By John Parry
You picked a seat near the back of the plane, hoping the window seat to your left would mercifully remain empty. A mother and young son approach, looking for two adjacent seats. You suddenly realize the seat behind the one to your left is also open. Your plan has backfired, and you’ll be sitting next to a 7-year-old on your way to Philly.
“Why did we have to fly on Southwest instead of Air-Tran or anything?” he chokes out through tears as he bemoans unassigned seating. “Then Dad would be here and I could be next to you!”
You resist the urge to point out that his mother just handed him a bottle of water between the seats. Then he mentions Pokemon to his mom, and you know the perfect solution. You whip out your black Nintendo 3DS and wait for the magic to work.
Him: Is that a 3D-DS?
You: Yeah, it’s a 3DS.
Him: I have a 3D-DS too. Wanna see my games?
After feigning interest for five minutes while he sifts through Lego Batman titles, you discover the two of you have no titles in common. He mentioned that he used to own Mario Kart 7, so you suggest that. You help him navigate to your lobby and start a 50cc Gran Prix.
Him: Blue shell! Are you in first?
The shell connects, and you lose your first place momentarily. Soon you’re in first place again.
Him: BLUE SHELL! You must be really good at this game.
You: I like to think so.
Him: I always beat my friends, and they’re really good.
Kids have a really warped perspective on their own talent, you think. Nothing a little online play can’t fix. Or maybe just a few more races with you. You cross the finish line.
You: Good race.
Him: You’re really good!
You: Yeah, well it doesn’t help that you’re Shy Guy.
Shy Guy is the only character he can use, because he doesn’t have his own cartridge. Naturally, he’s sold his copy back to GameStop. You make a mental note about why GameStop is still in business. The next race starts.
Him: I’m gonna take my shortcut. BLUE SHELL!
You: Shortcut, huh?
Him: Yeah I know a lot of shortcuts!
You think of the game-breaking shortcuts discovered by hardcore Mario Kart fans–the ones that forced Nintendo to issue a patch for online play. Of course, the kid uses benign alternate routes that really aren’t any faster. Kids either cheat the easy way or not at all. It’s action-replay or nothin’. You win again. You hit the boost for the third time in a row to start the next race.
Him: Was that you?
You: Hehehe. The green shell? Yes, that was me.
Him: Ugh! I’m gonna get you back. BLUE SHELL!
You: Oh, man. That one hit me while I was above water.
He’s certainly not polite about it when things go his way. He writes off his misfortunes as bad luck, and your misfortunes as monuments to his skill. Down the final stretch he’s ahead, but you hit a mushroom boost and pass him to win. Mario giveth, and Mario taketh away.
Him: 30 points… you’re really good.
You: Like I said, it doesn’t help that you’re Shy Guy.
Him: Why do I have to be Shy Guy?
You: Because they want you to buy your own copy.
Kids have no grasp on the business side of video games. No wonder Nintendo’s got a pile of cash while the analysts are predicting their doom. One of those investors should sit down with these kids. You win the Gran Prix with a perfect score of 40 points, 10 for each first-place finish.
You: Good races. Do you want to register me as a friend?
Him: Sure! How do I do that?
You help him navigate again, his initial separation anxiety nowhere to be found. Online play is probably out of the question, since he didn’t know how to add a friend, but you’ll at least leave the door open. After all, if you’re going to play Nintendo, this is a huge segment of your peer group, so you’d better get used to ‘em.
“What You Learn Playing Mario Kart with a 7-Year-Old” by John Parry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.