Mario Kart: Fueling the Drive
The date is April 14th, 2012. Screens blink neon colors in different corners of the room. Wires crisscross as they connect to game consoles that span a period of over 20 years in age. The scent of freshly bought pizza wafts gently through the air. That’s right, it’s that time again. Today is another video game competition put on by the Digital Game Museum, the second in a hopefully long line of contests. Today, the focus is a game that many have played both as children and upon reaching adulthood: Mario Kart.
Standing the Test of Time
Mario Kart is one of those unusual games that is still popular, no matter how many times it has been remade. This is probably because of its simple premise: drive faster than the other guy. Sure, every game has different things you can throw or use against your opponents, and the different maps offer new difficulties with each new version. But the fact is that this is a racing game you can play on your own or against friends. No matter how the controls change, the driving force is to simply go fast and win. It doesn’t hurt to be able to play as some of your favorite characters and hear those taunting little sound-bytes they shout. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s not a difficult game to manage. At the core, it’s something almost anyone can play, and even losing can be fun if you’re with the right group. Today, this group is going to play on the SNES, the N64, and even the Wii to see who still knows how to race.
The Age Gap
This competition showcases that ability to go on for generations. While many of the competitors are in their late teens and early twenties, a few are a bit older and a few are much younger. Some of the competitors probably don’t even remember the earlier versions in all their pixilated glory. As the Wii Mario Kart portion begins, a father and son sit side by side, competing against each other and two other players. By the end, the kid, who can’t be more than nine, has beaten everyone and moved on to the next round. He will end up finishing third overall. What’s more interesting is the way the gamers handle this age difference. They shake hands and say good game, they keep their language and minimal trash-talking clean, and they laugh together as funny things happen on the screen. There might as well be no gap at all in skill, maturity, or enjoyment. Therein lies the true value of this competition.
A Way to Grow
As things begin to wind down, you can’t help but see the smiles. Kids are grinning, teens are laughing, and the people who put on the event seem happy with the turnout. The event is another obvious success, which means a very important step for the gaming museum. The fact that people show up for these games of yesteryear means that there is still appreciation. People accept that these are artifacts that need to be preserved and learned from but also games to be enjoyed. These competitions remind people of those facts. They help the museum grow and their fanbase even into the younger generations.
If you’re not sure of that last part, ask the four-year-old girl who I helped play Mario Kart 64. One of the last things I heard her say as she was leaving with her mother was “Mommy, can we come back and play some more?”
Mission accomplished, Mario Kart.
Thanks to Laura Allen, who not only wrote this entry but who also donated some great games to our collection. We love Laura!