In the first semester of eighth grade, I got sick and stayed home from school for a day when my brother’s best friend had left his copy of Banjo-Kazooie at our house. As an almost-high schooler, almost-teenager, I considered myself far too old and sophisticated for “kiddie” games other than any Mario title, Diddy Kong Racing, and Yoshi’s Story(?!), most likely because I’d already played those. (Zelda titles did not count as “kiddie” material in my young Nintendo-playing brain, apparently.) I disliked Banjo as a character in Diddy Kong Racing, but was intrigued when I saw bro’s bff hopping around as a pumpkin. And then I got sick. Home alone and miserable, I picked up the N64 controller and started to play.
By the time I’d finished the intro level where I annihilated anthropomorphic vegetables and ignored Goggles the Mole’s instructions, I forgot about how terrible I felt. I played for the rest of the day.
When the next morning arrived I felt much better, but hadn’t yet managed to earn 30 Jiggies. I was just on the verge of being able to play as a pumpkin. So I coughed. I croaked. I willed myself to look as wan as possible and told my mother that I was much too sick to return to school. I was just going to lie down and rest in the basement.
She bought it, and I spent the rest of the day playing Banjo-Kazooie in a slightly guilty, mostly delighted fervor. Playing as a pumpkin wasn’t as incredible as I’d hoped, but the bumblebee transformation more than made up for Pumpkin-Banjo’s inability to do anything more than hop around.
Nearly 15 years later, two friends (awesomely) attended my video game-themed Halloween party as Banjo and Kazooie. Upon picking up the very last of Kazooie’s shed feathers sometime in February of the following year, I felt that the gaming gods had, eventually, required me to serve sufficient penance for my deception.