Fun For The Whole Family
I stumbled upon this picture the other day and it stopped me dead in my tracks. I couldn’t even finish with my “mall bangs that look like a carnation flower” Google image search because I became so consumed by this photo.
First off, now there is a scene from my childhood. No, not the family, silly. Are you kidding me? That is pure fabrication right there. More on that in a moment.
There on the television screen. See that? Yes, I think I just flashbacked all over my laptop screen.
I used to play that ancient version of Super Mario Brothers every day in sixth grade. (It was a habitual activity made possible by my brother getting a job schlepping pizzas so I could therefore beat him home after school.)
And when I say I played it every day, I mean every day. I can tell you’re still not getting that I mean every day, but yes, I really mean it. Every day. So much so that when I wasn’t playing it, I was acting it out in the backyard with my friend Michelle. So much so that I doodled Goombas on my folder in class when I was supposed to be taking notes on the Louisiana Purchase. So much so that when I closed my eyes at night, I’d involuntarily simulate Mario punching bricks apart in my brain. So much so that I had to start playing it while lying upside down just to make it challenging again because by the three-hundred-and-fiftieth time it becomes as easy as breathing. Did I mention I was a latchkey kid? Oh, I guess that was just now implied.
I won’t even get into it much here, but I find it interesting that both kids are punching the control pad buttons, despite that this game only permitted one player at a time. (Which is disappointing because I’d always hoped to see Mario and Luigi high-five, even hug, on occasion.)
But I can accept that minor misstep. What I am really hung up on is that we also see here that Mario is jumping right off a cliff. No mistaking that. And old school Nintendo enthusiasts will know that means he is virtual toast.
Yet, you’ll notice the entire family (notably Mom) thinks that is just super!
Actually, I don’t think Mom is even looking at the screen. So that perhaps explains her smiling, blank look. Instead of a furrowed brow and feigned-empathy expression (as in, “Aw shucks, Mikey”), she is looking directly over the television set to the off-camera art director.
And I’m betting the art director was saying something like,
“Hey, Mom, look lively! Don’t worry, it’ll be many years from now before Mikey is an unemployed dropout holed-up in your basement playing video games in his underwear all day while telling you he doesn’t want to talk about his ‘plan for the day’ and to bring down ‘the goddamn pizza rolls’ like he asked. No, for now, Mom, just smile and remember that this game is fun for the whole family.”
Wait. Hold on. Stop right there, Nintendo Ad Wizards. Fun for the whole family? You’ve got to be joking. Talk about deceptive advertising. I cannot
think of a single instance that my entire family gathered around the television set to watch each other compete at video games.
As if that is any fun anyway – watching someone else play video games. Yes, of course, best times I ever had in my life were sitting and watching someone else play video games. I recall a date in college that ended that way. That’s how I knew the guy was a keeper. Because he let me sit on the couch and watch him play video games. And I couldn’t help but romanticize our future and how we could one day have a family of our own to share in the fun.
Gimme a break, Nell Carter. It has never been and will never be a spectator sport.
Fun for the whole family? Piffle! In fact, I can think of mostly instances where playing Nintendo was not fun for the whole family. Yes, it was pretty much the opposite of fun for the whole family. For starters, there was always the epic fights over 1.) who spent the most time playing/who wasn’t sharing, 2.) who un-paused the game when the other one wasn’t looking and made his guy croak, and 3.) who got carried away and pulled the game box onto the floor. I even recall that playing video games was when I began passionately and creatively dabbling in profanity. Which is probably some sort of gateway to heroin.
Perhaps Mom is simply pleased as punch that Joey finally took her advice and used her hair mousse. And then borrowed the blow dryer that helps her own tresses to feather like a Breck girl’s. Now they can be hair twins! She’s already given up on Mikey. What with the way he laughs menacingly while intentionally running Mario off the cliff. Somehow this ties in with his passion for torturing small rodents.
Fun for the whole family? Ha! Now where have I heard this song and dance before?
Oh, yes. Now I remember.
I suppose I shouldn’t be quite so critical. Because at least that Nintendo ad marks a new era where Mom is actually allowed to be a part of the fun.