Here is a “Geek Test” for you. What does this sequence mean to you:
If you are a card carrying member of the Gen X, than this pattern is hard wired into your brain (and permanently imprinted on your left thumb) as it was the only way to really beat the popular Nintendo game, Contra. Chances are if you are a male between the age of 30-40, you know this code. (If you are a female between the age of 30-40 and you DON’T know this code, don’t worry about it. Chicks playing video games wasn’t really considered ‘hot’ until about 1996) Contra was released for the NES in 1988 and followed the story of “Bill” and” Lance” who had to battle a terrorist organization/ Alien race trying to take over the world. Next to Super Mario Bros. and Zelda, Contra was the most popular video game of my generation. It was a game of guns, bullets, and featured an electronic synthesized sound track of rock and roll. For a kid growing up in an Evangelical Christian home, this was about as close to Guns & Roses as I was allowed to get.
Besides jumping over holes and climbing up these flat-top tree thingys, the real challenge of the game was dodging massive bullets that were proportionally the size of your characters head. They were actually more like glowing orbs constantly streaming at you than bullets. Lucky for you, your character could jump, squat, and move around said flat-top tree until the bad guy had to reload. Then, you could leap out and shoot him. It became really intense when you had to dodge multiple streams of bullets coming from different angles at the same time as the bad guys started ganging up on you. It was our first introduction to the ancient military tactic called the “flank maneuver.” Needless to say, it was easy to get hit. Now most games would include a health bar that would diminish as your character suffered damage.
Not Contra. You had to be tough to play this game. One bullet = 1 kill.
Well, you could be either tough or smart. There was a way you could cheat.
When you powered up your consul, you had about 5 seconds as the welcome title dropped down to quickly mash out this cheat code on your controller. If you could do it in time, you would start out the game with 99 lives instead of the standard allotment of a 3.
You see, the developers of the game had a team of professional geeks on staff who needed more than 3 lives to test out the bugs of their various games. So, they programed this code into many of their releases which would give the player an advantage, such as nearly 100 lives. It didn’t take long for word to leak out and kids from New York to Tokyo knew this code better than we knew things like “I before E, except after C.” It is now know as the Konami Code, named for the afore mentioned developers.
And I’ve rarely met anyone my age who doesn’t know it.
It has become synonymous with virtually unlimited lives.
As a Dad, I find myself still facing a series of obstacles and challenges that I have to master. There are bullets constantly streaming at me that are just as deadly as if they had been fired from a gun. There are holes I can fall into and flat-top tree thingys I can easily fall off of and I still face enemies who are ganging up on me to snuff out my allotted ‘lives’ and end my game.
The only problem is, to the best of my knowledge, there is no Konami Code in life. We don’t have 99 lives. We don’t even have 3. We just have one.
We have one life to master the obstacles tossed in our way such as our impulses and lusts, or our habits and addictions. More specifically, we only have one chance to raise our children before they grow up and must muddle through their own adulthood carrying the baggage we left them with.
(Insert musical rift from a famous slim white rapper named after a bad spelling of M&M candy here)
“Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity to size everything you ever wanted, one moment, would you capture it, or just let it slip?…You only get one shot, do not miss your chance…”
This song is really about breaking out of a cycle of poverty and becoming successful, but I think this theme can apply to many different challenges we face in life. No matter what opportunity we are striving for, they don’t come that often. When they do, we don’t have 99 chances to seize it.
From the moment you realize that you are about to become a parent, you don’t have very many chances to get it right. It’s a job no one is qualified to do when they become one, but the survival of our race depends on these preciously few choices we make.
So, are we going to capture it, or just let it slip?