Friday, June 25, 2010

Mario Marathon and Video Games

At the moment, I am watching the Super Mario Marathon 3.

Basically, a group of geeks have come together to play and broadcast on ustream absolutely every Mario Bros. game for the Child's Play charity, a charity looking to get fun things for children's hospitals, so kids who are sick can still just be kids. People donate, and as the total amount increases, more and more levels get unlocked. So they basically play until they either run out of levels or run out of donations.

And I love it.

I mean, I love the basic humanitarian premise of the whole operation, for sure. If I didn't only have a few hundred dollars to my unemployed name, I would donate (and when they do this next year, I definitely will). But that's not the main reason why I love it. Even the fact that Wil Wheaton skyped in and Felicia Day showed up in the chat are not reasons why I really like it.

I just love watching them play.

I don't remember a time where a Nintendo console didn't live in our house. One of my earliest memories was sitting at my Nana's house at the age of four, during the period between when Mommy and Daddy loved each other and when Mommy and Daddy still loved each other but not enough to be husband and wife. We would spend every other weekend or so with my dad while he stayed at my Nana's. In one of the rooms, he had set up a tv, and hooked up to it, an original Nintendo Entertainment System. I would watch my dad and brother play as often as I could, witnessing them play Duck Hunt, Mario, and other games with titles I can't possibly remember, but I do distinctly remember fleeting screenshots of airplanes on a flat green screen, and pictures on the cartridges that my dad and brother would carefully blow into before attempting to play. I remember sitting and looking through all the games, being fascinated by the fact that not just was this on tv, but they were able to make the things on the tv move, with just some buttons on a remote.

I think I actually remember one of the first times I was allowed to play it. I remember how proud I was. I remember holding that square controller, sitting on the floor of that bedroom of my nana's house, in nothing but my underwear the way little kids tend to be at the age of four. I remember just how proud that I was playing a video game, like my big brother and my dad. It was like a rite of passage.

Let's get something very clear right off the bat -- I am a girl, and an incredibly clumsy one at that. My hand-eye coordination probably didn't really fully mature until I was maybe in middle school, so for the first 10+ years of my life, though I really loved video games, I really didn't enjoy playing alot of the games. There were some I loved - Donkey Kong Country 1 & 2, especially - but for the most part, I never liked playing video games, because I would always hit one frustrating point where I had trouble progressing on, and had very little patience to stick it out until I could.

So I tended to just sit around and watch my older brother play.

Growing up, my big brother never seemed all that interested in my existence. Sean's two years older than me, and has always been so incredibly cool, whereas I have always been just a whiny little dork of a baby sister. You know, the kind of sister that Shel Silverstein says is only worth a quarter or best offer. I wasn't cool, like he was. Since we were so different, and he was so indifferent, we never did much more than fight, tease, or ignore one another. But like most younger siblings, I always kinda wanted to be around him. I was interested in the things he liked, although I don't know if it was because I genuinely liked them too, or if it was just because he liked them, and I wasn't allowed to. (I did really like legos, but my mom was big on "gender roles," so I got the girly town legos, and I was forbidden to ever touch his castles and pirate ships and old west sets... when he could catch me...)

Another thing about Sean.

He was amazing at video games.

At least by my standards.

And I loved watching him play these video games. I loved watching him defeat levels and bosses. I loved seeing him tackle a new challenge. I was proud of him. I looked up to him, and I secretly wondered if I would ever be as cool, and good at video games, as him.

A few years after the NES introduction, when I was maybe six years old, my mother took us to visit our aunt and uncle in the mountains of New Mexico. They lived in this fantastic house on top of a hill, a house with stairs, and a basement, and trees all around. (Do you know how alien these concepts are to a kid from Arizona?). I only have a handful memories from the entire vacation - riding on a quad runner with my cousin Joe, getting rug burns on my stomach from sliding down the carpeted stairs so many times, and my older brother falling over a cliff on my cousin's bike, ending up in the emergency room.

Remember how I mentioned the house was on a hill? Well, my older brother made the wise decision to try out one of my cousin's bikes (and my cousin has a good five years on him). He ended up losing control of the bicycle, barreling down the hill not knowing how to stop. Somehow he managed not to hit any trees or skid and beef it on pine needles the whole way down, but waiting for him at the bottom of the hill was a dropoff where the hill had been carved away to make room for the road that led up to my aunt's house.

I wasn't around when it happened, so I was a little confused when I found myself sitting on the front porch swing with my cousin Joe, everyone running around very seriously. I could hear Sean crying inside the house, and I was really concerned, as a little girl who looks up to her big brother would be. Joe was supposed to keep me occupied and entertained so that they could take care of Sean in the living room, but somehow, probably through much begging, nagging and using my innocent child charm, he let me go inside.

All I remember was the way my brother cried, and the color of blood. Along with other injuries, his chin was cut open badly, and so was his hand, and red was smeared on his shirt and on the washcloths my mom was using to clean his injuries. I had never seen so much blood before in my young life. I genuinely thought my big brother was going to die, and I burst into sobs as Joe tried to pull me back out of the room again, the adults probably rightfully mad that he gave in and let me in to begin with.

"B-but...!" I wailed in mourning, the sound of an approaching ambulance in the distance, "He was suh-so good at N-nintendo!"

For years after that, I'd always kinda smirked at myself at the memory of that, thinking "Gee, all I cared about was that my brother could play Nintendo." When I got older, I realized that what I was actually thinking was "If my brother were to go away, I would miss watching him play Nintendo."

Five or six years ago, he moved out for college.

I really miss watching him play Nintendo.

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