The Batman Effect
In 1952, Ray Bradbury wrote short story entitled “A Sound of Thunder.” It was about a hunter who travels back in time to shoot a Tyrannosaurus Rex. However, once the hunter sees the ferocious man-eater leveling trees in its path, he panics, steps off the carefully-designed walkway, and kills a single butterfly. Once the hunter returns to the present day, his entire world as he once knew it has been changed forever.
I often wonder what my life would be like today had I not experienced one of the most influential moments of my childhood. It was the Christmas of 1990—barely! It was about three in the morning, and I was tossing and turning in bed. I knew I couldn’t get up yet, because I didn’t want to upset my parents, so I just laid there wondering what could possibly be waiting for me downstairs. “Could it be a bike?” I asked myself, as I looked at the snow falling through my bedroom window. “…No.”
See, Mom and Dad had just bought our first home in Gloucester City, New Jersey this year, and Mom repeatedly told me that since we didn’t live in Philadelphia anymore, Santa might not be able to find our new home. I tried to tell her that Santa knew where every kid lived, but she would just give me a sad look that I never quite understood until years later. Either way, I was just hoping I would get a few Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys. Or maybe some Transformers toys. …Or maybe some Ghostbuster toys... I smiled and looked at the falling snow one more time before I drifted back to sleep.
I heard a soft knock on the door.
“Rob! It’s Christmas!”
I leapt out of bed, surprised that I overslept! I opened up my door to see my sister, Rosanne, grinning from ear to ear. She and I raced through the hall. Along with the aroma of bacon and eggs, I could hear Dad singing along to Nat King Cole’s “Merry Christmas to You” downstairs. We practically slid down the steps when I saw the most spectacular sight I’d ever seen. There, right next to Christmas tree, was an entire sofa full of presents! Mom and Dad stormed in from the kitchen, Dad holding a video camera. “Merry Christmas, Kiddos,” He said with a grin. “Should we eat first, or should be open some presents?”
I held the first present in my hand and shook it violently. It was small, rectangular, and relatively light, but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what it was. Finally, I tore the Frosty the Snowman wrapping paper off in record time.
I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t!
Batman: The Video Game for the Nintendo Entertainment System! The yellow Bat-Symbol beamed of my eyes when I came the realization that I just gotten a video game for Christmas. If there was there was a video game, there had to be a …
“Did Santa get me a Nintendo?” I asked, my hands trembling.
“Depends if you’ve been naughty or nice,” Dad was quick to answer.
An hour later, Dad was setting up my very first video game console: the Nintendo Entertainment System in my bedroom on an old-turn dial TV—hey, it was mine, so it was special! I was sitting at the edge of the bed when Dad turned around and asked a question I’d always remember—“So, kiddo, which game do you want to play first?”
Between Batman and Super Mario Brothers, I chose the Dark Knight.
So there we were, my Dad and I sitting on the floor together playing Batman: The Video Game. The levels were beautifully colored and designed, the music was amazing, and the cut-scenes were like nothing I had ever seen before. It was like I was playing a movie! Yet, what I remembered most about that Christmas morning in 1990 was how happy my Dad and I were together, protecting the citizens of Gotham, one Continue at a time!
I guess it’s about time to travel back to the present day: November 30th, 2012. As I write this column, I’ve got a smile on my face. I can’t help it! That Christmas of 1990—that seemingly trivial experience—changed my life forever. Much like the Butterfly Effect in Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder,” Batman: The Video Game had a monumental effect on my life. Batman got me into gaming and comics. Comics got me into reading. Reading got me into writing. Writing got me into English. English got me into teaching. And teaching… Well, you get the idea.
To sum it up, I’m thankful for the Batman Effect—and, even more importantly—the Christmas memory. I still have Batman: The Video Game. And every now and then, I fire it up, imagining Dad here with me once again cleaning up the streets of Gotham.
Rob “The Retro Junkie” Luther
Title Screen screen shot courtesy of http://www.vgmpf.com/Wiki/index.php?title=File:Batman_-_NES_-_Title.png
Batman vs. Joker sceen shot courtesy of http://www.spacebooger.com/