How Dead or Alive Brought My Military Family Together

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Being the youngest of three brothers is an experience that I can’t say I really wish on anyone. Everyone knows that the older brother gets to be Mario, and the younger one gets to be Luigi. Who does player 3 get to be? Locked out of the bedroom. That’s who.

That’s how it was for me as a kid. I got way more into the single player video games because my brothers were busy hogging the SNES, so I sat in my bedroom with the Sega Game Gear playing Dragon Crystal until the eight thousand batteries that thing took were dead. As we got a little older, though, things changed. For one, we got a Dreamcast the year it released. As well, we got old enough to hunt.

At the cabin, which was really more of a pole barn with living quarters built into it, if the weather outside wasn’t good, it was tough to keep three boys entertained. We would fight, cry, laugh, and get into mischief all within minutes of each other. One day, my dad set that Dreamcast on the countertop, right next to an old TV. He then set down an adapter for the component cables, because all the TV had in it was a cable connector.

We didn’t have any full games yet, but it came with a demo disc. On that demo disc was Dead or Alive 2. I always preferred it over the likes of Tekken or Street Fighter because of the unique counter system in place. If you could read your opponent’s move, and press the block button with the proper direction, you’d counter the move and deal damage of your own. This allows matches to be one-sided, and then suddenly have the tables turn. Not to mention the portrayal of some actual martial arts!

When it came time to do the chores, be it stacking up another pile of wood for the stove, sweeping up more ladybugs, organizing the ammunition drawer, or even heading out to gut a deer for one of the grown-ups, it used to always be me. I couldn’t beat my older brothers up back then. Suddenly, we had a way to decide who had to do what. Between Ein, Zack, Kasumi, and Ayane (I think?) we had enough content to settle our differences.

Over the next decade, that Dreamcast sat there on the counter next to that same old TV. We eventually got more games, like NFL 2K, Hidden and Dangerous, MDK, NBA 2K, Rainbow Six, Unreal Tournament, Sonic Adventure 2, Crazy Taxi, and the full version of Dead or Alive 2, but we still settled our scores with Dead or Alive. I still know those combos.

In that decade, however, my oldest brother left for the military. This meant that there was always more work for me and my other brother to do, but we still played just to decide who had to do the tough stuff. Two years later, though, he left for the military as well. The next year when hunting season came around, I was all alone. I sat down at the table and looked at the Dreamcast, as if it would just turn on automatically as my brothers walked in to get their butts handed to them.

Alas, I turned it on and played alone, running through the arcade mode with Ein one time. The AI was no match for my skills, or for my brothers’. I turned it off and packed it up. I took it home with me that year. It has been with me everywhere since then. I brought it with me to my first duty station in North Dakota, and now it sits in my bedroom, with two controllers plugged in, Dead or Alive 2 in the tray, with me and my son sitting on the bed, beating the crap out of each other deciding who has to make the popcorn for movie night.