I was born in 1994 with a brother six years my senior.
As soon as I could crawl, I’d venture off to his room only to be eventually carried away by my parents. I was Sisyphus in a pair of pampers, but I didn’t care; I wanted to be with my brother. I was the cliché second child, molded in my older brother (Edwin)’s image. Everything he liked, I liked, and gaming was no exception. As I reflect on my own journey as a gamer, it is impossible not to think about Edwin’s.
Player 1: Press Start
Edwin’s first console was the Game Boy, a clunky grey thing; it reminded me of an oversized calculator. As his interest in games grew, he decided to ask for a N64. But with the Super Nintendo (SNES) Jr. on the market for only $100 plus a free game, (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island) my grandmother decided it was basically the same thing. So they made a deal. She said, “[Edwin] show me you’re actually going to play it, and I’ll buy you the N64.” The promise was kept, and within a year, my brother had his N64. The year was 1999.
Player 2: Press Start
Around the same time, I got my first system. It’s hard to say what I owned first: the Game Boy Pocket or my brother’s SNES Jr. But I remember my first game for the Game Boy Pocket was The Smurfs because my grandmother bought all our consoles and didn’t know any better. I didn’t like it too much, although riding the log through the water was fun. But I played the game anyway because it was all I had for the time being.
So there I was—Player 2—with my Smurfs game and a hand-me-down console (soon to be 2 gens behind). And I loved every second of it.
Most gamers think being born Player 2 is a negative. You are the one using the 3rd party controller, you don’t pick the games or consoles, you’re not in control. You are Luigi to Mario, so yeah, you help save the princess, but it’s never quite your mission.
But it wasn’t like that for me. I never felt secondary, even with my 3rd party controller (Mad Catz held it down). Rather, growing up with an older brother felt like an incredible co-op experience. I may have inherited Edwin’s old system, but I still got to play the N64. And when the SNES Jr. was “his,” I got to play it, too. My first video game experience was when I was only 4 or 5, but watching Edwin play made gaming easier to pick up. Plus it was fulfilling in its own right: When I finally picked up the controller myself, Edwin helped me when I got stuck, encouraged me to get over my fear of bosses, and taught me the importance of mastering every move: “you can get away with not mastering the long jump now, but you’re gonna need it later.” And he was always right.
When I got older, I went the Sony route and Edwin stuck to Nintendo. We were fans of both companies, and this was our way of getting both systems in the house. This worked because we were lucky enough to have my grandmother buying us the consoles, and we weren’t so petty that we hogged our system for ourselves. We were both each other’s “File B.”
We always watched each other play. One of us would struggle to figure out a mission, and the next person had the advantage of having watched it done (but also the saltiness of not getting to do it completely themselves). The relationship pushed us to finish games. I remember watching my brother defeat the final boss in Jak 3 and immediately picking up the controller so I could reach the end credits, too. Then we went to blockbuster and selected a game to rent together. To this day, we reminisce on our rental of Dragonball Z: Budokai: how we fought each other until our hands were in too much pain to play anymore.
But we weren’t always on the same page. In my youth, all I wanted to play was Mario Party 4 and Super Smash Bros. Melee. Edwin loved the games, too, but I was completely obsessed. I would ask him to play—literally—Every. Single. Day. And to his credit, he often indulged me. We’d regularly do Smash tournaments of 64, without CPUs, that would take us hours to complete and who knows how much Mario Party we’ve played.
It was a two way street. Having no interest in football, I hated Madden 2003. But Edwin loved it, so I played and was god awful, asking Madden every time it was my turn. Eventually, I got good enough to give him some competitive matches and make some good memories. Though I am still bitter over our Thanksgiving match: I was up by 21, one of Edwin’s players (Randy Moss) got injured, and time was winding down. I was guaranteed victory until my mom made me turn off the game so she could braid my hair before dinner at my aunt’s house.
And these are just a few of the stories I could tell from our gaming youth.
Of course, things changed. Edwin started working full-time and eventually went back to school for his associates and then Bachelor’s degree. I went a more traditional route, leaving for college at 18. Now I’m looking for my first full-time job, and my brother is a full-time musician and private instructor. Free time isn’t as simple or unstructured as it use to be. And in terms of hours spent gaming, my brother is no longer the head of the household.
But he will always Player 1.
I still give him the better controller.
My older brother, Edwin is everything to me. Neither of us game as much as before (though I’m building my way towards that), but it’s still part of our relationship.
We beat Super Mario 3D World completely co-op last year, and we’re currently playing Yoshi’s Wooly World together. And recently, we teamed up to play Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, which I talk about here. We’re still invested in each other’s gaming habits. I’m pushing for him to finish Luigi’s Mansion: Darkmoon, and he wants a competitive match from me in Fifa 16.
As I branch out in my life and meet new people, gaming remains a social and amicable act. Growing up as Player 2, my brother taught me that gaming with others is about positive community. So I always take the 3rd party controller: it’s an act of respect and love—a way to say, “thank you for joining me on this adventure.”
I realize we were lucky to grow up with as many systems as we did. It’s a privilege not everyone can have. But regardless of your experience, to all my Player 2’s out there, be thankful you had someone to game with, someone to learn from, and someone to compete against. And to my Player 1 brother, thank you for all the memories past and those to come. In gaming and in life, you have always been my support and my guide. You raised me into a worthy adversary, whether you want to admit it or not.