Are video games little more than a massive time-suck or can they impact our lives in meaningful ways? Betty and several eminent contributors to this site have been playing video games together (this involves button-mashing, yes, but also Power Pad foot-and-toe work and Wii Remote swatting and flailing) since the the late last-century! So she's got a hunch (and a hope) that there's something valuable lurking inside all those pixalated Italian plumbers, their orange-headed Princesses, and their pet dinosaurs.
Here are the ten video games of Betty's life. She is beginning to see video games like she sees coffee - as something you can always look forward to, something that stimulates and facilitates important social time, even if rumors that it stunts growth or whatever will forever circulate. In Betty's particular case, the question of their poignant meaning or detrimental effect is up to you, she thinks!
In semi-chronological order:
1. Super Mario Brothers (a.k.a. "Super Mario Brothers One") [for Nintendo] - I'm not sure what was "Super" about them at this point and I'm not sure why they were called the "Mario brothers" (What did Luigi make of that? Is this why he's so underweight?), but Betty remembers seeing some "big kids" (they were probably 13) playing this at some party she was at with her parents somewhere (Colombia?). The details are lost to history, but it was at night, it was hot, it was hazy, and it was like falling in love.
Yes, Betty could have happily watched Mario jump from treetop to treetop and smash bricks with his head (or is it with his hat?) for hours, so when somebody put that controller in her palm and showed her the new meanings of A & B, she swooned. It was all she could think about for days.
Super Mario Brothers One is also the only video game (besides "Mike Tyson's Punch Out!") that Betty has ever "beaten". But with the the Super Mario Brothers games, unlike just about every other game, beating them was never the point. You'd much rather have it go all over again, take it back to the start, delighting you, with the same scenes and the same mushrooms and the same Koopa Troopas, forever. I think this is what many people did right after they beat it.
2. Super Track and Field [for Nintendo] - Betty and Nancy D. and Koko the Clown and Little Hun and Magwich the Gruff Australian and Ana used to sock themselves away to play this game for hours on a TV the size of a Game Boy in Betty's house in Maine. Nancy tells Betty that one time Betty faked "sports injury" and "amnesia" during one of the more challenging tournaments, but Betty doesn't remember this, probably due to the injury with amnesia.
3. Ken Griffey Junior Baseball a.k.a. "Ken Griffey Junior presents Major League Baseball" [for Super Nintendo] - A major watershed in video game history: the players chewed gum and blew little pink bubbles from it. A perfect detail that cemented our loyalty to "Griffey".
Also new in Griffey: all the teams had recognizable players with recognizable bodies (hey, Cecil Fielder! hey Harold Baines with the muscular butt!) and fake names. Griffey was the only real player with a real name, so playing Griffey for hours (and "seasons!" This was the first game Betty knew of with 162 game seasons!) at the Asen home gave rise to the popular rallying cry "We're Mariners!"-- even among a bunch of Yankee sluts.
4. Sonic the Hedgehog [for Sega Game Gear] - When Betty's sweet parents gave her a Game Gear for Christmas, they included the game "The Chessmaster". Sega included "Sonic the Hedgehog". Which one do you think she played until it broke?
Betty thinks that Sonic looked kind of like the Firefox logo. And as an animalist, she enjoyed being represented in her pursuit of electronic glory by a hedgehog who made his special "curl up in a ball" abilities work for him. An important moment in the history of Darwinism.
5. Super Mario Kart [for Super Nintendo] - This is where Nintendo went post-modern. You could play as Bowser, or Koopa, or Donkey Kong, and that was just as reasonable as being Mario or Luigi. The Princess had been empowered and no mere victim since Super Mario Brothers 2, but still everyone always wanted to accelerate along the Rainbow Road on their way to a Mushroom Cup with her. Was it a little sexist that she was grouped with Yoshi - Mario's pet/work-dino - in this game? It's difficult to read politics into any of these games. They completely disarm that side of my brain. But I think, nah.
6. Rock Band [for Xbox 360] - WHOA! As we have already noted, this game is so freaking awesome. I don't really know what to say about it beyond that. It's all pretty obvious. You feel like you're flying when you play it. It makes you hear rock music a little differently.
7. Guitar Hero II [for Xbox 360] - The cartoonish cousin of Rock Band, and the only education in 70s and 80s glam metal you'll ever need.
8. Wii Sports [for Nintendo Wii, which B&B just purchased and played for the first time]- I believe a review I read when this came out summed it up best: "More fun than a bucket of ferrets". When you hit the tennis ball, when you release the bowling ball, you feel the weight.
9. Wii Fit [for Nintendo Wii] - The smartest most accessible video game ever made? Also super fun and leaves you sweating and wanting to do MORE YOGA. Wii Fit earns big bonus points from Betty for the moral support factor that is built-in with your hunky yet non-threatening "trainer".
10. Betty can't think of a tenth game. These Nervy Nine pretty much capture the meaning and influence of video games on her life. Maybe that Asteroid-hitting-bricks game for Game Boy. Maybe just the Game Boy as an object and a comfort and a red-buttoned companion. And who ever thought to make it that grey color? That was odd and memorable.
Betty believes that all of these games contributed to her personal development and opened her imagination. If she ever needs a disincentive for video games because she needs to focus on the non-imaginative to survive, she will throw on a couple episodes of the Super Mario Brothers live-action TV show.