I had my old, Nintendo Entertainment System console in late 1990. Saturdays usually meant only one thing back then – Nintendo video games; 2 hours. 2 hours is already generous by my mother’s strict standards of discipline, although time extensions of up to 3.5 hours are permitted under certain conditions of good behaviour and good exam results.
When Chinese New Year 1991 came back then, the thought of clocking in 6 hours of console gaming fun (for possibly 3 days straight) can make any Malaysian kid of the early 1990s delirious with joy – Brother and me not excepted. There were already fantastic titles which promised a whale of a time – "Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers 1"; "Ikari III"; "Final Mission" ("S.C.A.T" in the US); and more. It didn’t matter whether there was a gathering of relatives at my home or at my aunt’s (depending on the arrangements made by the apparently all-knowing adults back then)- both of our homes have these consoles and whenever the kids meet, it’s gonna be a smashing, good fun for the best time of the year for a Chinese. It’d be a time to share older games with each other (trading) and to show off new ones to make other kids jealous.
If you thought that receiving red packets filled with gratuitous sums of between RM 2 to RM 10 (yes, we all knew how to detect who were the stingy ones and we also spoke respectfully of the generous relatives but that came naturally to us since we’re Chinese) was one of the eagerly anticipated gifts during the Lunar New Years of the early 1990s to early 1994, you’ve thought wrong. I don’t think that money back then was that precious to a pre-pubescent kid; money was (and now, is) helpful, though not as crucial as would apply to any greedy adult – the permission to be able to play what we’d aptly call ‘Computer’ (the Nintendo Entertainment System also the ‘NES’) was the more lip-smacking one.
You see, we kids have simply got to have some form of entertainment. If you were expecting us to engage in small talk with any guests present at any New Year gathering at such a tender age, it’d invariably end up with a nagging request to play video games on the NES. TV shows just don’t cut it as it would usually be some pretentious Hong Kong TVB gala event of some sort and with stars whom we can’t associate with then. Besides, we kids aren’t that sociable to begin with – so why not cut the crap and just let us to have our own quality time with the video games? And there was one subject guaranteed to bond kids’ interests together, it has got to be video games!
My younger cousin would always get his way in these matters (don’t ask me how) and the issue would be usually resolved with often unfulfilled conditions to come for the big, relatives’ dinner on time without necessitating the more ‘sensible’ adults hollering for us and also to pack things up (close shop for gaming) after 11 p.m. It’s time to hook up the ‘Player One’ and ‘Player Two’ controllers as it’s game on! The usual cast would be cousin, Brother and me – other kids in the house during these festive gatherings can get to play but only after they wait a darn long time. That’s wicked but that’s the way it is ! You don’t expect us to pass up the chance to play as long as we can, isn’t it?
These video games session would usually end at around 1 p.m. (adults do play mahjong till the wee hours of the morning, sometimes more) and it’s another time where mindless consumption by these games ruled the agenda for us kids. There would be virtually no communication between the adults and the children of these gatherings – we were left to indulge in these games unless another so-called respectful adult reprimanded us to bid goodbye to any red packet benefactors leaving for home after another joyful relatives’ gathering. This we usually do by murmuring our unenthusiastic goodbyes to the television set where the console is hooked up rather than to the person(s) itself. Needless to say, the so-called respectful adult would repeat orders to do this to her satisfaction (not my mother but another one). Yes, ma’am – after I beat the hell outta this level boss!
That’s only the first day of the New Year.
The 2nd, 3rd, 4th days of the New Year are also similarly filled with playing the ‘Computer’ sometimes at alternating locations but roughly the same sort of games. There were visits to other relatives’ homes where we got more red packets and the reunion with cousins amongst other agenda of the week. Of course, we kids knew back then that nothing exciting happens after the 4th day – it’s the day when more serious, pressing matters such as going back to school and, for the adults, to work take centre place; and that all the fun and festivities should take a backseat temporarily as daily routine was resumed. After all, the school holidays for the Lunar New Year was only ordinarily 1 week long if we got lucky.
In case you were thinking that all we do during Chinese New Year when we were small was to play video games, that’s really not the case. We’ve had close adult supervision and restriction – and there were also fireworks for us kids to enjoy (before the Sungai Buloh fireworks factory incident) and there was also a splendid dinner and other jollifications to savour. We were lucky all the time to have parents who knew when to let us have a good time and when to impose a limit to all of these simple but strong joys.I
can’t generalize the fact that the Lunar New Years of 1992 to 1994 were
filled with more or less the same activities – we’ve had relatives
dropping by; we visited other relatives far and wide; visited temples;
went to Port Klang; etc. We were, I stress, not raised as nerds and
video games addicts – my parents were conscious not to allow us to come to that.
To all readers of ‘Leidartikel’ throughout these 2, happy years – "Kong Hei Fatt Choy! Xin Nian Kuai Le! Wan Shi Lu Yi!".
May this Chinese New Year be one of abundant wealth and material opportunities; a new year to establish meaningful, lasting friendships and acquaintances; a new year where great strides concerning peace of mind, contentment, humility and self-improvement are made; and a safe, fortuitous, prosperous and blessed year ahead ! Happy Chinese New Year!