For some reason a lot of people like to be the first to do something. In the old days that meant being the first to climb a mountain or the first to walk on the moon. Many of us will never have the chance to do those things and are limited to the little firsts in our own lives. For some people that means clinging to getting the "first post" on a blog entry, but for those of us in the position of reviewing video games, we often get the chance to be the first among our circle of friends to play the latest hot game. Look around the Internet and you'll find a bunch of game journalists posting photos of themselves (or their hands) holding the newest craze about a week before you'll get the chance to buy it for yourself.
I try not to shoot my mouth off about what I have that you do not (although I am still shamefully guilty of bragging from time to time), but back in 1991 on the elementary school playground I had the need to own the hottest new game before my friends. It was a lofty goal that seemed almost unattainable, but then two events came together came together one week with remarkable timing: my father was about go on a business trip, and Capcom was about to ship Mega Man 4 for the Nintendo Entertainment System to stores. I gathered my saved allowance money and handed it to my father as he left for Raleigh, North Carolina with a simple request: find that game!
Back in the day it seemed as if new video games took forever to reach my small hometown of Titusville, Florida. It was as if games were shipped to the northern parts of the country first and would then slowly trickle down south. Sometimes it took around three weeks for a supposedly available game to reach the local Wal-Mart or Sears. If my father could find Mega Man 4 in North Carolina and bring it home, I'd be a good two weeks ahead of the curve on this one. I'd have the blue bomber's latest adventure before my friends who had long lorded over me in the past with games such as Super Mario Bros. 2 and the original Mega Man. At last, I would be "first"!
Dad came home a few days later with a fresh copy of Mega Man 4 in his suitcase. I eagerly tore into the game that afternoon and battled the likes of Toad Man, Bright Man, and Pharaoh Man until it was time for bed, gloating gleefully as I fell asleep. Tomorrow at school I would share the news of my latest acquisition and would gain the respect of my peers for playing a certain video game before they had! The circle was almost complete... but then it all came crashing down the next day when I discovered that, for whatever reason, Mega Man was suddenly yesterday's news. Nobody cared that I had Mega Man 4 a good two weeks before it'd show up in local stores. Nobody wanted to come over and play.
I learned a valuable lesson that day at school, and it's a lesson I try to keep with me as time goes by. It doesn't matter who has something "first". Acquiring video games shouldn't be a race for acquisition; the game itself should be its own reward. Mega Man 4 wasn't any better or worse because I had it before those around me, and looking back on it all what matters is that I spent a lot of time playing and enjoying it. First, second, last... so what? Snagging a new game before those around you is fine, but don't waste time bragging about it. Use that time wisely and go play it. Your friends want to hear what you think of the game, not the fact that you have it and they do not.