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February 19, 2012 / jwaxo

Super Mario World (Boredom)

Mario with a cape just seems strange to me. I guess riding dinosaurs isn’t, though.

In eighth grade my homeroom teacher sparked a huge debate, with almost all of the kids fighting against her, when she read aloud a short opinion piece about how kids in my generation don’t get bored. “Back in my day,” the short story read, on bright summer days we would gather outside, all of us with nothing to do, and be forced to create a game from a stick and ball, for fear of going insane with boredom. Nowadays, with GameBoys and internets and TVs running 24/7, kids don’t have a chance to get bored.”

This was entirely untrue. It’s reasonable to say that kids our age didn’t get bored in that classical sense, like we used to when we were in elementary school. Even then, memories of inventing new games in the dirt fields behind our houses were already fading into obscurity. By eighth grade we all had big collections of toys and things to do, and had a much wider access of free things to do to keep from “getting bored”. There were always things to do. But that didn’t mean that you still couldn’t be bored.

It just meant that you looked more spoiled when you did.

Boredom still struck all the time, though. Just not in that sort of way. It mostly hit when we were being forced into doing things we didn’t want to do, being dragged places we didn’t want to be. This was the ultimate boredom-creator: watching your brother play soccer, or waiting for your sister’s concert recital, or, worst of all, the fabric store.

They don’t let you do this once you’re an adult.

I’ve found, as at least a college graduate, that it’s easy to tell at least one quality about a person’s childhood by hanging around with them: if they hate doing things that they don’t really want to, get really antsy at locations that they didn’t pick out, and don’t trust you when you say “come on, it’ll be fun!”, they probably never quite figured out how to deal with boredom as a kid. I’m not saying I’m an expert, perfect, totally patient person, but there’s a clear line that one sees after a while.

As you can imagine, I turned everything into a video game.

So I’m not sure if I’ve covered this more than briefly, but we never owned a Super Nintendo. We did, however, know a ton of other people who owned one, including my cousins. Every Thanksgiving you could find us in their basement, fighting over controllers and which games to play. The only time I ever was able to wrest a controller away was for one brief playing of Super Mario World, and I was quickly confused by the controller, which had twice as many buttons, half of which did nothing in-game but still confused me.

And man, was Mario World cool. The graphics were bright and cartoony, far from the silly pixellations of the original. We had never owned Mario Bros 3, so I was equally astounded at the cool different powerups, and the world map was just as daunting. And, finally, each and every level in it was completely unique and strange, with difficult platforming challenges and crazy enemies.

And then my five minutes were up.

The new thing that I latched on to in Mario World the most was not Yoshi, the mountable dinosaur, or the scary ghost levels. It was, strangely enough, a block. A new block, one strange and interesting to me. It was white, with a single black note on it, and jumping on it was like jumping on a trampoline: it would send Mario flying up into the air if you timed pressing the jump button just right.

Who knows why I loved that one feature so much? Music was a big part of my life at that point, already. Little known fact: my parents met in the church choir, and, up until I was in high school, sang in the choir for every church we were members of. Which normally meant we showed up for church, that most boring of places for a seven-year-old, up to an hour early every single Sunday. Which meant one bored little Jeff was left flipping through church missals once per week.

So I turned the lines of music and notes into a fun game of my own: I imagined a tiny Mario jumping from note to note, in my own little platformer. It was nearly impossible to lose, and, for some reason, I found that it helped pass the time.

And thus boredom was conquered.

Not pictures: my mom yelling at me for not paying atteniont.Weeeeeeeeeeee.


One Comment

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  1. Rev. Josh / Feb 20 2012 4:44 AM

    Star Road!

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