The case presented to me was an anomaly. As such, names will be withheld. The subject – whom we will refer to as “N.” – is a twenty-two year old female at the time of this study. She has been gaming since she was a young child. She owned a SEGA Genesis and various other generational systems since then but none of the Nintendo systems prior to her current Wii. What makes her unique? She has never played the “Super Mario Bros.” games.
While others may have lacked a Nintendo system when young, they were still able to play the games because they – inevitably – knew somebody who had one. However, our dear N. had the misfortune of knowing someone who forced her to sit and watch her play games on the NES while she, herself, was banned from using it. This was a torture to the young girl because she desperately wanted to try “Duck Hunt.”
Looking over her case, I decided the best treatment was to immediately expose the patient to four must-play Mario games: “Super Mario Bros.”, “Super Mario Bros. 2″, “Super Mario Bros. 3″, and “Super Mario World.” With N. onboard for the treatment plan, I handed over the controller and sat back to observe this utter rarity in the gaming world. When would I ever get another chance to document an adult gamer tackling Mario for the first time? I felt like Jean Marc Gaspard Itard as he studied Victor of Aveyron. I was doing groundbreaking work with a freak of nature.
We decided to tackle the games chronologically. N.’s experiences with “Super Mario Bros.” were truly something to behold. I would go as far as to categorize it as a perfect example of gamer rage. There was never a time while she played the game that a profanity didn’t leave her mouth. When she wasn’t cursing, she was screaming angrily at whatever enemy or jump platform was troubling her at the time. Though I didn’t think it possible, her anger only increased whenever she came upon a bridge or water level – though, to be fair, this is typical even amongst seasoned players.
The subject’s inquisitive nature displayed itself during her playthrough. She openly questioned why an Italian plumber celebrated his survival by sliding down a flagpole. She also asked about the flying fish, the warp pipes, and why a plumber is qualified at all to tackle the issues of the Mushroom Kingdom. Obviously, her ability to suspend disbelief is crippled. However, her childish side did emerge anytime we entered an underground level – she sang along with the song. “Do do do do do do. Do do do do do do.”
To save N.’s sanity, we switched over to “Super Mario Bros. 2,” the black sheep of the family. To further compound on the oddity of Ms. N.’s case, it soon became clear that she strongly preferred “SMB2″ to “SMB.” Having an interest in farming, she relished in being able to run around and pick turnips. She also had an adoration for Shy-Guys – finding them “cute.” As she played, not a single curse word was uttered and few moments of frustration appeared.
Then Birdo emerged. This pink abomination disturbed N. to the point where she recoiled away from the screen. I fear my patient may have been traumatized.
With memories of that egg-spewing monster fresh in her mind, we switched over to what I consider to be the best game of all time – “Super Mario Bros. 3.” Immediately, it became clear that N. was having difficulty. She accidentally went into my game, which had been saved on World 2 with two warp whistles in the inventory – along with several other power-ups. She proceeded to use everything in said inventory and ended up on World 8.
Instead of correcting her, I decided to lean back and watch how this played out. After all, it’s my job to observe, not guide. As World 8 destroyed N., the cursing began to fill my room again. Then, suddenly, a scream of “BOB-OMB” was let out as one of those little buggers managed to take her out, seemingly out of nowhere. I realized that, perhaps, I had been cruel.
After this torture, I reset the game and started her properly on the first world. While she still enjoyed this one more than “Super Mario Bros.”, she didn’t seem to relish in it the way that I did. In fact, her entire attitude towards the game could best be described as ambivalent. The only things she really seemed to enjoy were the slide puzzle games which she proved to be a prodigy at – for this, I envy her.
Finally, we popped in “Super Mario Bros. World.” Despite playing it for several levels, N. never seemed to be able to get the proper controls down for it. She used the spin jump for EVERYTHING – the sound for which began to weigh on MY sanity.
Despite this small problem, she was very intense throughout the game. She found it to be an enjoyable experience, especially when riding on the back of a Yoshi. When knocked off of him, N. experienced a deep feeling of loss and separation anxiety – the typical emotional reaction. Yoshi dependence is a real problem.
With all the games tested, there was a moment of silence. It was as if we had just successfully climbed Mt. Everest. When asked about her experiences, N. admitted that, had she been a child, she could see herself obsessively playing “Super Mario World” as well as “Super Mario Bros. 3.” However, fate had robbed her of her chance to have the the nostalgic connection that so many gamers had with the series, and she just couldn’t bring herself to have any sort of fondness for the original “Super Mario Bros.”
So, what is it about these games that puts them on such a pedestal in the hearts and minds of gamers? Are they truly excellent games, or are they simply just games that came out at the right time and developed a cult-like following based on childhood memories and nostalgia? Are there more people out there like N.?
Regardless of these answers, I feel as if I’ve bettered N.’s life by exposing her to these classics. She’s finally visited the Mushroom Kingdom. She’s blown on a warp whistle. She’s jumped on a koopa. She’s even ridden a Yoshi. As for me? I got to watch one of the few people in the 18-40 age bracket who’s never played the “Mario” games take them on – and it was one of the most amusing sights I have ever encountered.
This is one of the first articles I wrote. I hope you guys enjoyed the flashback! Feel free to follow me at @ViraGunn
Art by @NataGunn.