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Your mom said you were wasting time playing Nintendo, and she might have been right. But that doesn’t mean you didn’t learn anything from Super Mario Bros. My colleague Dave showed you how video games can make you a better person Playing Video Games Will Make You A Better Person. Here's How Playing Video Games Will Make You A Better Person. Here's How If you can get through these negative aspects of the video game world, you just might come out on the other side infinitely better for it. Read More . So, here are a few things you probably learned from Mario specifically without even noticing.

Success Adds Up

When things are going well, everything feels easier. Completing one task leads you to completing the next, which leaves you feeling better equipped to take on the next. Break that chain, however, and you’re left feeling powerless.

mario-powerups

Side scrolling Mario games feature a progressive power up system that, while familiar, doesn’t make any kind of logical sense if you explain it out loud. Think about it: a flower gives you the ability to spit out fire, but in order to acquire the flower you must first consume a mushroom and grow twice your normal height. Touch a single enemy even once, and you’re back to being tiny – putting the flower out of reach.

This means that, if you’re playing well, you’ve got a better chance of acquiring and, more importantly, keeping your power ups. These power ups, in turn, make the game easier. Success breeds more success.

This seemingly nonsensical structure feels logical when you’re playing, and I think it’s because of a pattern we all see in our own lives. When things are going well, the tools and talents we need to accomplish even more seem easier to get and keep. The trick is figuring out what you need to do in order to get into that flow.

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Calm Down, Breathe, Try Again

Anyone who played Mario games (or any video game, really) knows this feeling: an obstacle that seems impossible presents itself. Instead of giving up, or getting angry, you pause the game, gather yourself and give it another go. What happens next is almost trance-like: you keep pressing on, dying a lot but getting a little bit further every time.

And then you get through. It’s the best feeling a gamer can have.

That feeling is no small part of why Mario became the cultural phenomenon it is today – and getting people to feel that way has been a central goal of game designers ever since.

But feeling this way as a kid while playing Mario taught me how to approach other problems. If you’re feeling stuck while working, or while trying to learn a new skill, try not to get frustrated. Instead slow down, take a deep breath and try again. If you do this enough times, eventually you’ll be able to push through.

Everything Is Easy Once You Know How

Stop me if this has happened to you: you haven’t played the original Super Mario Bros in 20 years or so, but then you give it a spin. When you do, your muscle memory seems to take over, and you reflexively find secrets and execute jumps you have almost no recollection of.

Weird, isn’t it? But it makes perfect sense, because everything is easy once you learn how to do it.

You couldn’t save your game in the original Mario trilogy; every time you started to play you’d be at the beginning. This meant playing the first few levels repeatedly, until you could do it without thinking. This forced you to practice those early levels in order to reach the later levels you still wanted to beat. Over time, levels that previously seemed incredibly difficult, if not impossible, became second nature. So it makes sense that, if you played these games non-stop as a kid, you’ve internalized what to do when.

It’s just like riding a bike: once you learn how, you never forget.

This isn’t just true of video games – it’s a universal human experience. Practice anything enough, until you’ve deeply and truly learned it, and you’ll have that skill for life.

Some Tools Are Nice, But Not Necessary

One thing I loved about the olderMario games – and a concept almost completely removed from Mario’s modern incarnations – is how powerups were never necessary in order to complete a level. Sure, a fire flower made it easier to get past the Hammer Bros, but the game was never impossible without a particular tool. All you really needed was skill, and a willingness to keep trying.

This is true to life. You might think a new laptop or a fancy gadget will make it easier for you to do your job – and you might be right. But you probably don’t need those things. What you really need is skill, and a willingness to keep trying.

Think Something Is Possible? Try It.

It’s true in games, and in life: if you think something might be possible, try. It’s the only way you’re going to find out.

mario-pipe

The first Super Mario game wasn’t big on exploration: for the most part, you ran from the left to the right. But even in this simple game there were things to explore. For example: there is a chance that any pipe you can see is a pipe you can go down, even though most don’t work.

