Happy father’s day everyone.
When my kids got a Nintendo switch last fall, I was excited to engage with them in an activity I enjoyed in my youth. Growing up in the dawn of the video game age, I’m now a target consumer for the nostalgia driven, updated classics for new consoles. But my kids run the show.
The first game they purchased was Animal Crossing, which sounds like a fun reboot of Frogger but was in reality nothing at all like Frogger. There was not a single moment where an animal crossed a road and had to dodge a car or vehicle. There was no squashing. My dream of inter-generational connection was quickly fading.
But then it happened – my son asked me to get Mario Kart 8. Yes! My kind of game.
When the Super Nintendo Classic came out several years ago, I bought one to relive my youth. I was a big Zelda fan growing up so that was a no brainer – but I really got into Yoshi’s island and Mario Cart. When we played Mario Cart, I whupped my kids. Destroyed them. Dominated. The Super Nintendo Classic was close enough to the consoles I’d used as a kid. It was familiar. I figured that Mario Kart 8 on the Switch should be no exception. That I would open a can of Dad whup-a$$ and show my kids who owns the joint.
We started playing. For whatever reason, we didn’t have enough controller docks, so I had to use the joycon controllers with one in each hand, like a strange, separated controller. It felt weird. I wasn’t winning. I wasn’t even beating the computer players. I felt this was a technical issue, an equipment issue. I was not to be defeated.
I used some of my dad super powers: I can drive. I can pay for things. I have a car. I have a credit card. I needed answers ASAP. Off to Best Buy to find controller docks and controllers.
With the equipment problem solved, I was confident I’d rise up the ranks. But nothing changed. I was shellacked with blue shells and slipping on banana peels – more than ever. My son finished first in every race. My seven-year-old daughter was also holding her own.
But dad was bad. He wasn’t even premium mediocre. Just bad. How was this happening?! I thought maybe it was my character choice. My son was Yoshi. My daughter settled on Princess Peach. But whether I was Waluigi or Metal Mario didn’t help much. Marginal gains. If I eked out a win here and there it was super stressful. I had to race perfectly, everything had to go my way, like Villanova vs. Georgetown in 1985.
Sounds bad, right?
It got worse.
My kids started to talk sh&t.
I came from work, hopeful that today would be the day when the muscle memory from being an OG Mario Kart player would kick in and I would ascend to the throne once again. The return of the King. My son said to me:
“Dad, I think I’m going to beat you when we play tonight…actually no, I know I am going to beat you tonight.”
He actually said that. Brutal.
We raced a Grand Prix and I think I won one game out of four. I still don’t understand the reason for my faded glory. I’ve studied up. Practiced my technique. I do the sliding thing with the bumpers to get the extra boost. It doesn’t seem to matter.
But what does matter is the joy of playing with my kids, seeing them laugh when they hit dad with a green shell and having an intergenerational gaming experience. Mario Kart is old. But now it’s new again and I’m grateful for it. Playing this game with my kids is both nostalgic and new all at the same time.
To all the dads out there, I hope you dominate at Mario Kart 8, but if you don’t, I hope you smile all the same and enjoy every minute of it.