Fathers pull their inspiration from weird places. Some of them pull it out of their own father’s teachings. Some of them pull it out of necessity and learn on the fly. But what indisputably prepares you for fatherhood the most is video games.
Old NES games, specifically. Look, that console had two buttons. TWO. There was no dual-stick move-and-look. There was no rocket-jumping. You didn’t get a gun and a melee attack. You got JUMP and SHOOT. If you were incredibly lucky, and you usually weren’t, you could use a second weapon or skill by holding B while pressing A.
The games were brutally tough, unfair, and unrewarding. And all of that hardship prepared a generation of boys for fatherhood.
Some fathers say that it’s heartbreaking to have to tell their kids “no.” Some say that it’s difficult to see them cry when they drop them off a school or daycare. Did these dads ever play NES games?
I’m sorry, but these old Nintendo games put your life into perspective more than any daddy-guide baby shower gift ever could.
1. Ghosts N Goblins (Capcom – 1986)
When my son and I are playing Super Smash Bros. Brawl and he’s telling me he can’t beat a guy, I’m like “dude, you never had to beat Ghosts N Goblins, did you?” Of course he hasn’t. Kids are soft these days. They don’t play games where you’re up against a legion of bad guys and all you’ve got is two hits. The first one knocks your clothes off, so now you’re also emotionally vulnerable, and the second one kills you. And if you manage to beat the game (which you won’t) you just start over and the game’s harder.
Whenever I’m faced with a tough decision in parenting, I just think: “dude, you played Ghosts N Goblins, you can do this.” Did I ever beat Ghosts N Goblins? Hell no. I didn’t have that kind of time, even as a kid, even with the issue of Nintendo Power with the map in it.
I remember when my son had to have surgery on his tongue when he was 2. The doctors actually had to anesthetize him for this 15 minute surgery. It was sad to see him groggy and scared, but not as sad as when I thought back to playing Ghosts N Goblins as a kid and how I died right before the fifth red demon in level 3.
I’m kidding, right? I don’t know, have you ever played Ghosts N Goblins?
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Ultra – 1989)
First of all, people were so excited to play as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and then this bag of buttholes came along and it was the hardest game in the world. You had four turtles to work with, each with a fairly generous life bar (take that, Ghosts N Goblins). But enemies respawned if you scrolled the screen – which you had to in order to dodge some other attack on the screen. It was like the game was mocking you. They let you think you had every resource in the world, and then you’d lose all of your guys in the first sewer.
If you somehow made it to the underwater dam level, it was so unfair that it makes me want to punch this speedrun guy square in his nunchuk:
You kidding me? Electric currents AND kelp that shocks you? Do you even know how electricity works? The controls were terrible while swimming, AND the level was timed. I’m sorry, but no. Screw you.
Whenever my son talks back to me, I just think “would you rather solve this attitude problem, or would you rather try to deactivate 8 bombs underwater while trying to dodge electrified EVERYTHING?” And suddenly, getting my son to cool off is the easiest thing in the world. All you have to do is scale the real, actual threat in front of you and you’ll find that fatherhood is like, not half as challenging as the Hoover Dam level in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
3. Mega Man (Capcom – 1987)
Sometimes, fathers have to use their children’s skills against them; if a kid is particularly rowdy, sometimes you’ve got to wrap them up in a good hold to teach them that they’re messing with the wrong beast. If your kid won’t eat his dinner, you can just take away their dinner altogether and tell them they missed their chance for food. If they break something of yours, you break something of theirs. You know, standard parenting revenge tactics.
But it’s no comparison to having to take on Dr. Wily’s robot army and using their own abilities against them.
Look, Mega Man was a great game and launched an incredible and enduring series, but Mega Man 1 was the kind of horses**t of legend. For starters, it kept score. Not because you’d be awarded an extra life at a certain number. It just needlessly kept score.
Also, appearing blocks. This is a trend that kept up through all of the sequels, but my god, when you first saw them in Ice Man and Elec Man’s levels, you were like “THIS ISN’T REAL.”
Your saving grace in Mega Man was that if you did the levels in the right order, you’d be rewarded with a (slightly) easier journey. It all didn’t matter anyway because there were no continues, no passwords, and no energy tanks, like in sequels.
Knowing which skill to use on your kids at any given time is the difference between looking like Dad of the Year at the grocery store and “Dad of the Year” on some dickhole’s “worst of parenting” list on Buzzfeed. Which, god help our souls, everyone has a telephoto zoom on their phone-cameras and they go straight to Reddit with a picture of you at the store choking your kid out in the freezer section because he just opened a bag of frozen onion rings and is eating them right there in the aisle.