Leveling up in life

Life lessons I learned from Nintendo

Racing as Yoshi in Mario Kart revives nostalgic memories of a stress-free childhood, when all I had to worry about was learning how to drift in a video game.

Evan Abutin

Racing as Yoshi in Mario Kart revives nostalgic memories of a stress-free childhood, when all I had to worry about was learning how to drift in a video game.

My all-time favorite character of the Super Mario franchise is Yoshi. Through tsunamis, hurricanes and blizzards, the quirky half-dinosaur, half-turtle, half-horse, half-frog thingy has become one of my best friends. I mean… Yoshi can jump dozens of feet into the air, grab items with its tongue, lay eggs and even possesses the iconic catchphrase “nang-nang.” Simply amazing.

My all-time favorite Pokémon is Crobat. Elaborately described by the Pokédexthe Pokémon franchise’s digital encyclopediaas the “Bat Pokémon,” the X-shaped flying behemoth is one of the fastest Pokémon alive and exudes charisma with its purple and turquoise color palette. I’m proud to say that Crobat has been on my team in Pokémon Platinum, Pokémon Heartgold, Pokémon Black 2, Pokémon X, Pokémon Alpha Sapphire, Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Ultra Moon.

Nintendo games have introduced me to vibrant universes beyond my imaginationones that are unparalleled in creativity and infused with just the right dash of campiness. While I love the PlayStation (Gran Turismo and Call of Duty are amazing games), it simply doesn’t live up to the glory of Nintendo.

From childhood to the present day, Nintendo games have offered me something that no other video game has: life lessons. ”

— Evan Abutin

Life Lesson #1: Goal setting creates a sense of purpose.

The first Nintendo game I had the privilege to play was Mario Kart Wii, where you race against an assortment of colorful Mario characters amidst a frenzy of turtle shells to get hit by, bananas to slip on and mushrooms to bless you with speed boosts. 

Initially, my naïve, carefree eight year-old self made the critical error of entering each race without a proper gameplan. Therefore, the half hours on the weekends that I was allowed to play were spent inconsistently accelerating, taking sloppy, wide turns and completing each race with a feeling of “it’s whatever.” The thrill of racing never failed to bring a smile to my face, but there was still something missing.

I can’t recount exactly when, but one day I discovered that you could earn shiny gold stars by doing well in Grand Prix mode, where you compete in themed “Cups” that each consist of four different courses. Hence, I set one of the first tangible goals of my life: to earn as many of those shiny gold stars as possible.

In the process of progressing towards this goal, I developed critical skills that helped promote me from an “amateur” racer to a “he actually knows what he’s doing” racer. I began to hop into fiery drifts in order to round sharp turns and savor speed boosts, save shells and bananas to block items that were about to hit me and use mushrooms to take elaborate shortcuts through courses. I felt an increasingly deeper sense of crunchy satisfaction as I briskly shaved off time during my racesresulting in higher rankings and more of those prized gold stars. 

Eventually, I even applied several of these skills to Mario Kart DS. On this new console, I was obsessed with competing in “time trials,” in which you were timed against “ghosts”or computer racerswhile zooming through tracks with a mere three mushroom supply. Here was when I set another goal: to beat all the “ghosts.”

I did it.

I remember vigorously drifting on straight roads to acquire much needed speed boosts on Figure 8 Circuit and flying over gargantuan dunes on Dry Dry Desert all in an attempt to cross finish lines in the least amount of time possible. And ultimately, it all paid off; I achieved my goal.

Life Lesson #2: Escapism can be a great way to relieve stress.

As I morphed into an awkward teenager, life became progressively defined by deadlines, numbers and letters. Fortunately, I was already well-acquainted with setting goals; however, those goals started to exit the realm of the Nintendo universe. Although my half hour limit on playing time was lifted, I simply couldn’t play as frequently because Nintendo games sunk into the pitiful abyss of “I don’t have time to do it.”

School breaks served as the intermittent periods of my life when Nintendo took over. In either spring or fall break of eighth grade, I recall getting a new, shiny copy of Pokémon Sun for my Nintendo 2DS console. The game was inspired by the scenic islands of Hawaii, simultaneously reviving the inner 10 year-old within me who conquered the Sinnoh region in Pokémon Platinum and the 13 year-old me who visited Hawaii just a year before.

Within three days, I trained a team of six diverse Pokémon, dismantled the plans of the nefarious, Pokémon right-abusing Aether Foundation, challenged the prestigious Elite Four and was crowned the champion of the Alola region.

Those were three days where the ever-constant stress of deadlines, numbers and letters faded from existence.

Five years later quarantine took over, and the daily school routine I was so accustomed to was profoundly disrupted. School was less than half a traditional school day, it became rare to see someone other than the teacher turn on their camera during video calls and “social” interactions fell into a sea of text messages. Nothing felt real.

“Soon enough, the chill and mellow synthesized melody triggered a flood of memories—when I emerged victorious in the battle with the grass-type gym leader Gardenia, zoomed through the city with an in-game bicycle and visited the Pokémon Center to heal my poisoned Pokémon.” (Evan Abutin)

One day on YouTube, the music for “Eterna City” from Pokémon Platinummy first ever Pokémon gamevisited my “recommended” tab. I clicked the video. Soon enough, the chill and mellow synthesized melody triggered a flood of memorieswhen I emerged victorious in the battle with the grass-type gym leader Gardenia, zoomed through the city with an in-game bicycle and visited the Pokémon Center to heal my poisoned Pokémon.

That feeling was real. My stress faded into oblivion as I realized life’s potential beauty.

Life Lesson #3: Family bonding should be appreciated.

This past year, I’ve relished playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mario Tennis Aces and Super Mario Party on my Nintendo Switch. On Fridays, my family gathers in front of our TV screen in the living room to decompress as we immerse ourselves in the world of Nintendo.

With a set-up of Black Yoshi, the City Tripper and a Cloud Glider, I challenge them on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, still accomplishing the slick drifts that were so integral to my Mario Kart Wii experiences. 

The game we play the most is Super Mario Party, which consists of an assortment of minigames that are quite impossible to get bored of. You can shoot Koopa Troopa off a platform with a water gun in “Soak or Croak,” punch Donkey Kong out of a paparazzi’s line of vision in “Slaparazzi” and catch popcorn falling from a volcano in “Snack Attack.” We especially enjoy playing “Square Off,” a game mode similar to tic-tac-toe where you can claim “squares” by winning minigames.

On these Fridays, the harmonious amalgamation of yelling, laughing and occasional cursing makes me truly appreciate my family.

Ridiculously sharp turns, exhilarating gym battles and heated games of Mario-themed tic-tac-toe extend far beyond the digital world for me. They symbolize the complexities of my life. They’ve given me something tangible to reflect on and enamor in a time of my life when I’ll only be considered a “child” for a few more months. 

Thank you Nintendo.