Super Mario 64: A Love Letter

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 1:00 pm

She was the first curvy cartridge of my youth. And oh, what a doozy she was.
I've been told that hearing your child speak words for the first time is a beautiful thing. Mind-opening. A milestone in their development and in your parental progress.

I wouldn't know, from personal experience. But if it was anything like hearing Mario make his first utterances, I'll probably need tissues.

It happened for me when I was ten years old. I was living in a small apartment in Fort Collins, Colorado, and my brother and I had miraculously been gifted a Nintendo 64 - and the brand-new Mario game accompanying it - for the holidays. I was as prepared and exhilarated for the gaming experience as one could possibly be. But as I powered the system on for the first time, I wasn't prepared at all to hear my favorite video-game character verbally declare his presence to me with an emphatically Italian-tinged "It's-a me! Mario!"

The mustachioed mug that followed, proffered for me to tug at and twist, was a title-screen revelation in its own right. But the fact that I was able to hear this idol of my childhood express himself on-screen for the first time was as good a sign as any that I'd just powered up a life-changing cartridge.

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Literacy, Video Games, and the Strategy Guide

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 10:00 am
The Zelda: Ocarina of Time Perfect Guide, by Versus Books (RIP). The greatest guide I ever knew.

​I'm proud to say that my grand entrance into the world of literacy came directly via my love of video games. In the moments I wasn't hooked up to my Nintendo I would furiously study the strategy guides of the games I was playing, and it got to the point where the glossy images of screen-by-screen Zelda maps and Street Fighter Re-Dizzy combos just weren't enough. Literacy was a necessary thing I had to acquire in order to more deeply understand and love my games. In this and many other ways, mine is a trajectory I feel studies like these - that look at the entire enterprise of gaming as a zero-sum activity, and one that is intellectually akin to zombiehood -- disregard unwisely.           

Those strategy guides of mine grew into something separate from the games they described, over time, and something powerful. When I went away to summer camp, or had free time to read at school, they would be my prime material. They got me excited about the game itself, built my anticipation for when I would next play and whatnot, but I got a somehow separate pleasure from immersing myself in the details of the game-world when I wasn't actually playing. It was a love of knowledge that was driving me. It came out most apparently in my obsession with the appendices: the bestiaries, the equipment and items listings. I would spend hours digging through those things, noting which enemies had low magic defenses and in which areas I might find them; or which cocktail of accessories and outfits in Mario RPG would maximize the power of my Mario-Bowser-Princess A-Team. 



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