I remember where I was 10 years ago. Do you?
I cringe at the memory of me, hair down to my shoulders, pounding away at a $100 Stratocaster copy, trying to be Stephen Malkmus. I was such a tool. Ten years ago, I was 20 and living with my parents. I worked at Ron’s IGA, a grocery store that no longer exists. My girlfriend at the time was a girl named Heather who played bass for a Christian ska band called… actually, I forgot. The rest of the band were my friends Nick and Marty and the drummer was a guy only kind of knew. I was a college dropout jogging in place. My life was a Kevin Smith movie with less getting laid.
One thing I was not doing was buying a Dreamcast. My parents had bought me a Nintendo 64, day one, and I had a couple paychecks to buy myself a PlayStation so I could play Final Fantasy VII. I was not a particularly anti-SEGA gamer, and not much of a Nintendo fanboy, anymore. All I cared about was if a system had good games and the Dreamcast did not strike me as being worth several weeks of paychecks. Blue Stinger? Seriously?
A year later, I was living in Lawrence, KS, the cultural Bohemia of Kansas. The year 2000 was an exciting time to live in Lawrence. Local music was pretty active, there was a pretty keen art scene, and, as a whole, Lawrence was just a happening place to live. At least, it would have been if I had any money. I was broke. I should say we were broke, as Heather and I shared an apartment on Alabama. I was working at the Wendy’s a block away, slaving for $7 an hour. No concerts for me.
I will not harp on how low I was, but it was pretty bad. I literally wept at the thought of going to work most days. Customers treat fast food employees like trash, especially in a college town. When you are not being looked down on by college kids, living off of parental cash infusions, you are being verbally assaulted by the resentful rural types, hateful to all who do not drive a pick up truck. Never mind the menial nature of the work, the way people treat those who work in food service is reprehensible.
Christmas 2000 was coming and Heather wondered what it was I wanted. After a few months of longingly looking at screenshots from Dreamcast games in EGM and GameFAN, I had but one wish. I wanted a SEGA Dreamcast badly. Luckily, at least for the destitute, Dreamcast prices had begun to fall. During an eBay hunt, she found the perfect one. It had Ecco the Dolphin and House of the Dead II and there was a light gun included. Visions of shooting zombies danced in both of our heads and she bought it.
I cannot overstate how much the Dreamcast meant to me at that time. I came home sweaty and sore, smelling of fry grease and burger fat, my nails stained a butcher’s shade of brown from handling meat. My hair, down to my shoulders as a rebellion against a lifetime of Army barber crew cuts, had to be washed twice a day to keep the apartment from reeking of chicken nuggets. As bad as things got, I had the Dreamcast to look forward to. I hate to think how many zombie families lost their provider due to my hunting expeditions.
Truth is, she bought me a Dreamcast at the perfect time. Stores were blowing out their stock of Dreamcast games at super low prices. I have a copy of Capcom vs. SNK that was $10. Ten bucks for one of my three favorite fighting games, ever. Shopping expeditions brought home Project Justice, a classic of wacky Japanese gaming, and the superlative Power Stone 2 at prices later adapters cannot believe.
It was years later, a move to Missouri, a new job, and a PlayStation 2 before the DC was displaced as my gaming system of choice. I have bought a Saturn, a Neo Geo Pocket Color, the aforementioned PS2, a half dozen SEGA Genesis systems, a GameCube, and an XBOX in the years since and they are all gone, sold or given away. Only the Dreamcast stays, hooked to my secondary TV with the Wii. Want to guess which gets the most play?
At the time of this writing, I am in a similar jam to when she bought me that Dreamcast. I am out of work and trying to figure out what to do with the next chapter of my life. Depression takes hold, now and again. I have a hard time eating, let alone buying myself anything when I am depressed. Thankfully, I have Heather, who became my wife in the interim, to guide me through. She understands that the secret to moving forward is to keep living your life. Everyday, she saves me from myself.
There are more advanced systems, systems with bigger libraries, better controllers. There will never be another Dreamcast, a system for the gaming enthusiast. No system will ever do so fine a job bringing the arcade home. The SEGA Dreamcast was the last system for the truly hardcore gamer, and I will miss that mentality. One thing I will never miss is the Dreamcast itself.
This one is MINE. Buy your own.
Tags: thumb to the eye