Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mario Is My Bestest Friend!

Pre-update:  I'm not sure why the font on this is so much smaller than the other posts.  The internet is a fickle beast sometimes.

I like video games.  I'll go ahead and admit that now.  I don't play very many because it's kind of an expensive habit (originally spelt hobbit.  Thanks again, Mr. Spellcheck).  I'm amazed at how advanced games have become.  "As if 14 pressure-sensitive buttons and two analogs on a controller weren't enough, we're now making it so that when you press different combinations of buttons, your character does super-secret but more awesomer things!"  I'm glad to see that game designers value pizazz, but I miss the good old days.

Super Mario Bros.

Spellcheck says that "Bros" is not a word and not a valid abbreviation of the word "brothers" but Nintendo disagrees.  Frankly, I'm going to prioritize Nintendo over Webster on this one, just out of childish loyalty and principle.  It's also saying "Nintendo" isn't a word, even though it's synonymous with the word "babysitter" and in some cases, "parent."  Webster, however, is not picked up by spellcheck.  That's a monopoly lawsuit just waiting to happen.

My first time playing Nintendo, I was almost 4.  Super Mario Brothers had been out for a few years, but our family had just gotten a Nintendo.  I don't remember my feelings surrounding the whole ordeal, but I imagine I was amazed and perplexed at how the whole thing functioned.  

See, this was before we had a TV that had a remote control.  If you wanted to change the channel, you got up off your ass and physically changed the damn channel.  It made being a couch potato nearly impossible.  A man can't form a proper ass-print if he has to get up and change the channel every time he's bored.  To add insult to injury, the first time my dad brought home the TV that I'm currently talking about, my older brother broke the knob off, which meant that in order to change the channel, my dad had to take a tiny pair of tweezers, stick them in the hole that the knob had left and turn the little prong.  Large men look ridiculous doing little things.  At that point, you might as well give up on TV and read, since it would be a million times easier and more passive than watching that particular TV.

So back to the Nintendo story.  The concept of a remote was foreign to me mainly because that was my role.  I was the remote.  Anytime someone wanted a channel changed, they would call upon my expertise in precise channel changing.  I was a pro and I took pride in my work.  So when I saw Mario jumping around the screen while my older brother was holding some power stick while my sister shouted words of encouragement (at my brother or the TV, I'll never know), everything I knew and loved shifted.

Eventually, I communicated that I wanted a turn playing the Magical Toaster.  My siblings showed me how to put in the plastic toast, close the garage door and press the button to make it start.  They went through the options for me since I couldn't read.  Then it happened!  Mario appeared on the screen!  I immediately knew that we were going to be lifelong friends.  We looked at each other with a sort of understanding - as if he were saying, "In the future, girls will dump you because of me." And at the time, girls had cooties (not picked up by spellcheck), so I greatly appreciated his offer and vowed to help him on his quest to rescue (and get with) the princess.  Looking back on my life, I see myself as self-sacrificial; giving up my relationship with Michelle (and Emily, and Megan, and Jamie, and Moriah, and Sara, and Katie, and Anne, and that one girl...) so that Mario could sustain his with Peach.  It was one or the other.  We couldn't both be satisfied.  I'm a good friend and am always willing to pass-up for a bro.  Especially a Super Mario Bro.

My 3-year-old self was ecstatic for the opportunity to help out Mario.  The music started - my heart rate picked up.  I brushed my light red hair out of my face and gazed around the room to all that were present as if to say, "one small step for man..."  This was my moment.  I looked at the controller in my hands - the shiny red buttons and the arrow pointers.  Power.  I lightly placed the controller on the ground, looked at my new lifelong friend, took a deep breath and blurted, "GO MAN!!  GO!!! GO THAT WAY MAN!!  GO!!!" while frantically hopping up and down and gesturing to the right.

Mario didn't move.  He sat there.  He betrayed the unfounded trust that I had placed in him and just sat there.  He made me look like a fool.  My siblings laughed and mocked me.  I was determined to get through to Mario; to let him know the importance walking to the right.  Mario didn't respond to my shoutings of "go man go."  For about a minute and a half, he stood there while I plead fervently with all my little heart that he would sense the urgency in taking a stroll.  Then... he died of old age.  He flew straight up in the air, fell down, and then he was gone.  This traumatized me.  Imagine the mental image I had in my head when my parents explained to me later that year that Grampa had died.

My older brother, sensing my frustration, decided to help.  He thrust the controller back in my hand and said, "Use this, stupid."  "Stupid" was a word invented by my older brother.  It was a term of endearment.  It was like him saying he loved me.  It was like him saying, "Pre-sorry for everything I'm going to do to you over the next 20 years."  

I stared at the controller - the power stick.  I was perplexed.  The game started again, Mario appeared on the screen.  I went through the same process.  I placed the controller on the ground, hopped up and down and shouted "GO MAN, GO!!"  Amidst my seizurous fits of hopping, I must have landed on the controller.  Mario jumped.  Mario Jumped!  MARIO JUMPED!!  It wasn't much, but it was progress!  He could see what I was doing and wanted to mimic me!  Ok.  This was something I could work with.

I sprinted off to the right like a bullet train fired out of a giant cannon, then crept back to see if Mario had done the same.  He hadn't.  He stood there like a bullet train that just didn't give a @#!$.  I threw myself on the floor, overcome by frustration and tears, desperately praying that Mario would obey me.  Mario jumped again!  I rolled over to look, and he started walking!  My prayers had been answered!  For a moment, I looked at the Nintendo and wondered to myself, "God?"  (Review the 1st of the 10 Commandments for further humor.)

The story continues like that.  My naive 3-year-old self trying to get Mario to do what I wanted, but me failing to make the connection between the controller and Mario.  The story ultimately has a happy ending, if you consider twenty years of time to finally beat a video game after sequestering myself in my room for several days a happy ending.  Kind of one of those "lose the battle, win the war, now go outside" scenarios.  Little did I know that I was hooked.  I would eventually become a master of Mario.  

Now I play Mario with 3 other people and we get in each other's way and then yell at each other when we all die.  I heckle people over their skill on controlling Mario.  No one understands him like I do.  No one went through the excruciating ordeal of gaining his trust.  

Update:  After reading this over, I just have one thing to say:  Despite the vision that you get of me after reading this, I promise I'm not fat.

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