Mario Kart Monsters
Lucas Masin-Moyer | Friday, February 17, 2017
Let me take you back to October of 2015, a little over a month into my college life at Notre Dame. My newly minted friends and I, seeking a way to come closer together, reluctantly decided to fork out $30 to buy Mario Kart for the Wii U. Now this seemed like a relatively mundane purchase at the time, something that we could do after meals to kill time 一 little did we know the monsters it would turn us into.
The long spiral into insanity began relatively slowly. Feeling out the game, and getting accustomed to it, we would play most days, with results generally getting better over time. We all settled into a routine of a familiar kart and character 一 for me it was always Luigi on the B-Dasher, with button wheels and the Hylian Kite glider. Slowly working our way up in our skill level, we transitioned from 50cc to 150cc races and from easy to hard computers. Though we recognized the relative absurdity of getting exceptionally good at Mario Kart, it was fun, so we kept doing it, slowly increasing the hours days by day.
The first indication to our later problems occurred right before spring break of my freshman year. With classes done we embarked on a 32-race grand prix, an ordeal that would take upwards of three hours to complete. This test of the will resulted in a victory for the Polish mamba Bartosz Janczuk, solidifying his place in the lore of the men of Morrissey 2CD, whose definition of power and masculinity had come to center on an ability to best dodge green shells.
As the year wore on, these “32s” as we called them (a remarkably clever nickname if I do say so myself) became all the more common-place and one final mega prix served to cap off our freshman year.
Months apart and the heat of summer did nothing to dampen our desire to kart. In fact, soon after we returned, we concocted an idea that would bring our playing to the next level.
I will never forget that day when, as we departed 323 Morrissey after a daily prix, my friend Bart brought up the idea of keeping records of our finishes both on individual maps and prix. We spent the rest of the afternoon setting up the spreadsheet that would not only keep this data but find averages and trends in this data.
The early days of the spreadsheet era contain some of my fondest memories of Mario Kart. The competitiveness was at an all time high and each day I looked forward to getting together with my friends and bettering my average. Some of the truly iconic quotes were spoken during this time, most notably my triumphant cry on Donut Plains that, “I was dialed in this race, my God,” right as I collided with a green shell and was overtaken within a whisker of the finish line. These are the moments that, like Bart’s first triumph, will live in Morrissey lore.
Yet as time wore on, the game started to change, we all became more concerned with bettering our averages than playing and enjoying the game. Many times we left the game more angry than when we had started. This led to a revelation, around the start of this semester, that we ought to hang up our Wii-motes for a while. The game was fun when it was hanging out and messing around and casually trying to win, but making it into a codified competition had taken the fun out of it.
Now Mario Kart may seem like merely a game, but it is much more than that and it taught us all a valuable lesson 一 keep what is fun, fun. Now that the spreadsheet has reached its final resting place in our Google Drives, I can truly relish the exasperated cries of “a single mushroom” and the smugness with which we would shout “blue shell coming at you!”
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.