Mario in the Family

Mario in the Family
An Over-the-Shoulder Perspective on Gaming

Tetsuhiko Endo | 3 Feb 2009 09:01
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Rampage, for the Nintendo Entertainment System, was the first videogame I ever beat. I was maybe 8 or 9. As you may recall, Rampage was predicated on one timeless principle: Nothing is more fun than tearing stuff down. With that in mind, I spent an entire Saturday merrily laying waste to the continental United States. As soon as Washington was a pile of smoking rubble and charred bones, I sprinted out of the room, legs and thumbs aching from disuse and overuse, respectively, to go find my older brother, Tom.

Sibling rivalry between brothers is one of the great constants in life. But anyone who has ever been on the younger end knows that there is never much joy for the little brother. In fact, until the day I razed the Lower 48, I had never beaten my big bro in anything. So to have beaten a game - any game - before he did was a sweet thing indeed.

But it was never about being better than him. It was about impressing him. Every time we competed, I did so in the hope of achieving some abstract status of "cool" that only a big brother can bestow. It was a long time before I learned that you can never win your way out of being a kid brother.

I don't remember where I eventually found him, but it might have been our backyard tree house that I was too small and too scared to climb.

"Guess what!" I demanded, craning my head upward to address him.

"What?" He asked, legs dangling down from high up in the branches where he often sat, quietly, preoccupied with things that no one else understood.

"I beat Rampage!"

"Oh, that's nice."

Tom has very sad, earnest eyes, and they make him the worst goddamned liar in the world. For as much as he wanted me to believe he was impressed, his eyes gave him away like they always did, always do and always will. Yes sir. His indifference was epic.


That was surprising mainly because videogames were Tom's thing. Our parents had held out on buying a Nintendo, citing all the usual excuses about rotting brains, encouraging violence, the wholesale vending of immortal souls and whatever the hell else people are still pontificating about. But Tom, who so rarely asserted himself in those days, kept at them. And somehow, somehow he convinced our parents - who didn't even own a microwave - to buy us a Nintendo.

I was there with him, like I always was, when my father first installed that first grey and black box. The combined time I spent watching my brother play games while pestering him to let me have a turn adds up to roughly seven whole months of my life. When he wasn't playing, he was pouring over issue after issue of Nintendo Power. And when he wasn't reading, he was talking about games or running around pretending he was a character in a game. Truth be told, I wasn't into most of it, but damn it, if Tom was going to do it, so was I.

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