By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

Yes We Can

Everyone has that one song. You know the one: Whenever it comes on, it transports you back to that first date, or sitting in a cafe on the beach during a vacation, or just lazy days spent with friends.

Movies are like that as well. The summer of Jaws, or Batman, or Jurassic Park. That’s what is so unique about art in any medium: It evokes an emotional response or memory. For me, video games have the same effect.

I literally grew up with a joystick in my hand. From those first moments with the Atari 2600 and Pac-Man, my fate was sealed at an early age. I recently experienced that again with a new game I picked up for the Nintendo Switch: Super Mario 3D All-Stars, a compilation of three older Super Mario Bros. titles. As I played, I remembered where I was for the debut of each game.

In 1996, I was 20 years old working with Midway Home Entertainment, then Williams Entertainment. The company had flown me to Los Angeles to attend the Electronic Entertainment Expo., a convention that is something of a Disneyland for video games. I got to attend the Nintendo presentation where they debuted the Nintendo 64. 

Seeing this 3D version of Mario was a moment where video games would forever change, making the transition from flat two-dimensional characters to a full world that could be explored at one’s desire. Being in the game industry, we got the Japanese console in the office months before its American debut. The system finally came out here on my 21st birthday that year. Dad took me to Super K-Mart so I could get the system and Super Mario 64 as my gift. 

It was the last birthday with my mother.

In 2002, Super Mario Sunshine released on the Gamecube. I was 25 and back with Midway, though I had moved to San Diego. The game’s tropical setting seemed a perfect match for the nearly always perfect California weather.

In 2007, Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii came out. I was 31, still in San Diego, and had settled into a relationship with Jen that has since become permanent. I hadn’t realized how much things were going to change at the time. Jen and I were well into packing for our move from San Diego to Las Vegas shortly after Galaxy came out. I brought the game back to Corsicana with me to show Dad over the Christmas break. It would be the last Christmas we would spend together.

I blinked back to reality for a moment, a moment lost to a screen of Mario standing on a space station. A flood of 2008 came back to me, all the memories, and how I used gaming to shield myself from that emotional loss as best I could.

But those moments are all linked to good memories. Birthdays, mostly, as I got my first “Mario” home experience as a 1987 gift. I always enjoyed the series over the years as it fueled my imagination. I always wanted to explore the world around me past my backyard, to look for new things, hidden wonders, and to see if I could make it to that next area just on the horizon.

I think that’s why the Super Mario series still holds an appeal to me. As technology advances, it’s become less about goals and checkpoints. It’s now more about taking time to explore things along the way. Curiosity gets rewarded as that far off destination becomes reality once I get closer to it. The question of “Can I do this” is met with a more resounding “Yes.” The lack of limitations allowed me to set my own adventures, becoming more about wonder and enjoying the ride along the way… even if there are occasional setbacks.

Granted, I don’t face turtles and mushrooms as my biggest life obstacles in my day to day (though what a strange world that would be), but I do get knocked down sometimes. This has been quite the year for that. But at the end of the day, I get back up and push forward so I can reach my goal and come back to my castle. Princess and all.

I’m glad to be writing something positive again. It’s been far too long.

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