In September 1996, I had just entered 8th grade. My freshly sprouted facial hair and deepening voice were no doubt the envy of my classmates. But there was another, far more monumental thing that was about to happen to me.

I was on a routine shopping outing with my mother and sister. They loved to shop. I despised it but would occasionally tag along for the opportunity to stop by Toys R Us and check out the latest games for my Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo.

But something was distinctly different about my visit on that day in September. I knew the store layout by heart. The first aisle neatly displayed shelves of consoles and accessories behind a wall of glass. The second aisle was adorned floor to ceiling with plastic envelopes tightly hugging barcoded slips of paper. As soon as I stepped in I stopped in my tracks. In front of the entrance stood four large pillars with some type of movie playing on their displays and these weird grey tridents extending from their waists, waiting to capture me with their joyful barbs. When I got closer I saw the truth. It wasn't a movie playing—it was Super Mario 64.

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I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I immediately grabbed the controller, intuitively using the little stick to control Mario. I ran through the courtyard, climbed to the top of a tree and did a fantastic somersault into a crystal blue moat. I think I wet my pants at that moment. The sounds of birds chirping, the patter of Mario's shoes... it was all so surreal. It's an experience that can be instantly shared with anyone who remembers seeing it for themselves at that time, and one that defies explanation simultaneously. I wanted a Nintendo 64, I wanted one bad.

I had always considered myself responsible with my money. For my age, I figured I had a considerable amount sitting in my savings account. My sister and I received the same amount of money for birthdays and Christmas. My sister mentally subscribed to the just-in-time model, spending her money as quickly as it came in. Although she enjoyed video games, clothing and music always took priority. Besides, she could just play my games. She played on the kiosk next to me. She must've seen the thought coursing through my head. The one that urged me "must resist the temptation." Because at that moment she looked over to me and said, "You know, you have enough saved up to get one." The nerve!

That night I went home and dreamt about the possibilities. If I get one, I'm totally not going to sleep anymore. That way I can maximize my play time relative to the $249 price. I'm practical with my money after all, and that was the practical thing to do. Who needs sleep anyway? I have other needs.

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The next morning I woke up and asked my mom if we could go to the bank and then back to the store. There was work to be done.

I stepped up to the register with a fat wad of cash and a pile of paper slips and electronics: the Nintendo 64, an extra controller, and a Memory Pak. I picked up Super Mario 64 and Wave Race 64. After my time spent ambling about in the castle moat, a water-based racer felt like the logical back-up.

Needless to say, the rest is history. Though my face got hairier and my voice got deeper, the sense of wonder I felt that day with a Nintendo 64 controller in my hand—that feeling of discovery—has rarely been matched since.