Mario in the Family

Mario in the Family
Parents Just Don't Understand

Tom Endo | 3 Feb 2009 13:03
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Anyone familiar with videogames would've asked about the point of the game, the story or the controls - the touchstone topics that bind together the generations who grew up with videogames. But I realized as happy as it made me to find people who saw videogames the way I did, it prevented me from realizing crucial things. Chief among them: that our videogame characters move like Muppets and subtlety in textures is something to be appreciated.

It's a time honored tradition to take in a variety of perspectives when trying to improve something. But to say the Wii or a particular game performs well with an older generation doesn't get us anywhere. The pinnacle of my father's experience as a videogame player probably occurred during five minutes of Duck Hunt 15 years ago. We have to accept that the gap in comprehension is insurmountable, and games that claim to bridge that gap are usually a step backwards. Only by confronting the division videogames have created between generations in my family have I been able to create my own vision for the future.

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I still believe that a great game can transcend generations. Not that such a game can inspire young and old alike to pick up controllers, but that even the previous generation will stop for a moment in awe and appreciate what this game achieved. In 1996, that finally happened. For an hour one summer evening, Super Mario 64 held my father's rapt attention. The thrill of moving into that third dimension and seeing Mario's unstoppable kinetic force thrown around the screen signaled the beginning of a new era that my father and I both recognized. The promise of complete control and spatial exploration moved beyond the second dimension, beyond the shooting gallery and the circular race track. The simple planes and ridiculous cartoon characters didn't even attempt real world fidelity. This game was about movement, and that was something we could finally bond over. Other games told better stories and had more proficiently imitative graphics. But until then, none had captured my father's attention quite like Mario.

It's been awhile since I've played videogames at my parents' house, and though I now write about games for a living, they still don't totally understand the topics I address. That's a relief. It means I still have a little left to see as I stare across that generational fissure.

Tom Endo is a section editor at The Escapist. He hopes his parents never buy a Wii.

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