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When was the first time you were grounded from video games?

by Ron Duwell | January 7, 2018January 7, 2018 6:00 am PST

Despite being a perfect angel in my youth, yes I was, indeed punished on occasion. We all had our times of misdeeds when we put a toe or an entire foot out of line, and our parents had to come down hard. It was at times like these that the dreaded “G” word fell on our ears, banning us from the things we loved most, oftentimes unrelated to the committed crime. As an adult now, it all makes sense, but to a four, five, six-year-old child, justice for your ill actions doesn’t always translate into logic.

My generation was the first to have to suffer this age-old tradition of “being grounded” with our precious video games being the pleasures we were denied. In the late-80s, not being allowed to access your video games was like losing your personal portal away from this boring, mundane world. No internet, no interesting children’s shows.”What, you mean I have to play with my LEGOs now? They don’t even use electricity! This requires too much thinking!”

Losing your video games was a bitter pill that, no doubt, many of us had to swallow from time to time. In the big picture, it’s all part of growing up, and while I was rarely grounded from video games in those early days, mostly because I never owned my own, I distinctly remember the first time my Mom forbid me from playing video games.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t have a memory that dives this far back into my childhood.

Back before Tom Cruise made classic monsters “cool” again

My uncle had been visiting my house, and it must have been Christmas time because the snow was involved in my poor decision-making that day. However, in the depths of New England, snow could just as easily mean Halloween or Valentine’s Day as it does Christmas. Either way, my uncle brought his shiny new Nintendo Entertainment System and his collection of games to my house for the weekend. As said before, I never owned my own video games in those early days and often relied on cousins, friends, and the NES my parents stored at my grandma’s house to get my fix.

Trust me when I say I took my gaming time seriously and never once for granted. When I had access to a video game console, I treasured my time with it because it could be months before I got the chance to play one again.

Either way, this was a two-step punishment, which no doubt led to my mother coming down hard on me. I had worked my way through my uncle’s entire collection over two days, trying each of the games and seeing what I thought of each of them. However, I saved the very best for last because it was titled after another toy I was very much into at the time: Monster in my Pocket. Just before I got around to playing it, my mother told me it was time to turn off the Nintendo because we were going bowling.

I asked for a few more minutes because I wanted to play the last game, but nope, it was time to turn it off. A brief argument later turned into me not getting to play the game for the rest of my uncle’s vacation, not because I argued but because I apparently threw the controller down in a rage. Maybe my memory is a bit biased on my part, but I remember simply taking my hands off of the controller upon the threat that I couldn’t play when I got home and letting it fall to the ground.

Still, that translated to slamming in my Mom’s’ eyes, and nothing could convince her otherwise.

However, we went to bowling, where I behaved myself as usual and earned myself a reprieve from the punishment. That is, until my father and uncle started a snowball fight in the parking lot, something I was apparently not allowed to partake in. In my excitement, I threw a snowball at my uncle, missed and smacked a nearby car. Orders came from my mother to not do that again, but when my father and uncle did not stop, neither did I.

Nope, I lost the Nintendo again. The thin ice I have been balancing on at the bowling alley split open, and I sank right to the bottom. Mom wasn’t interested in how they were also doing it, I was told specifically not to, and I just didn’t listen.

Pretty typical story. Kid gets exposure to video games in his own house, misbehaves and disobeys when he is taken away from them, and he’s punished. Nothing too out of the ordinary, although looking back, the first punishment was based on a false claim by my mother, and my uncle and father were just as much to blame for the second one.

The funny angle is that all these arguments and punishments were over Monster in my Pocket, one of the thousands of licensed NES games that time forgot. It couldn’t have been over Mega Man, Contra or a superior classic monster-based game of the era, Castlevania. I received my first video game punishment over a game I barely remembered the next time I visited that uncle. Why? He had acquired a Super Nintendo by that point, and my interest in Monster in my Pocket already all but vanished.

However, I played a ROM many years later once this event crept back into my memory and discovered, unsurprisingly, that it really wasn’t worth all the fuss. As far as Konami’s NES licensed games go, Bucky O’Hare this game is not! Monster in my Pocket is a pretty typical hack ‘n’ slasher where either Frankenstein or Dracula, your choice, runs in one direction and cuts away at 8-bit representations of the little monster figurines. Only the Ghost really looks like the real thing, but this was a rush job to capitalize on a fad toy. You can’t expect too much.

The gimmick here is that the characters are tiny, and the backdrops are created by everyday household items. Clever, but Capcom did it better with Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers on the NES.

In a way, the ability to choose a starting character was neat, and Monster in my Pocket is loaded with Konami’s 8-bit sound effects and penchant for killer soundtracks. There is value here, making this game not completely forgettable.

However, Monster in my Pocket is not worth the memory of my first video game punishment. If you can remember, what was the first game that got you into trouble?


Ron Duwell

Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...

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