Michael's Story - Jealous Yet Poor

A Story by Michael Lao, DaBR Journalist

Growing up, I never had the privilege of owning a video game console or computer. From the time I was born until the age of 11, I had watched my friends play their PS1 or Nintendo 64 that their parents had purchased for Christmas. If they were nice enough for the day, they would let me play alongside them in a multiplayer adventure of Super Smashing each other in bloodthirsty fashion. Other than that, I was usually left out in the cold while my friends marvelled at the flashing fireballs on their screens. The fantasies were captivating. The graphics were phenomenal by 20th Century standards. The storylines were mesmerizing. It made the player feel as though he was god, and in control of his destiny. All a beautiful display of dopamine rushing through the brain – which was a reaction to Mario sucker punching Link out of the stadium…

 

My parents were working class citizens (they still are). They left the People’s Republic of China due to the Tiananmen Square Revolution back in 1989, lived in Panama for a year until the Americans bombed them, and came to Canada as refugees. Money is quite the stranger to my family. Dad worked 12-hour shifts daily (still does by the way), and mom was working hard to get her citizenship while popping out a 7 pounds and 6 ounces baby in 1991 – Me! Clearly, video games were the least of their concerns. I didn’t fully understand why every time I saw my friends play their Crash Bandicoot, I would ask my mother for a gaming console and she would refuse for years! Oh, how my jealousy raged! But, now I understand the pain of being in an immigrant family with only a few dollars to spare.

 

However, during the times when I got to play at a friend’s house, I would ask my buddy Peter to put on Super Mario 64 on his N64. If any game had my heart racing with childlike joy, it was that one! I still feel like a child playing that. I mean the classic storyline of Princess Peach being kidnapped by Bowser, and Mario having to save her was just priceless. Although I never really got how Peach keeps allowing herself to be kidnapped in every Mario game. Mario must be pissed by now! Anyhow, the experience of riding Koopa Shells, going on a murderous rampage with the Invincible Super Star, and unlocking the multi-coloured mystery boxes in the game made me really think outside the box. In general, I am a person whose mind drifts into fantasy, so adding Mario to the equation is like steroids for me. Even the glitches inside the game were hilarious. You can make Mario jump through a wall, and he’ll end up in a totally different dimension.  Some of which he can never come back from. And on a side note, Yoshi is just so cute! If that adorable green dinosaur were real, I’d be hugging him all day.

 

Finally, my mother bought me a Game Boy Advance when I turned 11. My first game ever was Super Mario World, which was the revamp of the SNES classic. It was indeed a classic, but not as entertaining as Super Mario 64, mainly because it was not in 3D. In the same year, I was given a Windows 98 by my English and Math tutor where I played Rollercoaster Tycoon. Then I time traveled backwards and received a SNES from my tutor’s son. It was a marvelous year. All the privileges I never had were finally given to me. Of course, it was not all given on a silver platter. I had to earn it through being good in school. For me, I consider it a blessing in disguise because some of my friends who had video games earlier in their childhood became more spoiled. It made me count my blessings, and not take things for granted. Perhaps it has more to do with the parenting than the actual game itself.

 

Super Mario offered so many possibilities for me to engage my right brain, which is the centre for creativity and artistic ventures. It benefited me to engage the imagery within my brain to be creative with music, poetry, and writing. Gaming, in general, enhances problem-solving skills, especially if you’re on some tricky level in the game. In contrast to what American Right-Wing politicians say about video games begetting violence and mass shootings, I actually find the opposite to be true. It breeds laughter and creativity. It makes people smarter. It is a community of people figuring out ways to solve a level together in a spirit of freedom. It is a virtual Call of Duty rather than a “real-life” call of duty because in this life you can never “respawn.” Perhaps gaming allows us to actually live peaceably with each other regardless of race, cultural background, or sexual orientation. We would not have to kill each other in the flesh, only on the screen. There is a universal language imprinted in our DNA, and it’s called fun! And gaming provides that outlet to bring about everlasting laughter, and a nostalgia that lasts 10 years down the road. When I run into old friends, we talk about the games we use to play and laugh at our prepubescent nonsense. If all the world’s militaries invested their dollars into video games instead of actual weapons, perhaps the bloodshed would be minimized. Plus, there are plenty of Canadians who play violent video games, and you don’t see us going on a rampage….

 

So the moment someone calls you a loser or a nerd for gaming, just know that you are loved and accepted. There’s nothing wrong with you! In fact, you have the upper hand in engaging your creative side just by simply turning on your gaming console. Put on a little Metroid with a side of Mario, and I promise you won’t be damned!

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