I think we’ve all gone a little crazy over a video game. We’d say we would play a game for maybe an hour or two and before you know it you’ve not only missed lunch, you’ve also missed dinner and there’s a Cheeto stain around your mouth and it’s past midnight.
That was probably a little real for some of you, it’s okay, we’ve all done it. I mean, not me, not anymore. I learned my lesson the hard way. I don’t let myself play more than thirty minutes a day for any video game, I don’t snack, and I definitely do not play close to bedtime.
It’s all because of The Morning Court.
My brother and I had an N64 back in the nineties. It was wicked sweet. My dad bought it for my birthday on the grounds I had to share it with Nick, but that was okay. I’m not gonna lie, I think my dad partially got it for himself as well, he really liked to play games with us. It was a nice way to kick back and relax after a day at the office, he said once during a Mario Kart match. He never won, but I think he did that on purpose. Didn’t want to make his sons think they suck… even if Nick ended up driving backwards more often than not.
My dad always wanted us to feel like he was into what we were into, and what we were into was new games. We ended up getting some of the newest games right when they released, as long of course that we kept our rooms clean and that we kept our grades up. It was a fair enough trade.
It was the third day of summer vacation. My brother and I were viciously racing it out over the last cookie in Mario Kart when my dad came in with a game that I’d never heard about before.
The Morning Court.
My dad explained that he’d gotten the game from a friend, that he’d picked it up at a store for cheap and got home only to find out that his kid had accidentally spilled a cup of fruit punch in his console… yeah there was no coming back from that. So rather than let a perfectly good game go to waste, he gave it to my dad.
The Morning Court actually had a really nice cartridge, pristine condition, the front depicted a man with a silver scepter sitting on a glowing throne. It was a strategy game that could have up to two players, it would split down the center as the players managed their kingdoms. I’m not gonna go out of my way to say the graphics were amazing… in fact they were god awful. But it didn’t matter, because the game play more than made up for that.
It was all about strategy. Run your kingdom, make sure you’re growing enough food to keep your people fed, and then conquer all that’s in your way… including your obnoxious little sibling. But oddly enough, despite the amount of strategy involved with it, it was a really easy game to get a handle on. Easy to play, difficult to master.
There was even a storyline, even if I can only remember bits and pieces, this was over twenty years ago. You and the optional second player were the sons of a king that sent you from his side, forcing you to live on your own and make your own way in the world with a few serfs and knights. The land your father lives in is beautiful, with an unlimited supply of food and you’d never have to worry about disease or death. I’m not sure why the two sons were competing with each other, but since that only really applied to two player mode, I don’t think that was technically canon. It was great though. Gotta kick your dad’s ass for disowning you from the throne and get back the kingdom that’s rightfully yours.
The amount of detail put into this game though. I personally liked seeing how far I could push the serfs without them revolting or dying. If I gave them less food, I could focus on giving more to my knights and soldiers, that way I could conquer more land faster. It was all about balance- if you worked them too hard they’d die of exhaustion. If you didn’t give them enough food, they’d starve. Give them too much of both though and they’d start to think a bit too much for themselves. I learned that the hard way my first solo playthrough. The people dragged me from the throne and had me drawn and quartered. My mom would’ve thrown a fit if she’d seen that scene- the game legit showed my character being hung before what I think were his ‘bits’ being chopped off, his guts ripped out, head chopped off and body torn to shreds. I mean, even with the graphics of the day, it was… well, graphic.
There was a lot of things my mom wouldn’t have approved of. I had to stop my brother from getting up to ask my mom what it meant when his prince got the report that his men successfully raped and pillaged a village of an opposing country. I knew enough that if my mom found out that what was happening in our game she would definitely take it away. And we didn’t want that.
It was sometimes fun getting game overs, given what horrible things you could see. My prince was hanged, had a hot poker shoved up his ass, beheaded, boiled alive, impaled, I could go on. Of course you could also trigger those little cutscenes by doing these to your people, unfortunately I only found that out like week after I got the game… so you can imagine how many times I purposely got myself executed just to see how gruesome it could get.
I think it’s safe to say I was addicted to playing The Morning Court. If I wasn’t playing the save file I was working on with Kyle I was playing my personal one. The N64 was in my room so I could stay up late to play. I just had to make sure the sound was low… not completely off though, I don’t think I mentioned this but the soundtrack? One of the most beautiful I’ve ever heard.
The more I played, the more I wanted to. I figured out what terrible things I could do in that game and I lived for it. I once killed off one of my villages for funsies. They hadn’t even done anything wrong, I was just bored. I sent my knights in and the whole place was lit on fire. No one made it out alive. Two of my knights spitroasted a man while he was alive and roasted him over the bodies of what were probably his family and friends. I almost stopped playing after that day, that scene gave me literal nightmares.
But I wanted to see how far I could go.
