Saturday, 13 February 2016

Ten Years Ago: The St. John's Retro Gaming Scene And My Game Boy Advance

2006 was... well, let's be real. It was a pretty grim time in my life. University-less, jobless, and living in just about the easterly edge of North America, in St. John's, Newfoundland. I was lucky enough to have reunited with some old college friends who lived off campus during my final semester, before everything went to shit and seemingly destroyed my life. So it was that I got to move in with them, into their rented house, and with financial assistance from family so I didn't starve to death, the job hunt during the harsh city winter was on. How the job hunt went is irrelevant to this story and I already feel like I'm oversharing. The shit that went on in that house during the nine months I lived in it are drama of the highest order. The first three months or so, however, were fine, and since that all happened ten years ago we're gonna focus on it. It wasn't all doom and gloom in that house. Two of the guys there were avid video game player men and we bonded a lot over that sort of thing. Being either poor college students or poor job seekers, we didn't really have a lot of money to hurl around at the nicest new video games.

Lucky for us, the old video game scene in St. John's was bustling. I can think of at least three places within walking distance. There was Nintendo World, up by the Avalon Mall. I grabbed a bunch of stuff from that place. The EB Games (that's what Gamestops are in Canada, folks) in the Avalon Mall itself still sold lots of used N64 and PS1 games for our purchasing pleasure. A little further down the road was... Oh god. Now you can really tell that age has fogged my memory of these times because I can't remember the name of the next place. Hang on. I have to resort to Google Maps for this. Huh. It says Games X Change. I don't remember it being called that, but it has been ten years. Anyway. Bought lots of good things from there as well. Even further up the road, and a bit of a long haul to walk, was Netherworld. Look at this goddamn place. It was teeny tiny and mainly dealt with Magic cards and comic books, but they had games there as well. They also set up a booth at the flea market every week. Oh yeah. The damn flea market. That happened at the Avalon Mall every Sunday evening, and you could get all sorts of crap there. Old games, cards, VHS tapes, books. We would always go there, grab some stuff, and end up getting dinner at the food court. Dairy Queen. Two cheeseburgers for 2 bucks. Hey, they were good burgers. Now, the title of this article has to do with a Game Boy Advance. So, where'd I get that from? None of those. I have fooled you all. No, one of the guys found a for sale listing for a GBA online and told me about it. I kind of wanted it since it was like 10 bucks. So, on a February Saturday, much like the one I'm posting this on, we bundled up and made the long trek. And I do mean a long trek. We had to go even farther than Netherworld. We ended up on Merrymeeting Road, practically at the edge of downtown St. John's. Looks like this. I don't remember the exact house or anything but that's the neighborhood. So I got the GBA, an original model Glacier color with the translucent plastic, for 10 bucks. Not bad. Now all I needed were some games. Lucky that we had to pass by all those old game stores on the way home, huh?

So I ended up with a Pokemon Sapphire from Netherworld, and a Golden Sun from Games X Change. Not a bad way to start your GBA library. And hell, our other roommate had a GBA too, so there were lots of games for me to play in my down time. My collection grew from there, spending pocket change here and there on some old luxury fancy. I got a copy of Doom for the damn thing. Doom. On a model 1 GBA with no backlight. I literally had to beat some levels by turning on the automap and just following that. I tried to play my roommate's copy of Circle Of The Moon on that thing too. My condolences to the children of 2001 who got that shit on launch. I mean, holy shit. Hell, I even remember taking it along on a flea market visit, playing Fire Emblem at the food court. My god. Playing video games in public. What a silly 20 year-old dork I was. Of course, as the snow melted and the drama intensified, things had to change. I do remember walking all the way downtown again in the summer, hunting for a good job after some brief missteps. I was just finishing up Golden Sun then, and let me tell you, walking an hour in the blistering heat ain't fun. Or walking back. I should have taken the bus. Christ. Well, it was around this time when I upgraded the old GBA by trading it in to Netherworld for a GBA SP. A garish goddamn color scheme of neon green and bright orange. Ech. I don't know what it was promoting, but backlit GBA games served me well. Before I left that house, I traded that to my roommate for his original model DS. That was the machine with which I left that place in late summer, and that's where our little rambling ends for today.

I could tell an infinite number of old video game stories about 2006 in St. John's. Maybe I still will as the year goes on. For now, with all of that behind me, I reflect on the time when I was buying minimal groceries, struggling to find work, and passing away my leisure with an old GBA and an exploration of Hoenn. I never did pick up Alpha Sapphire on 3DS. Maybe I will one day, and relive those adventures. My Pelipper would be proud.