Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A nod to Nintendo

About once a year or so I seem to always be reminded of the existence of Super Nintendo. Yet it always seems that these remembrances come when I'm not physically able to play the thing. It sits in my room at home (or somewhere around my house, I'm never quite sure where) gathering dust with no young people in the house to play it.

But years ago, the old school video game console was one of the only things I had in my possession to occupy my time in the evenings. Before the years of the internet - of my own personal laptop that allowed me to waste hours online looking through pictures of dresses and watching videos of babies laughing on YouTube - I had to resort to less nebulous pastimes. These were the games that could become monotonous, but somehow never did. Instead they were mind-numbing and repetitive, enjoyable because they forced me to become methodical. I became actively involved in the path to greater wins, greater power in the hands of Mario and Luigi. They were great times.

Nowadays I feel I rot my brain even more despite the plethora of intellectual stimulants that lie at my finger tips in the form of a keyboard attached to a computer. I could go on the Ted Talks website and just sit for hours listening to lectures. Or I could head over to the New York Times online to read articles and catch up on the most important news of the day. But instead, I do these things in conjunction with modes of entertainment that don't incite much mental activity.

Some might say you could equate surfing on Facebook and other mindless activities of the internet with the actions involved in video games. Maybe they're both equally soul-deadening and intelligence-failing. But hours spent in the evenings staring at a little man running across the screen, I believe, have a much profounder effect than half paying attention to a recorded lecture or reading an article and also trying to keep track of the goings-on in the lives of dozens of friends.

When I go back and play those games, however unsophisticated they may be by today's video gaming standards, I feel my mind being exercised. I sit statically, but my eyes flit back and forth across the screen as I try to work out how best to make my next move, to use my past knowledge to improve upon my performance in the games.

And while they may seem like casual wastes of time, the enthusiasm I muster up for them and the dexterity that develops as a result, is something I forget is even present in me.

It reminds me of another hobby that I let die with age (though I wish I could bring it back as easily as I do the playing of games on my Super Nintendo).

Years ago I used to create lots of fan sites for various television shows, musicians, actors, etc. that I enjoyed. When I didn't have much homework to do, I would find photos online of celebrities I enjoyed and put them into Paint Shop Pro (the alternative version of Photoshop that I deigned to use back in the day). Using fairly basic functions, I'd create beautiful little works of cheesy digital art. I'd make blends and icons and avatars, little things that I could distribute via the internet but that seemed ultimately frivolous.

Looking back, though, I wish I still had those abilities. They'd probably serve me well trying to enter a job market where being multi-talented is extremely important. As of now I can claim proficiency in Photoshop, but certainly not personal successes in the programming. But it's something I want.

These stand-alone abilities (using Paint Shop Pro and playing games on Super Nintendo) aren't indicative of any genius. They aren't even necessarily along the path to self-betterment or fulfillment. But they're certainly better than the kind of abilities that I create for myself now because they teach me something about myself that I couldn't understand otherwise.

You may wonder how I can make this claim of video games. The truth is that I never thought of myself as a kinesthetic learner. I'm the type of likes to be entertained audibly and visually. I learn best from television, as I always say. But the way that gaming allows you to become more self-aware, more confident with your hands, your fingers and their movements, teaches you to be more spatially and intellectually aware as a person.

This could be just an unwarranted and unsubstantiated claim. I certainly don't have evidence to back it up, but I know in my heart that I feel somehow more accomplished after sitting for hours playing Super Mario World than I do after going on Facebook sporadically while also searching through pages and pages of Modcloth merchandise.

So I want to extend a thank you to Timothy, who probably doesn't care to be mentioned here but oh well, with whom the conversation of Super Nintendo was brought up once again. And to my dad who, after I mentioned my desire to know whether he'd kept the game console or perhaps thrown it out in the past few months, went through all the trouble of trying to find the thing, perhaps throwing out his back in the process of box-searching.

There's a lot that's great about my life, but one thing that I always forget are the hobbies and abilities I had years ago that I neglect now. I shouldn't neglect them because every experience serves its purpose. Super Nintendo, however seemingly insignificant, serves a very definitive purpose. And I'm ready to live that purpose again. Soon.

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