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Trunners avatar 1:38 PM on 02.22.2009  (server time)
Playing With Yourself: But Our Princess is In Another Castle!

This is something I wrote on a blog I used to keep up a few months back. It seemed to fit in with this months monthly musing as it describes my first solo experiences with video games so I thought I'd post it here.

Ah, that first bittersweet taste of video gaming. I was about seven years old when I first encountered videogames on a personal level. Sure I'd seen them being played by others, perhaps even had a fiddle with a joypad before, but I'd never actually sat for hours on end and played one. This would all change on my seventh birthday when I got my NES (the Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt bundle).

I must have been aware of the NES and Mario because I would never have simply got this as a present on a whim from my parents. Whinging and tantrums must have been utilised to get a present of this magnitude.

I was instantly enraptured. I can recall my first forays into the mushroom kingdom. Treading gently into 1-1 I chomped my first Mushroom, devoured my first Fire Flower and flattened my first Goomba. Joyous experiences one and all.

That was all good, a very pleasant excursion into Miyamoto's strange and new world. But for me the next stage was the level that would, perhaps 5 minutes into my videogame career, have me hooked on games for the rest of my life until this point.

Stage 1-2 might not look much to cynical, knowing eyes now, but, in the eyes of a seven year old child with a ferocious imagination, this was a truly terrifying underworld. The iconic music, the dark theme, the tiny enclosed spaces where a stray Koopa shell could cause havoc. I loved this level and still do. It is a masterpiece of design even to this day. There are so many little routes that can be carved from the blocks, hidden power-ups and coin stashes that this stage was an absolute pleasure to play through.

However the greatest thrill was yet to come.

Towards the end of the level, after losing several brave Marios en route, I encountered an elevator section. Seeing that at the top of the screen there was a row of blocks much like the rest of the platforms in the level, I began to ponder the possibilities. I jumped onto the elevator and, gathering as much speed as I could possibly muster, leapt the impossible leap. To my delight I had made it. A quick scurry along the roof of the level led me to the warp pipes and I found myself flung into SMB's fourth world.

I was ecstatic to say the least. I had wondered whether I could do something, and then done it and been rewarded for my curiosity. This is something that has been evident throughout the whole Mario series. All to often in games we see ledges that seem just about reachable, jumps that seem just about makeable only to discover that, when we get there, that's all there is. A ledge or a platform (or worse, an invisible wall). No reward, no sense of achievement. Although I enjoy today's games and their more mature settings I sometimes wonder where the Games that allow a child to explore and be commended for doing so are. It's saying something when with all the technology we have today, the Unreal engines and the Cell processors, a lot of games feel more linear and less awe-inspiring than a twenty year old side scrolling platformer created on an 8 - bit platform.

Anyway once I went through the warp pipe to level 4-1 I proceeded to get my Italian, moustachioed ass served to me by Lakuti and his random, spiky balls of death.

It's lucky that I had fallen so deeply in love with videogames only moments before, or I would have given them up there and fucking then.

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