My addiction story was probably typical. Sleep? Why would I sleep when I could play The Morning Court, I was so close to conquering this new country! Eat? I could have some potato chips and a cookie while plotting how to poison my second wife, I didn’t need to come to the table. Take a shower and get clean? But I could be playing my game, I was working with my spy network on plotting a neighboring king’s assassination. Play outside? Fuck that! I wanted to play The Morning Court, outside was boring.
Of course, mom did force me to go outside sometimes. She wasn’t down for my shit. But I wouldn’t run around in the backyard or go see what my friends were up to. I’d just sorta lay on the ground and stare at the sky. Counting down the seconds until I could play one of the best games in the entire universe.
However, that is no excuse for what I did.
Nick and I were close, even if he was two years younger than me and I thought he was just a ‘baby’. We liked playing The Morning Court together, at least at first. But then we came to realize that this game could only have one winner.
That drove the rift between us. The fact that only one of us could inherit the King’s throne, there was no tie, there was no peaceful ending. We’d have to betray each other sooner or later.
We began to snap at each other from any little thing, in and out of the game. I’d lock my door so he couldn’t get in and play at night, try to sabotage my game. I didn’t cheat, I knew if he caught me he’d rat to mom all the fucked up shit going on this game. If he couldn’t win, neither could I. In game it was a delicate balance of cooperating with each other while expecting the other to stab you in the back when you least expected it.
It all came to a head about a month or so after we got the game. We’d been pretty cold with each other that day already, I was suspecting a spy in my ranks and Nick was the shittiest liar. He always rubbed his nose when he was lying.
So when I did root out that spy and it turned out he was from Nick’s country, I exploded. I asked him what he was doing, that this was an act of treason and that I could declare war over this.
Nick just looked at me, shrugged, and said, “I’ll tell mom if you go to war with me.”
Everything went red after that. I remember grabbing my brother by the head, I remember him screaming, I remember hitting his head against the wall at least five times before my mom barged in and began to scream.
No, I didn’t kill Nick. But I did beat him into a pulp. If Mom hadn’t been home, I would have probably killed him.
Mom and Dad did something that definitely saved my life- they sent me to the hospital to clear out my head.
It was that bad. I was angry at first. I’d pretend I was sorry and beg for my game back, and when I realized I wasn’t getting it back I’d throw a tantrum. I think I peed on a nurse. I’m not proud to admit it but I did. After the anger came the pain.
My doctors compared my withdrawal to that of someone coming off of heroin. My body ached, I had migraines so bad my head felt like it was going to explode. I couldn’t keep any food down, I was constantly running to the toilet to vomit. Have you ever vomited on an empty stomach? It’s not pretty. It hurts like hell. Chills. Fever. Cramps. And the nothing moments.
The nothing moments were the hours I’d stare at the ceiling, my eyes flicking back and forth. Occasionally I’d burst into hysterical giggles, and when asked what I was laughing about, I’d say something about the game. I was reliving some of the best moments, replaying the game over and over again in my mind.
It took me two weeks to get my head on straight. And that’s when the doctors finally sat me down and told me I’d be going to live with my aunt and uncle out of state.
It had happened three days after I’d gone to the hospital. Nick was fine, he just looked like hell, but my parents decided it was time to lock up the N64. My addiction was so bad it was literally ruining my life, and Dad promised he’d get it back down when Nick cleaned his room.
Nick didn’t want to clean his room though.
He wanted to play The Morning Court.
My brother’s addiction was quieter. Sure, he’d go through the day like it wasn’t on his mind, but it was. I know. Every moment of the day Nick was considering what to do next time he booted up the game. He’d function, unlike me, but it was like being a robot. He did the bare minimum to seem like there wasn’t a problem and every moment he’d be wanting to go back to playing that fucking game.
So that night Nick got my father’s gun and killed both of my parents. When some of my parent’s friends came over the next morning to give them a shoulder to cry on, they found the blood splattered Nick playing The Morning Court.
I cried. I never got a chance to say a real goodbye. I told them I hated them as they took me off to get treatment, that I hoped they’d rot to hell. My mom slapped my mouth for that one, and not gonna lie, I deserved that. If I could do anything in this world, it’d be to go back in time and tell them I loved them.
My uncle and aunt were anti technology, which was probably for the best. I didn’t need any more video games. And I didn’t play any until I moved out and went to college, where my roommate showed me his and asked if I wanted to play.
I set my rules back then and I’ve been keeping them well till now. I’ve been an addict in the past. It’s shitty. That game… it was something else. I don’t know if it was my easily influenced kid brain or what but I truly felt controlled by The Morning Court.
Which I found again this morning. It’d been shoved away in a box, packed up. Looks as brand new as ever. My stomach groaned when I was examining it, but even then, I found myself plugging in that dusty N64 and finding out that not only did it still work, but my save file was still there. Graphics are even more laughable now, but the music’s still amazing, and the gameplay still outshines games even from today.
I thought I only put about an hour into a new file.
I looked outside, the sun’s rising. I started playing after dinner last night.
But maybe just ten more minutes and I can be done. I’m about to conquer the capitol of the country I’m at war with.