Mario in the Family

Mario in the Family
Parents Just Don't Understand

Tom Endo | 3 Feb 2009 13:03
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My parents just don't give a damn about videogames.

To be fair, they don't understand the appeal of a lot of things that have captivated millions. Microwaves, high-speed internet and, for a few years of my life, color television were things that belonged to some other, more modern existence. My parents spend their time following warbler migrations, trudging through fields looking for arrowheads and tending to orchids. They can find the fun in Wii Sports, but in a list of the formative experiences in their lives, videogames will never be included.

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It's tough to come to terms with these real generational divides. Not the artificial conflicts we manufacture as teenagers, where we are convinced our parents don't understand our two-week-long undying love for a classmate, but the complete gap in understanding that no amount of maturity on our parts or understanding on theirs can bridge. What the Beatles were to my grandparents, videogames are to my parents: alien, unknowable and, to a certain degree, inconsequential.

The relationship between me, my father and videogames exemplifies this chasm. My father, like many in his generation, saw Pong, Space Invaders and Super Mario Brothers for what they were - simplistic diversions. But for me, playing games on my NES was far from a diversion. Rather, I invested myself in games like Dragon Warrior, Mega Man 2 and Super Mario Bros. 3 with an almost religious reverence. I made an 8-bit canvas of the wider world I was too young to experience, and to my mind it was just as beautiful, however primitive. The NES and SNES were formative influences in my life, and their importance was such that even as the artifice grew more obvious and the gameplay more contrived, I realized I could not live without them. Games would simply have to meet my changing standards. I saw videogames for what they could be and knew they would eventually be as significant as anything else in our culture. But without my father's skepticism and lack of interest in games, I might not have been driven to see a brighter future for the medium.

The first significant memory I have of my father's participation in videogames occurred when I was playing Mortal Kombat II with a friend. We sat in our basement, thrilled with the coup we had pulled in renting the equivalent of an M-rated game. My father came down the stairs into the room and plopped on the couch to watch us for a few moments, and I suddenly felt an overwhelming need to explain the game we were playing. I thought I needed to justify the decapitations, gobs of blood and disturbingly realistic digitized actors or we'd end up back at the video store.

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