Growing up, having one’s own space was not easy to come by. My family wasn’t poor, but it was what one would describe as extended. I lived in a two-family home with my parents, sister, aunt, uncle, and their two children. Occasional my grandparents would be thrown into the mix. That led to some tight confines.
Having so many people around was a blessing and a curse. Every dinner was like a party, holidays were festive, and it always felt like there was company over. With that said, getting some privacy or alone time was a challenge. This was especially the case when trying to get some time to play a video game.
I was a Sega kid growing up, so while my friends had the NES, I was the weird kid with the Master System. Like most kids of my era, my console was plugged into the main TV, which was a pain in the ass, as I always had to battle with people for screen time. In my case, it was with my sister AND my cousins, who wanted to watch 21 Jump Street, or some other shit 1980’s show.
Some of my friends had their NESs hooked up to TVs in their bedrooms which totally blew my mind. I was so jealous of them and longed for one day having my own room with my own gaming setup. My hatred for them knew no bounds.
In Christmas of 1989, I got a Sega Genesis. This felt like a vindication after years of loyalty to the Sega brand. Being the weird Sega kid in a world of Nintendo was no longer such a bad thing, because I now had the hottest console at my fingertips. To accompany the console, I also got this cheap 19-inch CRT television from my aunt and uncle. My Genesis was hooked up to this tiny set in a spare room, which became my space, a refuge, if you will, and it was heaven. I’m sure it was heaven for everyone else too, as it freed up the main television so that everyone can watch MacGyver.
About a year later, my parents, sister, and I moved to another house down the road. This was the first time I had my own room. I had some major plans for this space, which were squashed when my mother pointed out that my ideas would never work. Never the less, what I had now was truly my own space. My bedroom became my gaming nexus and would remain so for nearly eleven years.
After college, my room started to feel cramped as hell. I felt like I had too much stuff, and a big television and all my gaming stuff were not helping. Sitting or lying down on my bed is also an uncomfortable way to play a video game if you’re an adult.
Also during this time, I had a girlfriend that despised video games. She could not stand the sight of them, so moving my consoles out of the bedroom was advantageous, since their mere presence ensured that no one, other than me, was going to be touching my ding dong. What can I say? I was in my early twenties and everything revolved around my ding dong. Come to think of it, nothing much has changed.
It was at this time when the entrepreneur in me hatched a plan. I was going to talk my parents into turning the unfinished basement into a den. Come to think about it, this was a better deal for them than it was for me. I agreed to do most of the work and purchase all the materials. In turn, the value of their home would go up.
For nearly a year, I toiled in this basement with a little help with my dad. The floor was tiled, lighting put in, walls plastered, and painted. I even put in crown fucking molding. I don’t even have crown molding in my own fucking house.
I then furnished the room with a big comfy sectional and put in a big heavy HDTV DLP for my gaming setup. After a year, the ultimate gaming setup was complete. Then, literally a week later, I got an opportunity to move to Italy, an offer too good to pass up. I dumped the video game hating girlfriend, packed my bags, and off I went. After spending a year building the ultimate game room, the only gaming I would be doing, would be on a Nintendo Gameboy Advance. I do not regret the decision.
My time in Italy was an opportunity to grow-up. It was life with a very small safety net. Mom and dad were half way around the world and I couldn’t go to them when things got tough, nor did I want to. But I wasn’t alone, I still had family and friends who watched out for me. I didn’t play a lot of games during this time, but the work I was doing was still game related, so I could stay on top of what was going on. I also had the chance to see how a different culture looks at gaming, which was the entire reason I was there. Eventually, my time in Italy came to an end and I packed up my bags to come home. As for my trusty Gameboy Advance, I gave it to my little cousin.
Returning home to my parent’s house after about a year away was a real shock to the system, but I did not stay long and moved out in less than six months. I simply could not be under my parent’s roof anymore, so I moved in with my best friend in south Florida and found a job in Miami.
That time in Florida was a blast. We built a cool gaming setup in the condo and when we weren’t working, we had some good times gaming, playing mostly sports games. What’s funny was that we didn’t have that much time to play video games. We were both working very hard starting off our careers and if we had any time to relax, playing video games was low on the list of things to do. We were in Miami after all, and there were more interesting things two guys in their early twenties with some disposable income could do in south Florida.
While in Florida, I met the girl that would eventually become my better half and we moved back up north and settled in New York City. We got a small yet ridiculously expensive apartment and furnished it as best we could. My girlfriend, who wasn’t a gamer indulged my gaming habit, unlike my ex. At times, she would sit and watch me play in the tiny living room, which also doubled as a dining room, kitchen, and guest room, because apartments in Manhattan are tiny.
Over the years, we moved up the corporate ladder, started earning more and moved into bigger places. Eventually, we bought a house. It was now that I started building my own dedicated gaming space again, one that would be like the one that I built in parent’s basement.
At the new house, I once again finished the basement and made it comfortable. One section was made into my own gaming sanctuary. I put up a large television, sectional, and shelves to display all my gaming tchotchkes that I collected over the years. It wasn’t as nice as the one in my parent’s basement, but it was damn near close. The difference is that this space was completely mine and mine only… for about two years.
I was in my own gaming space when the girl who indulged my gaming obsession, who became my wife told me that her contractions were getting close to each other. I was playing Mass Effect 3 when she gave me the news. I saved my game, calmly went upstairs, got the prepacked luggage, and calmly drove her to the hospital.
That was just over four years ago. That gaming space, the one in my very own basement, which nearly rivaled the one I built in parent’s basement, is gone. It has been replaced by a pop-up Cinderella castle, trampoline, toy boxes, painting easel, piano, rocking horse, and various assorted toys. It’s reminiscent of the Walmart toy section after a Black Friday sale, but less stabby. It’s not pleasant to look at and I pretend that it doesn’t exist, as it gives me anxiety.
I learned that when you have children, every section of the house becomes theirs. Everywhere you look, there’s evidence of this as toys are in every room. She walks into the house, throws off her jacket, kicks off her shoes, tosses away her socks, demands snacks, and my wife and just deal with it. We live in terror of our four-year-old.
There is no longer a place in my home that I can truly call my own, not even the bathroom. If I go to the bathroom to take one of my patented forty-five-minute-long morning dumps, within thirty seconds my daughter is banging on the door to ask me what I am doing. I now take my dumps at the office.
As for my current “gaming space,” I have a tiny corner in the basement. My consoles and many gaming related paraphernalia are behind closed media cabinet doors. The stuff that doesn’t fit on or in the cabinet are on tall shelves and the TV is mounted high off the ground, away from the reach of greasy, dirty little fingers. My daughter knows very well that she is to never, ever, touch anything in this small corner, as these are daddy’s toys and if she were to touch them, she would have to go live in the attic, with her evil brothers and sisters. Experts say that telling her this could be psychologically harmful, but she hasn’t yet disturbed my gaming space, so I’m just going to roll the dice on this one, for now.
It’s been nearly twelve years since I built that perfect gaming space in my parent’s basement and the quest to replicate it has become my personal white whale. It’s hard to say if I will ever build that perfect space again, but the journey so far has been fun, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Maybe one day, when the kids are married and out of the house, and I’m retired, I’ll build that perfect space, in lieu of buying a stupid sports car, taking up golf, or moving to a horrible condo in a retirement community in Florida. It’s a simple dream, for a simple man.