I think it was around my seventh Christmas or so, a couple years after making up fibs about seeing Santa’s boot disappearing outside the corner of my bedroom door, right around the time I was figuring out that if you’re with your mom in line at the grocery store you can usually get around ten Charleston Chews into your pockets before they’re done bagging, that Nintendo came into my life.
As kids, our heads were all filled with the same memories of magic mushrooms, the neighborhood legend who could beat Tyson, the one dude whose parents got him every game and so on. But, the years went on and some kids started playing Sonic and some, well they turned to Turbo Grafx 16 and were never heard from again. Perhaps saying something about how life works, the diehards chose to stick by their old friend and kept the SNES alive by having mom purchase Street Fighter 2.
Now, with a candy-coated catalogue of games unfit for a generation of kids who prefer killing hookers and stealing police cars to Charleston Chews, the once slanted-eyed God of the video game universe is barely hanging on to a 30% market share (which is mostly due to the hordes of frequent flyers constantly clad with Game Boy Advances).
I don’t own a GameCube (or at least I didn’t until the bountiful generosity of the Nintendo PR team graced me with one) and had had very little to do with the company these past years, sorry, decade except for an occasional round of River City Ransom (violence!) at 2 a.m. Then last weekend came and along with it, the wet dream of every kid before they’re old enough to have a real one: Nintendo sends my homeless ass to Seattle for three days just to play some video games with nerds and eat sandwiches!
Tasty meals paid for and days planned, my first night of Seattlesploration, filled with purchases of wet paper towel nuggs in a dark alley and drunken hill bombings (yeah brah: Skate and/or Die!) left me as the final member of the group to show up in the lobby of the swank-y Marqueen Hotel the following morning. Of the other 25 “journalists” flown out, all were guys, and socially awkward mega nerds to Santa’s boot.
So…Nintendo headquarters – that palace of Wonka-gone-Japanese fantasies is an office building with cubicles everywhere and people doing layouts for the once-popular Nintendo Power magazine underneath motivational posters proclaiming “Mario Has Extra Lives, But You’ve Only Got One: Power Up!”
I searched for sewer escape tubes and warp zones, but was met with Wal-Mart steez display cases of GameCube games and Mario bibs with “let’s play” (lowercase) embroidery. Yep. There was a brief gift shop-style history of Nintendo – one of those tours where gremlins are supposed to attack. Adult life sucks. Nintendo’s HQ looks exactly like my storage space a month ago (plus a Robbie the Robot).
Most of the College Day experience was just sitting around and either playing Mario Kart: Double Dash or listening to the software “localizers” pat each other on the back about how cool their jobs are in between mouthfuls of popcorn.
There was also another tour around the DigiPen campus (another office building chock full of guys who have been rocking ponytails since they started rocking Pony sneakers), which Nintendo claims to have had no part in, but did help fund.
For those of you unfamiliar with the world of video game journalism, let me summarize an issue of Rolling Stone you missed: blahblah Digipen: a college for those amongst us who like computers so much that 13 hours of daily life is spent writing 0101001010 or tweeking costumes on Photoshop for Megaman XV. Subhead: It’s A Block Party BlahBlah! There’s definitely “top secret” stuff going on at DigiPen, but according to this wizard wearing most of his lunch on his shirt, I should, “Save myself while I can!” So I did.
Which leads me to Life & Art’s sole goal for the trip besides me getting loaded and trying to score heroin.
Every question brainstormed beforehand, actually, spontaneously, was about the possibility of The Wizard 2, the location of the cryogenically frozen corpse of actor Jackey Vinson aka Lucas “I Own the Power Glove” and why Mario grows when he eats mushrooms. All were met with giggles and stares – and some of these fucking nerds were probably more stoned than I was, for real.
You’d figure that in a day so reminiscent of the “only movie about video games that matters starring Fred Savage and Jackey Vinson”: kids traveling cross-country to compete in a new video game, that the spirit of the film would still be present; but no, no plans for a sequel.
Whatever, I got eliminated in the second round of the Mario Kart tournament, two kids won Game Boy Advances and then we all got drunk on Famicom’s (that’s Nintendo in Japanese blahblah010110) tab at a brewery; so I can’t bitch: Nintendo done proper (dubbed ebonic type).
And I’m no businessman, but I do have a little Kid Icarus heart in my chest somewhere, so Nintendo, here’s some advice: You high IQ niggas need to learn to give in a little and make games with tits, blood, and everything else that churned Vice City into the Sony monolith that kicked your ass across the nation like Bad Dudes.
Please Mr. Yamauchi, with all due respect, break into the college market like Beat Takeshi in Brother, but dropping the GC’s price to a bill and pimping out Link like he’s Zelda year after year is a damn horrible strategy to blast through the closing gates.
Until then, this serves as a teary salute into my cold Modelo: cheers to the digital pillar of my and all of our misspent youths.
Sven Barth is busy preparing for Saturday’s Mustachio Bashio, but you can reach him at email@example.com.