But it has to end. The end is here. All good things come to an end. You know, all those cliche statements about things ending probably apply here as well.
I don't want to spend this entire blog post reflecting on the year, because more of that to come after this year is over. For now though, for the sake of my sanity and emotions that are bubbling over at this point, and for the sake of you all, the readers, I want to finish the year the way I started this year, and what I tried to make every day about ultimately, regardless of outside circumstances or more important events. This blog post, the final one in My Year of Gaming, needs to be about a video game, just like every other one. That's what this whole project is about in the first place, right?
So with that, I want to cap off my Super Mario series, and finish off the year, with not only one of the most important and influential video games of all time (especially the Mario franchise), but the single most important, memorable and influential video game for me, Josh Brown: writer, gamer, kid at heart. Of course I'm talking about Super Mario Bros., as if the title of the blog post or the huge box art graphic wasn't enough of a spoiler for you all, like you're sitting there waiting patiently for me to unveil the final game of the blog project.
Super Mario Bros. is the first video game I ever played. Well, to be fair, it is the first video game I remember playing, as I know there was an Atari in the house before I got my NES for Christmas one year, which was either 1986 or 1987. All those early years of my life kind of blend together, but I remember being really young. So whether or not I was playing any of those Atari games before I got my NES is irrelevant, because it wasn't until Super Mario Bros. that I actually acknowledged and understood that I was playing a video game. And oh what a game it was.
I played Super Mario Bros. non-stop, it felt like. As a kid, new to this whole video game thing, I was still trying to work out the kinks of my hand/eye coordination, but I never let my inadequacies keep me from playing more, practicing more, and striving to rescue the princess. Finding the castle where the princess was being held hostage felt like my only goal in life, as every time I felt like I was there, that stupid little guy with a mushroom on his head would tell me "Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!" Of course, not having any other video games to relate to, I wasn't totally in-tune with the concept of a final, epic boss battle, so I had no idea what to look for or expect to find when and if it ever happened. I would just beat a castle, thinking I won, only to find out I had to keep going on to a different looking set of levels. There was a point, I remember distinctly, where I thought the game would just go on forever. Oh, how naive I was back then.
When I finally beat the game and saved the princess, I remember how awesome I felt. I went and bragged to everyone. I showed my parents, I showed my grandparents, I showed and helped all my friends who hadn't beaten it yet, and I showed anyone who would let me, whether they cared about it or not. I was so proud of myself, as I should be at that age, and I will forever hold on to and remember that feeling. I've completed and beaten countless game since that first one, and while some spur feelings of pride and accomplishment, none have ever felt like it did when I beat Super Mario Bros. for the very first time.
Another thing I remember distinctly was a babysitter I had at some point after my big accomplishment, who showed and taught me how to "rock the turtle," or whatever else you may know it as, when you jump on the turtle coming down the staircase at just the right time. If you time it perfectly, Mario will land back on the turtle shell bouncing off the side of the step with every hop, essentially performing countless, endless jumps without touching the controller, racking up 1-Ups every time you land on the turtle shell, giving you a seemingly infinite amount of lives. This was the very first time I was consciously aware that you could technically cheat in a video game, and break the established rules of the video game for your own personal gain. This is where the thing I enjoyed playing turned into something more real, more technical, and while I still didn't fully understand how video games worked or what went into making them, I did understand that they were more than just what you saw on the television screen.
Over the 26+ years I've been playing video games, I have never beaten any game more than Super Mario Bros. Actually, I have never bought a video game more times than I have Super Mario Bros, as every platform it is released on, I pick up immediately. Sure, for the most part, it is just for nostalgic purposes, but I truly still enjoy playing the game, over and over again, trying to beat the game each time I pick it up. Sometimes I warp, sometimes I run through straight, but every time I try to Rock the Turtle on my way to saving the princess. Occasionally I will feel inspired enough to play through a second time, with the Goombas and Koopas all turned into those annoying hard-shelled creatures, which probably have names, but I can't seem to remember. Other times I'll just call it good with saving the princess the first time, sitting back and reminiscing on beating the game just like I did all those years ago as a child, so naive, so young, so innocent.
I never, ever could have imagined that all that time put into one video game as a kid would ever lead to something, and while it is debatable whether or not this year-long project constitutes as "something," I still feel it makes sense that Super Mario Bros. is the last game I will play, write about and reflect upon in My Year of Gaming. It's only fitting that this is the last screen I will see, as well:
-The End... ?