Restoring My Faith in Humanity.
I was giggling like a schoolgirl within minutes.
Sydlexia’s Ranking: #1/100
This past summer, I had more time than any 29-year-old with a life plan should have: an entire Summer off. Our graduate program doesn’t do Summer classes which means instead of taking a manageable amount of credits each summer, our program shoves all of those classes along with your other coursework to see if you snap like a brittle asparagus stalk.
With all this free time, I decided it would be cool to achievement hunt and get to some Xbox 360 games I had purchased but never gotten around to playing. First up was Thief, a remake of a popular franchise that I only played part of on a sample PC game disc. This Yotube review describes it as “loveless sex. You can enjoy it, but something just feels wrong.” Urhm, okay.
Second up was Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Now this game is in a whole different stratosphere: acclaimed director, killer game reviews, excellent franchise with years of staying power. However with all the added content, I felt I was the manager of 40, part-time, minimum-wage employees. The game became a chore.
I came to realize a couple of facts:
- First, that modern games are about as shoving as much content into one experience regardless of how well it goes.
- Second, and more scary, I thought I was no longer a gamer.
Why was I wasting my time on these experiences that weren’t really fun? I had decided to start teaching myself guitar, and wouldn’t the 60 hours I sunk into MGSV:PP been much better to use on that?
I had started a lot of stoicism reading, and I was somewhat conflicted with where to spend my time in the best way possible.
So because Seneca told me to (not always a good idea), I decided to give up games for good. I had played games since I was 4 or 5 but no more as I was going to use other activities as my downtime.
This worked for a semester until I got a message from a friend telling me he had picked up the SNES Classic Edition with all the games preloaded onto it. The retro-gaming craze hit me like it did all other 25-40 year olds; we still really like games, just not necessarily all the ones that are coming out now.
Riding the nostalgia wave, I decided I wanted to replay all the greats from my childhood consoles, and what better game to start with than Super Mario Bros. 3?
Within minutes of playing, this game reminded me that a “practicing” stoic can partake in a quixotic, indulgent game and come out completely refreshed. No administrative tasks here. No complex control systems and button combinations. No 20-minute, cut scenes between stages.
Within the first world, I was laughing like I hadn’t done in a video game for years. The momentum Mario sometimes carries himself with made me easily panic on ledges, overreact, and thus get carried away taking risky jumps to only get too close to an edge and repeat the cycle. Cheating death is clearly a great way to release serotonin.
My other favorite part was when the game would lull me to sleep with the same old jump/enemy patterns and spring a new one on me. This would make me shout in laughter “You got me! You got me!” in between bouts of laughter.
I knew where those warp whistles were, but decided against using them wanting to go through the game stages more organically and not jump ahead. Good thing I did because that allowed me to stockpile enough lives to get through the final stage. In particular, there is one where the sun chases you around and you have to jump across music blocks that was devilishly hard.
I was surprised about the amount of times I could actually feel tension in my body while playing this game. During several jumps I would lurch over and contract my abs, as to brace myself for a misstep while storing potential energy. When coming up to a place of repeated failure, I would have a deep exhale and kind of pep talk myself to face it again. Whenever I passed those parts, I felt instantly gratified, as if I had accomplished something monumental
The juxtaposition between this experience (SMB. 3) and my last (MGSV) was stark. In one corner we had technology’s latest, jam-packed with multiple modes, missions, and stuffz, and it could only get a rise out of me a couple times from one mission. In the other, we have game that could fit on a floppy disc, had just a few MINI-games (and I mean mini), and 6 possible buttons and it was able to give me a legit 7 hours of pure enjoyment.
When I knew I was going to make this blog and try and get back into gaming, I decided to go with the most ubiquitous choice and unanimously loved game there was. If I couldn’t get excited about SMB3, then none of this was going to work. I’m glad it worked.
Editor’s Note 2023: As I go back through my old content rebranding, updating, reformatting, I can’t help but look at this first post and wonder who this man is. I thought I wanted to be a stoic 🤣. I was quoting Seneca?? It’s like I thought playing a video game would lead to civilization collapsing. It’s amazing how so much can change in five years. Here is to the next five being the most hedonistic possible! Cheers – B.
Other People’s Takes:
- Games That I Play: “I’m sure we’ve all played this, but the beauty of this game is that we all can go back and still play it 20+ years later. Super Mario Bros 3 is still an incredible game no matter how old it gets.”
- Twentieth Century Gamer: “As expected, it was total digital bliss; not just one of the best NES games, best Mario games, and best platforming games, but legitimately one of the best video games ever made.”
- Two Beard Gaming: “It is one of the all-time great examples of video gaming and its worldwide success goes just helps to fortify this point. It’s definitely a contender for my all-time top ten video games.“
I think you’d be happier with a Switch than with an XBox or PlayStation. These “cinematic” games don’t attract me to the point that I thought I should stop playing too, but then I remembered the Nintendo magic – and it’s still there in Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild.
Also, it’s portable. 🙂
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I’m not sure how I missed this comment, but as I’m going back through old content fixing reformatting issues, your prescient thought is a hundred percent correct. I just started playing Switch games and I never thought I would like the portability so much!