Alright, I’m finally going to contribute to The League of Extraordinary Bloggers, a fellowship of pop-culture-minded bloggers who contribute to a weekly topic. This week’s topic is:
What is something you absolutely hate or love or just don’t get, or maybe it’s something you have never even seen or read. What is your deepest, darkest geek confession?
Here it is. I’ve never beaten Super Mario Bros. on the NES. Never got to the end of the game. Never reached the final castle. Through countless issues of Nintendo Power Magazines and the invention of the Game Genie; through game guides and multiple cartridges, ports, and emulations, through childhood to adulthood, I have failed to do one thing: save the princess. Not with warp zones and infinite lives tricks. Not with cheat codes and secret tips. Not even with the Power Glove. Although let’s face it, you couldn’t do anything with that.
“Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!”
It’s the story of my life.
Beating Mario Bros. was something of a prowess in elementary school. There were kids who could beat it no mushrooms, no one-ups, and no warp zones. Kids who could beat it in one turn, no damage and no deaths. There was even a kid who claimed he figured out how to jump over the flag pole, but nobody believed that.
It’s not even a difficult game. Mario Bros. invented the archetype for platformer games to come. The game is comprised of just thirty-two levels with intuitive controls that are easy-to-learn. The basic controls are just two attack moves, stomping and shooting fire balls. The beauty of the game is that it does have a deeper complexity, however it’s also simple enough that it can be beaten in a world record five minutes and eight seconds.
It wasn’t like I’d run blindly into the first Goomba I’d see in World 1-1. It wasn’t like I was a slouch at video games. I knew the Contra Code. I knew the code to Mike Tyson. I knew the secret cave in the Legend of Zelda, the secret to beating King Hippo, and the secret to the Power Pad by pounding your fists onto it instead of your feet. We didn’t call it cheating. We called it efficiency.
Our Nintendo was hooked up to the television in the family room—a television that was shared by my mother’s daily appointment with Judge Wapner and The People’s Court, my father’s sports, my sister’s cartoons, and of course, my own schedule of cartoons. Some families run their lives by a calendar. We ran ours by the TV Guide.
Between television, catching up on my Choose Your Own Adventure books, devoting time to advancing our plots in the ongoing saga between the Ninja Turtles and Barbies with my sister, and spending time outside riding bikes and collecting sticks in the woods for my “top secret” project, getting in quality time with Mario was difficult. Not to mention quality time with Link, Pac-Man, Jimmy and Bimmy.
No wonder I didn’t have time for extracurricular activities, organized clubs, and summer camps. Sure, I’ve paid the price as an adult being a social weirdo who doesn’t know how to swim, pitch a baseball, or play nicely with others in board games of Monopoly, but at least I can score 50,000 points in Double Dragon on an arcade machine at a bus station.
And seriously, you put a hotel on that Boardwalk and I’m flipping this board upside down and scattering the pieces everywhere.
Mario and I drifted apart by my teenage years. We didn’t move on together to Mario World or Mario Sunshine. Mario went into the back of the closet for twenty years, and though I had a brief affair with one named Sonic and his cool 16-bit Genesis ride, for the most part I moved away from gaming. That’s not to say I didn’t suck at my other hobbies. Alright, I’m about make a couple more gory confessions. I’m a writer, and I’ve never read Hemingway. I’m a rock fan, who’s never listened to Hendrix. And I’m a vegetarian, and I don’t like vegetables.
Seriously. And what the hell are my excuses? Oh you know, the usual: lazy, tired, working, too much delicious bread to eat, playing Minesweeper obsessively until eyes bleed, For Whom The Bell Tolls too heavy to lift off bookshelf, busy listening to corny 1980s R&B instead, busy wiping blood from tear ducts, still collecting sticks for secret project.
Jesus, I’m a horrible person.
People, I’m going to do it. I’m going to read Hemingway, eat some baby carrots which are very good for my complexion, take Bell Biv Devoe off my record player, and beat Super Mario Bros. In the end, I’ll be a better person. I’ll be nicer to old people and kinder to animals. I’ll have ten percent fresher breath. I’ll go better with Coke.
Or I’ll die in world 4-1 after getting hit by a Spiny, curse the game, throw the controller down, and sulk—because I never learned how to lose games with dignity, a skill that I would have no doubt picked up at summer camp, along with swimming and macaroni art. And I’m talking precision macaroni art, which is a true art form, not the kind where you get glue smeared all over the paper.
But just you wait. One day I’ll reveal my big secret stick project and I’ll take the art world by storm.