Two sizes above medium is the message

[[image:mm9shirt2.jpg:I forgive Capcom for the press kit debacle – for now.:center:0]]
Over the weekend I got equipped with my newly-acquired Mega Man 9 shirt and whilst prowling around in suburbia I was absolutely stunned by the reactions it received. Sure, its intentionally gaudy style got plenty of abhorrent looks from moms and grandmothers but amongst twenty-something males it elicited an almost humble respect of sorts, like you’d get at a Catholic mass.

If they weren’t awed speechless by the shirt itself, many of the dudes were eager to converse — after the prerequisite “Awesome shirt!” and “Where’d you get it?,” of course. One guy, an employee at a small electronics store I was walking through, was keen to share how much he dug MM9 but that his favorite was still Mega Man 3. As I told him mine was Mega Man 2, I drew an imaginary line in the air and joked that our picks were more polarized than those for the upcoming presidential election. The poor guy seemed legitimately sad as I shuffled away and told him to take care.

Another instance happened with a supermarket cashier. Standing in line, I clearly saw his eyes shifting from his duty to my shirt. When it was my turn to pay, he couldn’t wait to tell me that, while he loved the Mega Man games as a kid, he never owned them and recently bought the collection that had “1 through 10 on it.” I’m sure he mistook the ten games advertised on Mega Man Anniversary Collection a little more to heart than was needed, but that’s hardly the point here.

I have plenty of video game shirts, and even other Mega Man ones, but none of them got the reaction of Mega Man 9’s. The experience of wearing it made me realize that the Blue Bomber really is a unifying and defining facet of the late-’80s/early-’90s male childhood, as much as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or G.I. Joe. But those kids are now fathers, doctors, brokers, and blowhards –- genuine adults, wouldn’t you know.

Mega Man hasn’t exactly been in hibernation since Mega Man 8 was released eleven years ago, but Mega Man 9’s entire look –- both in-game and promotional –- is something that hasn’t been seen since these new adults were beating each other in the head with plastic TMNT weapons and shooting out eyes with spring-loaded G.I. Joe missiles. The NES fad of a few years back, which was popular with the hipster crowd and spawned an infinite number of video game music cover bands, showed that old games were a legitimate cultural phenomenon — but Mega Man 9 represents something different.

Electronics store guy and supermarket guy weren’t hipsters. They were tied down to retail jobs and responsibilities they probably didn’t want but were mandated to have out of necessity. They were out of college and in the cold, featureless real world devoid of selective fraternity, where “self” is the privilege of weekends. Electronics store guy wasn’t defined by HDTVs and DVD-Rs nor was supermarket guy made of Italian bread and those green organic drinks that taste like grass and make me want to vomit.

And that’s what Mega Man is still able to offer them: a mirror. Mega Man 9 in particular shows that the things that once defined us children of the ’80s but were considered old or outdated can have new relevance. That affects us; it legitimizes our past and the cultural zeitgeist of our era. Why pine for the past when it’s pertinent to the present…and available to wear for $24.99 plus shipping?

16 thoughts on “Two sizes above medium is the message

  1. Geez, way to make me feel out of the loop.

    I don’t know anyone who grew up on Mega Man. All my friends and I grew up on the PC touchstones – Warcraft, Monkey Island, Lemmings. It’s very weird indeed to see what life would have been like had all my friends had a NES.

  2. I really liked this article Eirikr; it felt like a _good_ article I’d read on Gamers With Jobs.

  3. “Where ‘self’ is the privilege of weekends”

    See, THIS is why I’m afraid to actually get a job/life/career.

  4. Great article. It reads like a prose version of the animated “Omoide wa Okusenman” video featuring, appropriately enough, music from Mega Man 2.

  5. Sadly I appear to be the only person in the UK who enjoyed playing Mega Man as a kid. Good article, anyway.

  6. Rub it the hell in, fella. I ordered mine yesterday, and Capcom hollered back tellin’ me it’s on backorder (but they’ll ship one me way soon as they get more). BUUHHH.

  7. And my original comment wasn’t posted…I wish I could delete the above one…

    Great post E. MM2, god what a perfect game. After slogging through the later installments (which I still like, mind you) it was refreshing to be reminded how short the stages were in MM2, and how on normal mode you could just blast your way through in just more than an hour. Playing through you get the feeling the game / the designers want you to have a good time – there’s very little punishment. Some games are neutral, some games outright hate you, but this game [mm2] loves you.

  8. I’m very jealous of that shirt. And as for the reactions, I get very similar reactions from people when I wear my Duck Hunt shirt, including one guy who offered me $50 on the spot for it.

  9. People tend to have really good responses to shirts that reflect their nostalgia. I have a shirt with the old Street Fighter II character selection screen on it and there is always someone who will point or ogle at it when I go somewhere wearing it.

    By the same token, I have a shirt with the theatrical poster for The Game of Death on it that a whole different set of people will point and/or ogle at.

    I am not sure if there is a lot of overlap between the Street Fighter and Bruce Lee fans though.

  10. i’m waiting for my MM9 shirt to arrive. Can’t wait to see what kind of reactions wearing it elicits.

    as for MM9 itself, it’s been a blast – and really eerie. playing it feels like tapping into some alternate 1991 that never existed. but once i got used to it i concluded that MM2 is still my favorite one. i could jump into any of the MM2 levels at any given time, not so sure about 9. not to impugne 9, as it is probably game of the year for me.

  11. What is it about us that we divide so vehemently when it comes to Mega Man 2 and 3? While 3 is good, I can’t imagine calling it the best…

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