. While that summer doesn't rank as one of my favorites overall, exploring Final Fantasy IV's iconic dungeons at 3 a.m. made my strict soft-food diet a little more palatable. Unfortunately, being awake at that hour means you might espy things humans are better off not seeing, like house centipedes big enough to set your terrier growling.
Witnessing Pokémon's rise as a cultural phenomenon during my summer '99 job
In the summer of '99, I took a job as an "Ecologist" (read: Trash-tosser, barf-mopper) at a big Canadian amusement park. It wasn't a glamorous job, but it afforded me much more freedom than standing behind a grill or a cash register (the merchandisers at the park weren't even allowed to wear pants with pockets). When I wasn't cleaning up after some kid who'd peed himself on Scooby Doo's Ghoster Coaster, I was hiding out with my co-workers and battling Pokémon. Yes, Pokémon was hot that summer, hotter than the weather at the peak of July. Not only did I play with my friends instead of working whenever the possibility arose, but I also took home leftover merchandise from promotional events. That's how I wound up with a French Pokémon poster in my bedroom. Attrapez-les Tous!
Owning my co-workers at Street Fighter Alpha 3 during the same job
Once in a while, the park would set employees loose in the arcades and pick up the bill. I worked with a lot of teenage dudes who loved games as much as I did, and while they never looked down on me for my passion, they were still a little surprised when I throttled them as Cody in Street Fighter Alpha 3. They quickly learned not to under-estimate me or my stripey-pyjamaed son.
Settling into Chrono Trigger just as the summer of '95 started to cool down
All seasons come to an end, but when the summer goes to sleep, the Christmas season begins to stir. And that means the getting to play the choicest games of the year. I bought, played, and finished Chrono Trigger just before returning to school in late August / early September of '95. What a way to cap off two months of leisure.
I collect summer romance stories, specifically the kind that involve video games instead of human beings. If you have some great game-related summer memories to offload, share them in the comments.