Having grown up around video games since the day I was born, they have been a large part of it. As such, I have many memories, some good, some bad, and some weird. This is one of those memories.
It was the summer of 1995 and I was a spry energetic seven-year-old. My allowance was two dollars each week for doing chores and what not around the house. This small sum obviously made it rather difficult to purchase things that I wanted, but it instilled in me a strong sense of saving money and not spending on frivolous items. This mindset lasted all the way until I had my own job and disposable income. There were a few times during the year that gave me a way to drastically increase the amount of money in my pocket. The yearly summer garage sale was one of these times.
This year was a particularly good haul in the garage sale business. Couldn’t tell you what I got rid of, most likely they were items that are now worth much more as collector’s pieces, but I came out of with about $100. Basically a fortune for a seven-year-old. Now, for quite some time prior to the sale, I had this idea in my brain that I really, really wanted a lava lamp.
Not sure where I first saw one, or why I felt the unbearable desire that I must have one, but I did. The sale was done for the day and my neighbor friend from a couple houses down asked if I wanted to come over and play this new game he got. We got to his house and went down to his entertainment room in his basement and he put this new Super Nintendo game and started to play. The game opened with these mechanized things trekking through a snowstorm, ending in a town where they were attacked by the local militia. If you haven’t guessed by now, this game was Final Fantasy 3 (yes, it is actually Final Fantasy 6, but seven-year-old me wouldn’t know that for a number of years yet). I watched my friend play and was mesmerized by the game. The music, the graphics, everything. When I got my chance to play, my desire to spend my garage sale money on a lava lamp was suddenly under serious threat.
I returned home with quite the conundrum on my hands. Option A was, of course, to continue as planned, to pick up the coolest Lava Lamp this side of 17 Mile Road, making all the ladies swoon when telling of the majesty that was my lava lamp. Or, Option B, which was to ditch the lava lamp and go with this wonder of a video game I had just played.
Packed with interesting characters, a beautiful, full world, and an engrossing story that I just needed to know more about. Each option had their own drawbacks though, the lava lamp you could really only look at. Sure, I could also use it as some nefarious doomsday weapon that one of my evil action figures was threatening to use that the good guys had to destroy, but for most of the time, it would be something that would sit on my nightstand. Option B, while being much more interactive, as video games naturally are, would strike directly at one of my weaknesses as a child, reading. Yes, as you sit and read this, know that as a young lad, the art of reading was shrouded in a dense fog, causing me to need to resort to Hooked on Phonics and a personal reading tutor. Final Fantasy 3 was not a game that was light on reading either, and could easily pose a problem. I did try Option C, which was to plead with my parents to buy one and I would buy the other, but that was quickly shot down. I put on my best waterworks show too!
The next weekend I took the fateful trip to the store to make my final decision. A lava lamp or Final Fantasy 3 would be coming home with me, the other would remain alone on the shelf, never knowing the love of a dream-filled seven-year-old child of such sweet innocence as myself. Just as Eminem said in his song, “Lose Yourself”, “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.” This was my moment.
With my head held high, I exited the store looking forward, excited for the memories to come.
The moment I got home I immediately tore open the package looking and my purchase,
gazing at it in wonder as I turned it on for the first time! And then nothing happened. The glob that would eventually become the globs of “lava” turned out needed to heat up for a while before they would start doing their thing. Yup, that is right everyone, in my infinite wisdom and expert decision making skills I went with the lava lamp. No Final Fantasy 3 for me (at least not for many years). The lamp was cool I suppose, the wax was red and the base was black and it had a top to it that made it look almost like a missile. Great for the whole villain weapon of mass destruction idea for my action figures. That sucker though put out some serious heat. It radiated so much heat that it could easily raise the temperature in my room a good 5-8 degrees.
Unfortunately for me, none of the girls of the playground were swoon by the fact I had a lava lamp, and no one in the neighborhood seemed to line up to see it either.
If you are wondering if looking back I regret getting the lava lamp instead of Final Fantasy 3, you can bet your ass I regretted it! Seriously now, it was Final Fantasy 3 for god sake! It isn’t like the Lion King on SNES (that tale is for another day), it was one the most critically acclaimed role-playing games of all time! Thankfully, since that summer, Square has re-released that game about a half dozen times, so I have made up for my youthful mistake a few times over, getting the GBA, PSX, PSX Classic, and Steam versions of the game, even eventually getting a SNES cart too! That lava lamp though, after a couple years it was put in a box and taken to the basement, only to be thrown out when my parents sold the house when I was 18. It’s funny thinking about all the stupid things we did as kids, isn’t it?