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. 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.
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.
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.
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. If not, I’d recommend checking out the very best fan-made Mario games.
Image Credits: Mario Bros figure Via Shutterstock