Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Soft Spot for Mario

I've never been much of a video game enthusiast. That was always my sister's department. The sole exception being Mario Kart, which we used to play together in the living room of the house we shared when she moved to LA. We'd sit on the floor and race Peach and Toad around the colorful cartoon course. It was all so bright and childlike. Except for the part where I was swearing like a truck driver, loudly, and mashing the controller to the point of leaving bruises on my fingers. Hey, racing a cartoon toad is serious business.

In the intervening years between now and then, I haven't really played many, or possibly any video games. Maybe a round or two at an arcade here and there, but I was certainly not remotely up to date on the serious advancements between the Nintendo 64 version of Mario Kart that I used to yell at in 1999 and the newest incarnation a decade later. But recently all that changed. See, my boyfriend is a self-professed game enthusiast. Which is great, because I love games - scrabble, crosswords, cards, boardgames, you name it. One of my favorite gifts this past Christmas was the deluxe hardwood, 3-D version of my all-time favorite, Clue. Yes, that's how geeky I really am. But his world is bigger than just the classics that I know and love. His home entertainment system sports the latest in Nintendo AND XBox technology, all splashed in full-color graphics on a sixty-two inch television, which makes everything eerily close to life-size. A little overwhelming to someone who only ever managed to grasp the basic driving techniques on the N64. And he is on a quest to find games that I like.

It's been an interesting and entertaining experiment so far. My first discovery was that yes, they still have Mario Kart. But now, you stick the remote in a wheel and actually drive it. Which, in theory, should make the game even easier. But along with that nifty upgrade, they've increased the sensitivity of the controls so that the tiniest twitch of the wheel, and Peach is flying off the course into the ocean, and crying at the end of the race because I made her lose. I'm getting the hang of it. Slowly. With a lot of yelling and swearing.

And then there's the XBox, a whole new experience for me, with POV games and multi-player, multi-dimensional worlds. Call of Duty made me so dizzy with vertigo I had to close my eyes. And then there was the one that was something akin to the video game version of 28 Days Later, where the undead would spit globs of zombie goo on you. Tomb Raider was also a bust, neither of us actually liked that one. And there was one I wouldn't even attempt to play, this one on the Nintendo again. It involved serious slaughter in a comic-book style black, white and red world. I can't say taking a chain-saw to my enemies is my idea of a good time. Call me crazy. Probably, just call me female.

Though all in all, I still think I honestly prefer a good old-fashioned board game, as three and a half hours of Talisman a couple of Fridays ago can attest to, the experiment has been far from a failure. I'm still sticking with Mario Kart. I'm not sure I really love it, but we've discovered that I weirdly good at martial arts style fighting games. I have no skill, I mash the buttons in a mad frenzy, but somehow still win most of the time. I'm a pretty decent drummer when it comes to Rock Band and I can hold my own in the Wii Sports department.

But the newest and probably most successful discovery was a silly little game called Mario Galaxy. Sure the bizarre 3-D graphics make me feel a bit dizzy, and I tend to play the game with my head twisted at odd angles as I try to follow my character around. But I'm getting the hang of the game, I like that there's a mission, silly as it is, and I love that there are no chainsaws, guns or zombie goo. Which doesn't mean there isn't still enough excitement to get me yelling at the TV. The best part though is that we can play it together. Because I think that was the whole point of the experiment, really.


  1. Mario Galaxy IS fun! Hey, do you play Settlers of Catan? If you're a board game person and haven't tried that one, you'd probably like it. I have friends who are nuts about that game, but my stupid ass can't wrap my head around it. I'm not a strategy person and not much of a gamer, either.

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