If it didn’t work, you moved on. If it worked, you’d feel great about yourself and probably grab some coins. Of course, once you learned that certain pipes worked you’d remember, and over time those pipes became part of your normal play-through strategies – but you only knew that later because you tried.

So try everything – you never know what might work.

What Has Mario Taught You?

So, these are just a few life lessons I’ve taken away from the best games of my childhood. I’m wondering: what lessons have you learned from Mario games? Or any other games, for that matter? Let’s talk through other examples in the comments.

Or, if all this talk of Mario made you want to play, you could find out if the Mario copycat games on Android are any good Are The Super Mario Bros. Copycat Games On Android Any Good? Are The Super Mario Bros. Copycat Games On Android Any Good? There are plenty of Mario copycat games on Android for platformer fans, but are they any good? Let's find out. Read More . If not, I’d recommend checking out the very best fan-made Mario games Super Mario Brothers X: The Best Fan-Made Mario Game Ever [Windows] Super Mario Brothers X: The Best Fan-Made Mario Game Ever [Windows] Check out the ultimate in fan-created Mario goodness: Super Mario Brothers X. This game combines elements from every Mario game ever made into one, and the result is a lot of fun. While the level... Read More .

Image Credits: Mario Bros figure Via Shutterstock

  1. Benson Wong
    September 16, 2014 at 6:26 am

    Mario Bros taught me the power of persistence. The game required a block of time to play and much patience and persistence to sit through those hours facing and defeating an endless barrage of bad guys.

  2. anthony cirillo
    August 30, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    Very cool read. Is there an essential toolkit you use on a daily basis or are you old school with paper and pen? I've been playing around with a few task management apps, but have only used them for no more than 6 months at a time. Currently using one called hitask (http://hitask.com/) which is actually my preferred platform. I've used Trello, Asana, Wundrlist, and Evernote (an essential tool). Either way, saving this post for future reference!

    • Justin P
      August 31, 2014 at 9:38 pm

      I use Evernote for tracking long-term projects and a program called Scapple as my day planner. It's not made for doing this, but it's very flexible and gave me a great way to customize my own system. I might write something on this sometime, but I think the important thing is to find a system that works for you and stick to it.

  3. Vitaliy Verbenko
    August 28, 2014 at 6:16 am

    What I also noticed in Mario games is once you use a certain bonus - for example the star - it has a time limit so you have to use it wisely. It's sort of like that in life. You can meet many different people in life - just like life can throw many tests at you, but you will only have one chance to prove yourself...

    • Justin P
      August 28, 2014 at 4:31 pm

      Another really good point, it seems like this concept has legs. Can't wait to see what else comes up.

  4. Leah
    August 27, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    You can't go back. Once something is over you cannot go back to catch what you missed or to redo something. Can't do that in life, either.

    • Justin P
      August 28, 2014 at 4:30 pm

      Checkpoints and save states have ruined our perspective on life. :)

  5. Dan
    August 27, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    Great article! Love it! I remember picking up the game after so many years away and after one or two tries, being able to cheat those extra lives on the stairs with the shell. LOL! Good times.

    • Justin P
      August 28, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      To my great shame I have never accomplished this particular maneuver. I need to reconsider my life goals.

  6. Peter D
    August 27, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Yes, Geeker is spot on!

  7. Saikat B
    August 27, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Mario definitely teaches me about the pulling power of nostalgia. And how, if we are having fun, we can be completely in the zone. I guess the ultimate secret to any productive task is to turn it into fun and become totally engrossed in it. Easier said than done, of course.

  8. Geeker-ri
    August 27, 2014 at 4:58 am

    Mario taught me the concept of "pretend like you're little!" In the game you might use a power up to get through a tough level. But if you squander it getting hit by the first goomba you run it too, it's no good. Instead, "pretend like you're little" being extra careful as if you have no buffer to help you and it's you're last life. Same thing in real life! Pretend you have less money than you do (spend carefully). Pretend like you have less time than you do (don't dilly-dally) and so on and so on.

    • Justin P
      August 27, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      Such a great concept, I love it. I'm going to keep this one in mind.

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