Our Nintendo Wii must’ve sat idle for five months before the other day when I downloaded Super Mario World. I’ve knocked the Wii for requiring so much physical exertion, but the fact I can tap into a database of hundreds of video games from previous Nintendo systems makes it something of a time machine.
I mean, right now, somewhere in your community, there’s adults playing dodgeball. Somewhere, a father is telling his son about his little league glory days while a mother is telling her daughter that Justin Bieber’s got nothing on a young David Cassidy. It’s no secret we hold tight to our childhood convictions even decades after we should’ve grown out of them.
I don’t like to use the word “nostalgia,” because it seems to belittle and bemoan a very practical want for the simple joys we had as kids. Let me just say my latest foray into Super Mario World has been just as delightful as the first go-round, but sadly, just as hard. I’ve been stuck in the Forest of Illusion for a week now. (The irony is not lost on me.)
Video games were an important part of my childhood. I grew up in a neighborhood where I was the youngest boy. Most of the other boys were at least two or three years older. It’s a miracle I ever stuck with sports after all those backyard games of 5-on-1 softball and tackle football games where I thought I might dislocate my face. These memories explain why I was better at defense in softball and played offensive line in varsity football.
It was video games that leveled the playing field on Gibson Avenue. My lack of size and strength didn’t matter holding that Super Nintendo controller, so when it came time to play Street Fighter II, that’s where I got my revenge.
Sometimes, I imagine what it would be like to earn my current paycheck as a kid in grade school, with no bills or reasons to save. I would blow the money on Super Nintendo games, baseball cards, Lemonheads, Garth Brooks cassette tapes, the latest pair of Air Jordans, a Schwinn to replace my lame-ass Huffy. I’d take my family to Valentino’s all-you-can-eat Italian buffett. I’d buy batting gloves for little league baseball, but also for my Super Nintendo, so my chunky little hands wouldn’t slip off the controller after hours of gaming.
Instead, it’s rent, my car lease and car insurance. It’s cable and Internet, my cell phone bill and US Bank for that $40K they loaned me for college. It’s groceries and toiletries. Now and then, it’s a meal out or a movie or a T-shirt.
It was just eight dollars to download Super Mario World on my Nintendo Wii, and I can honestly say it’s one of the most fulfilling purchases I’ve made in awhile. (Second only to the driving range balls I’ve purchased to see my girlfriend experiment with golf.)
As we get older, there’s this movement toward more dignified activity as what should find fulfilling as an adult. I’m not interested in seeing plays or spending $100 on dinner or hiking. Nonsense. I’m a big nerd and I always will be. (I mean, I blog, after all.) Playing Super Mario World isn’t just enjoyable because it triggers pleasant memories from my childhood. Hopping on Yoshi and stomping on Koopas and Goombas is just as fun now as it was back in 1993.
I spent plenty of Friday nights at home a a kid, cooped up in my upstair bedroom, plowing through the latest Super Nintendo game I was renting. Sixteen years later, as grey hairs are starting to multiply and 60 Minutes has become a highlight of my week, I plan on spending my Friday night with a mouth full of Lemonheads, sipping Diet Mountain Dew while in hot pursuit of Bowser.