As usual we were holding on to the tail-coats of a trend, never really the first to catch on! Video games were in vogue by the time we were in class 2 or thereabouts but it would take at least 2-3 years more for my group of friends to catch up with the frenzy. We had an occasional game of Mario all right but it was always second choice over GI Joe warfare or terrace cricket.
The real explosion of popularity for pitched virtual battles began with the arrival of Santosh, the 'professional' gamer from Hyderabad into our school. We were small town boys and our experience of games was limited to the first 3 worlds of Mario or the 5th level of Contra. But suddenly amongst us was a guy who had the largest possible library of those 8-bit adventure games and he had finished them all! Santosh rapidly gained demi-god status amongst us novice gamers as he taught us all the cheats and tricks that went into overcoming the seemingly invincible boss character. The weekend became the centre of our existence as hordes of us gathered around one TV screen alternately cheering and jeering as the creations of Japanese programmers ran riot on the screen. Nintendo was the magic word that opened into the most enthralling technicolored stories.
Recent research seems to indicate that video-games promote social ineptitude but at least for our school group it was the binding glue. The afternoon spent gaming would carry on to a evening of cricket and the rare game of real football. Our lives were filled with the anticipation of getting together again for a hearty laugh at the mess-ups and a shared sense of victory when the credits for another finished video game story rolled out. It was being part of history in the making even though the game controller may not have been in your own hands. Joining in on the enthusiastic high-fives being thrown around, it was a special pleasure to claim to the sullen faced absentees from last evening's successes in school next day, "I was there!"