Over the Years, Checkpoint No. 1

It’s a wondrous feeling, that tickles you a little bit, when your own, personal calendar actually reminds you of something you’d long forgotten about, as opposed to it simply being a planning too. Just about a week ago, my phone sang a matter-of-fact alert tone as it reminded of something I’d left in a state of oblivion – “Over the Years Checkpoint, No. 1”, November 10. Upon reading the monochromatic text, the time and memories that have passed, ever since the day I’d typed that into the phone’s calendar, suddenly came rushing back.

I would suppose that it all started about a year ago, maybe a little before November 10. It was at a friend’s party, which she was hosting at her lakeside home, complete with a big-screen television playing MTV music videos and an air hockey machine shouting out the score, where the rationale behind the checkpoint was born. Her dad owned an arcade machine he’d powered on for the occasion – “Time Pilot”. As I sat down to give it a go, as I gazed upon the almost blinding vibrancy of colors jutting out of the machine’s monitor, I thought about something so obvious, yet, at the time, so amazing. Each arcade machine ever made – easily a six or seven hundred dollar piece – can only play one game. That’s not without its merits – each apparatus is a wonderfully constructed piece of artwork, with a custom marquee and cabinet design for each game. But I had a more lucrative idea –  putting together my knowledge about arcade emulation on PC (which is possible and growing as more and more games become supported) with the “unigame” nature of arcade machines, I conjured up the idea of making a multi-game – nay, multi-system arcade machine.

From this episode of discovery, was born Daphne VGS (Video Game System). I’d decided that my arcade machine would not only play arcade games, but also all the console games ever created. Well, at least the ones that I would get. It would play NES games, Super Nintendo games, Playstation games, Genesis games. As far as apperance, it would be a regular computer encased in a vintage-style custom computer case (complete with a wood finish and a metal plate proclaiming, in Galaga-style font, “Daphne VGS”) instead of a full-on arcade cabinet, as there’s not exactly too much space in my room; as far as control, it would use a Sony PS2 controller, whose design would fit the multiple control schemes the system would have for each console; and as far as extras, it would not only play games but would also browse the internet, play music and videos … I was excited.

Then I realized, wow – that’s a lot of games. I even had the possibility of downloading entire game libraries at once! So, to make the adventure worthwhile, I decided to simply go game-by-game (or small library by small library), putting each library of games for a given console on a DVD or set of DVDs. Eahc DVD or DVD set would go in a binder full of CD sheets, separated by dividers indicating which game console each CD sheet held the games for. This would become the “Over the Years” collection which, over the years, would grow and eventually include all, if not most, games possible to emulate on a PC.

I gave myself a date – November 10, 2010, one that seemed so, so, so far away. I’d be a junior by then, taking AP Language and Composition, AP American History, AP Biology, Pre-Calc .. I’d have attended UM’s summer journalism workshop; I’d have spent the entirety o f summer 2010. There’s no way this date will come anytime soon, I told myself. Heck, by then, I’ll probably have this collection complete!

But the date came, and passed. As I stopped and read the notification on my phone; smiling, happy, nostalgic … I thought to myself – what things have changed since that day I put the event on my phone’s calendar. Besides the obvious passage of time, what other things are different now; what things are new?

So many things. It’s no wonder that teenagers change tremendously – at least they feel this way – from school year to school year. The guy building Daphne VGS now isn’t the same guy building Daphne VGS a year ago. I look back upon my sophomore year of high school, and grow as happily nostalgic as I do slightly ticked when I think about all the things I said and did, scrutinizing each as an act of immaturity. That’s it! Immaturity – it’s what I feel dropping every school year. I look back upon the things I said and did and realize how much of an idiot I was with respect to certain things said and done. Perhaps that’s the healthiest form of change – self-assessable. It’s certianly pleasurable, though at the same time scary, to regard the things you thought were the right things to do as being immutably not the right things to do, and – for fear of being ambiguous – that could go for anything. From the daily routine one chose afterschool throughout an entire school year, to the way one handled a given situation. It’s crazy.

A few days after the Checkpoint, I found some excellent videos on Sparknotes which narrate the plot, through narrations and very professionally done custom artwork, of several top books including The Scarlet Letter, 1984, The Great Gatsby … as I saw the books from 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th grade come alive on my widescreen LCD, I felt the memories from those years coming back. The past I left behind came alive in the images I saw of the characters from the books I used to read – the most emotionally affecting encounter I’ve ever had with anything on my computer monitor.

I’m filming Band now. I know so much more about documentary film-making, from the basic six questions of “who? what? when? where? why? how?” to not knowing what to do when you see someone exempt from practice, with their head buried in their hands, sitting diagonal from the marching field on the basketball court, Indian-style on the warm granite floor, and you’re not sure whether to film the person or not…

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