We bought the older boys a wii game for Christmas – the new Super Mario Bros, because they (the Hen especially) had mentioned it off and on for the better part of a year. And though I’d nodded, vaguely, whenever they’d ask if they could get it, I’d never actually seen it at a store or purchased it.
But the professor, leery of 21 days of familytogetherness, managed to find it during one of his late-night shopping excursions. So we dusted off the wii and steeled ourselves for the onslaught of new vocabulary and brotherly fighting. It’s what I despise most about entertainment via computer or wii: the managing thereof and the fighting that results; trying to make sure each boy gets exactly the same length of turn as another and enduring fights about ‘who gets to play first’ and ‘who gets to play for Percy’ and ‘who gets to turn off the computer [or the wii]’. That last one really gets to me – ‘you’re fighting about who gets to turn the computer off?‘
Within days all the brotherly talk around the house revolved around goombas and yoshi and levels. ‘Have you played Super Mario before,’ they asked the professor on numerous occasions. ‘No, but your mom has,’ and they responded with a mixture of shock and intrigue at this particular revelation. ‘Mom?!’
Yes, I realize it’s typically frowned upon to toot your own horn, but I used to be rather good at Super Mario. Back in the day. The Nintendo day, that is. And no, I’m not talking about the Nintendo DS, I’m talking about the little grey box that was a fixture in some households during the late eighties and early nineties.
Through a series of amusing circumstances, my sister and I were given a Nintendo when I was 14. Our across-the-street neighbors from South Africa had vacationed in the States and purchased a Nintendo for their boys, only to realize upon their return that it didn’t work in their home country. The next time we made it back to the motherland, they served us tea and cake…..and a Nintendo.
And thus a substantial portion of my early high school years was devoted to playing and winning the Super Mario game. Yes, while Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were devoted to building computers and making themselves trillionaires, while Mother Theresa was devoting herself to the poor, and Al Gore was devoting himself to creating the internet, I was devoting myself to saving the Super Mario princess.
What can I say, we can’t all be overachievers.
But times have changed and I didn’t know whether Nintendo Super Mario circa 1990 would be anything like wii Super Mario (I’d certainly never heard the word yoshi). Also, since I have that pesky little game-addiction problem (documented here, here and here and here) I decided it was best to steer clear of the whole thing altogether.
Then one day, they got me.
One minute I was checking email, the next I was standing in front of a screen with a white rectangle in my hand. Times had changed. The polite, wait-your-turn 2-player games of my youth, in which the second player waited for the first to ‘die’ so they could have a turn, had morphed into a personal-space-invasive 2-players playing at the same time. Perhaps intended to alleviate boredom or instil a spirit of cooperation and teamwork, but akin to horror for those of us with personal space issues.
‘Um, I can only play 1-player,’ I announced after someone else’s Luigi had jumped on my Mario for the umpteenth time. So they accommodated me – or maybe I just took control of the situation – but I began a one-player game. It was rough. The scenes were familiar, if expanded, but I’d lost my skill. ‘Mom’s the worst player!’ the boys mocked me. ‘Yeah, she’s awful,’ another concurred.
Had I overestimated my abilities? Had I allowed the passage of time to inflate my sense of achievement? A few (okay, several) turns later, I was back, playing with a semblance of skill and familiarity.
With each passing game, I felt like I was trapped in a casino; clueless as to time of day or passage of time. Had I been playing for 15 minutes? An hour? Two? My heart rate was elevated and I was sweating profusely from the stress of trying to escape a lava-ridden underworld for the privilege of trying to beat bowser, a flame spewing monster you have to jump on three times to kill.
No matter, I had conquered the dreaded swimming level that had given the boys so much trouble. I’d basically secured hero status in the eyes of my blond boy-wonders. ‘You’re better than Gavin,’ the Hen paid me the ultimate compliment. ‘Mom, I loved you before, but now I love you even more,’ the Gort announced.
But, of course, I’m not 14 anymore. That elevated heart rate could well kill me, and I can’t really justify whiling away a couple of hours on a wii game in lieu of making dinner or addressing the hovel that is our home.
I may not be an overachiever, but at least I’m becoming an adult.