Most Important Games Ever (3 and 4): Thank You Mario, But...
Yesterday I mentioned something about doing a post on life altering experiences, in addition to doing the important video games thing and I realized that in a way, the two can be done at the same time.
I'm saving the bad life altering experiences for another time. For now, let's talk about how a dragon that looked like a duck, a plumber and a princess changed my life.
My favorite console video game ever is Atari's Adventure. It was simplistic and crude, but it thrilled me nonetheless. The thrill of slaying the dragon/duck, searching for keys, opening doors, finding the chalice - I had never played anything like it before. It had all the makings of one of those fairy tale adventures I loved so much when I was young. Well, minus the prince and the knights, but I had a good imagination. The best thing about the game was finding the Easter egg.
Select game 2 or 3 and enter the maze in the Black Castle. Move screen to the left of the first maze screen. At the bottom center of this room is a closed cubicle. Use the bridge to enter that area and collect the "dot". Carry this item to the screen just above the catacombs, located one screen down and to the right of the Gold Castle. Note: The "dot" is the same color as the ground outside, so care must be taken not to lose it in transit. Drop the "dot" here, and bring two other items onto the same screen. Move through the line on the right side of the screen to view the programmer credits.
There were also little quirks like different ways to get around the bat or make it so the dragon can't eat you. And really, was there anything more terrifying than the noise the game made when that dragon tried to chomp down on you?
I dreamed about Adventure. I played it in my head. And I thought how cool it would be if they would expand the game because I wanted more. More dragons to slay, more treasure to find, more quirks to discover.
Enter Nintendo. I clearly recall sitting in my living room one night with my sister Lisa, watching the Olympics. We saw a commercial for the Nintendo and made up our minds right there that we had to have one. An hour later, we were at the Video Vault (conveniently located in the lobby of Modell's, which was then a giant department store and not a sporting goods store*) buying ourselves a Nintendo.
I don't remember how long we played for. I know our eyes probably glazed over at some point and thumbs were aching and our asses had gone numb, but we were hooked.
I described Super Mario Bros. as Adventure times infinity. It had all the magic of Adventure - the quest, the hero, the villians, the scrolling from screen to screen as you tried to find your way around. But it was so much more. It was that expansion I was looking for. More worlds. More hidden features. More suprises. You never knew what would happen next. Would this brick bring a star or a mushroom? What will happen if I crouch down on this pipe? You can go up into the clouds!! Every time you played, there was something else to find, another clever trick or hidden surprise.
And the graphics! No more was I running from a pixelated dragon! Everything was so well defined. The colors were plentiful, the characters had real shapes..this is the stuff I had been dreaming of!
And now we get to the real reason why SMB is one of the most important games of all time: "Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!" thing? That was awesome. That, my friends, is how you learn coping skills. That's how you learn to handle disappointment. Put your kids in front of Super Mario Brothers and let them play their little hearts out until they think they won, and then those lowly mushroom retainers appear with the bad news and your kids will have learned one of life's greatest lessons. Disappointment sucks, but you must go on! I taught my kids how to play SMB at an young age just so I could let them know early on in life what if feels like to have the rug pulled out from under you. It comes in handy later. "I know you completed the entire project on time and you did a great job, but I think I want you to write me a ten page essay, too." THANK YOU MARIO! BUT OUR PRINCESS IS IN ANOTHER CASTLE!
You just can't beat a video game that's not only fun to play, but gives you a harsh dose of the realities of life to boot.
I still have so much love for the 2D side scroll games. In fact, I prefer them over today's 3D games that tend to be more about art than gameplay. I'm more interested in finding secret rooms and hidden weapons than I am looking at my heroine's perfectly formed tits.
And that's probably my next gaming post, so I'll stop there.
*I worked at both places at various times