Living the Dream

Post date: Sep 9, 2014 4:34:36 PM

The Dreamcast was heavy. That was the first thing that entered my mind after I had scurried home from Software Etc. and removed my new system from its box. The weight of the Dreamcast gave the impression that it was packed with strength, ready to meet my wildest expectations. I popped Soul Calibur into the disc drive and hit the power button. The console noisily came to life, as if a slumbering beast had been awakened. My eyes widened.

For months I had been anxiously looking forward to the Dreamcast's release on 9/9/99, and no disappointment was to be found that day. I was floored. The intense, blood-pumping introduction to Soul Calibur! Racing down the side of a skyscraper in Sonic Adventure! The frantic fisticuffs of Power Stone! Zooming across shark-infested waters in Hydro Thunder! Reeling in catch after catch in Sega Bass Fishing! What an incredible start to my love affair with Sega's 128-bit powerhouse.

Over the next couple of years, the awesome games just kept coming. Phantasy Star Online, Crazy Taxi, ChuChu Rocket, Street Fighter III, Marvel vs. Capcom 1 and 2, Samba de Amigo, Skies of Arcadia, Seaman, Shenmue... It went on and on. Even after the Dreamcast's "death" I fanatically purchased Japanese releases of games like Rez, Border Down, Ikaruga, and Under Defeat. In but a few years' time, the depth of quality software for the system was unbelievable.

Unfortunately, most video game players I knew (or the general public, for that matter) didn't seem to "get" what was so special about the Dreamcast. I sang the Dreamcast's praises to anyone who would listen, but everyone was focused on something else: The upcoming release of the PlayStation 2. This irked me, and I argued that if people just gave the Dreamcast a chance, they would understand how amazing it was and they would feel the same excitement for it that I did. Why focus on what is not even here yet when there is something astounding right in front of you? My declarations were not unlike that of a religious zealot.

Looking back, it is clear my frustration centered on the fact that I shared a genuine camaraderie with the Dreamcast. As a fresh-from-college, 23-year-old without a clear path in life chiseled out, I blindly believed I was standing on the cusp of doing great things, yet it seemed all my efforts and potential were going unnoticed. One of my main pastimes was recording my own music, and I was convinced I would be signed to a record label if only someone would properly believe in me. I sent countless demo tapes to labels and bands across the globe. Nothing concrete ever came of out of my efforts. I was ignorant of the fact that perhaps it just wasn't meant to be, or maybe I just didn't have what was needed. Each night as I played my Dreamcast before bed, I felt sorry for the two us as if we were outcasts destined to be overlooked by the world at large.

The thing is, life doesn't work the way I expected it to. I am a firm believer in the importance of hard work, but I now understand that a great deal of what happens to any of us is out of our control. There are an endless number of factors at play, and we are infinitely interconnected to one another and the multitude of variables that exist in our environments. Though we can have a positive influence and make the best of whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, we can't control every single element of our lives. That's just the nature of existence. Life just... happens.

True, the Dreamcast didn't do so well, but this led to some interesting results. For instance, who could have guessed Sega would take the helm and develop a stupendous F-Zero game, let alone allow Sonic to join the battle in Super Smash Bros.? Fans of the quirky and feisty Sega of yore may lament the company's transformation into what is has become today, but at least from time to time glimmers of the good old days still arise. And, who's to say video games are actually worse off with the way things turned out? Maybe if the Dreamcast had been more popular, it would have had some unexpected detrimental effect on the entire video game industry as a whole. You never know...

And yes, I didn't make it as a professional musician. But that's okay, because the flow of life carried me to a pretty great spot. I've been married for nearly ten years, have two wonderful children, and am working a career that provides me with personal and professional fulfillment. Sometimes I get sad that I don't get paid to spend my days laying down tracks of my own music, but when I am sitting next to my beautiful kids, snuggling and laughing with them, my old dreams tend to fade away. And should I ever want to revisit the person I was 15 years ago, he continues to live in the memories that flood back every time I press the power button on my favorite game system.