At thirty-four years of age, I can begrudgingly admit that I'm now too old for most video games. I tried delving back in via the Xbox 360 a few years back, but that experiment failed miserably--there were too many new tricks to learn for this old dog. While the Nintendo Wii, with its remote control wand and motion-sensor magic briefly held my attention back in 2008, there wasn't enough substance to warrant the experience. However, when they launched the Wii U last year (with a new touch pad controller) and added in Super Mario World 3D, I was intrigued.
And I finally found the sweet spot.
It was a combination of things that brought me back to video games; a formula of: nostalgia + short learning curve + updated graphics. Super Mario World 3D wasn't only a fantastic experience; it might be the best video game I've ever played. While I enjoyed that experience immensely, the real test comes tonight when a package from Amazon will await me on my front porch; inside it, the newest incarnation of Super Mario Kart. The ability for video games to reach me on a deeper level will hopefully be revealed with this release. Let me give you a bit of context.
Picture it: the Roosevelt dorms at UCSD in 1997. It's getting near dawn. All is dark and quiet, save for a small room on the second floor of Earth Hall that has a flickering light coming out of the back window. Even from a distance, if you were to focus closely, you would smell a combination of cigarette smoke and bong water, and possibly hear some faint screaming. As you walked closer, the noise would be even more apparent. It wasn't a consistent noise, or a steady stream of rowdy voices, but rather a thirty second period of short grunts and giggles followed by one triumphant yell and a medley of moaning. It was the sound of five 18 year old punks playing Mario Kart 64 deep into the night.
"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" I screamed.
"YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!" my roommate Kai exalted.
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" chimed in the three other hoodlums.
The race had been run. Kai had won yet another round of Rainbow Road with Donkey Kong, coming back to win by securing himself a heat-seeking turtle shell at the finish.
We exited the room and spilled out into the main hall. A stomping of footsteps came up from the stairway and a mad, red-eyed woman came into the lounge. She stood there glaring at us, shaking with anger. It was our Resident Adviser, Kelly, who lived in the room underneath mine.
"Do you guys have any idea what time it is?" she said, biting down hard on her teeth.
"No, what time is it? I asked.
"It is 4:20 in the morning! I have to sleep!" she screamed at us.
"4:20?" Kai asked, with a huge grin on his face. "Yeah!! Time to go smoke some more!"
We all burst into a huge fit of laughter and began yelling again. Kelly wasn't amused.
"I'm writing all of you up for this," she announced, heading straight back down to her room in a fuss.
There were many nights like this one over the next few years; laughing, drinking, yelling, screaming, and loving the competition that the Nintendo race vehicles brought out in us. Mario Kart wasn't just a game for us back then, it was a way of life. To this day I still share numerous inside jokes with some of my older friends that revolve around that game. If Mario Kart 8 can even come close to rekindling a bit of that magic for me, I'm probably going to spend many a teary-eyed evening in front of the TV.
So you know what I'll be doing tonight: I'll be grabbing some take out, a few bottles of wine, and heading straight home once we lock up the shop. The Wii U will be on, I'll be figuring out the new controls, and hopefully grinning from ear to ear as I remember the good old days of racing; likely texting a few of my friends about the experience. There are few things in life that go as well with drinking than a great video game.
Come 11 PM, I will definitely be drunk, and likely loud. Luckily, my wife can't write me up for that kind of behavior. That's the one good thing about growing up.