A few decades ago the masses believed video games were a waste of time for lackadaisical youths to pacify themselves while ignoring their responsibilities as both kids and young adults. As more and more people started understanding the benefits of gaming so too did the perception of what a video game is and, most importantly, the benefits gaming can bestow on a person’s life changed. Hi, my name is James Bullock and I am a gamer who has spent the better part of his existence testing the laws of physics, exploring the vastness of a world ruined, and been a champion inside various arenas courtesy of digitized worlds both driven by reality and created through pure unbelievable ingenuity unlike anything seen by human eyes. And as a gamer I’ve discovered something else video games provide: life lessons. Today I examine the first game I really sunk hours of time into during my youth and one of the most profound lessons it gave me, “Super Mario Bros.”


“It’s About the Journey, Not the Destination” (“Super Mario Bros.”)


To this day I don’t know what convinced me that I needed a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Was it a random commercial or magazine ad? Did my parents say something about the video game console and it caught my ear? Did I see someone playing the system during a family get-together? No matter the reason, the main present for me on Christmas 1989 was a NES. Thankfully, my parents were blessed enough to pick up the “Action Bundle” that featured the system, two controllers, the “Zapper” light gun and a game cartridge featuring not one, but two games (“Super Mario Bros.” & “Duck Hunt”). This is where my video game hobby began and thrived for four years as I tested my hand at everything from creating dirt bike tracks (“Excitebike”) to dying repeatedly as mutated creatures (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” & “Battletoads”) to simply stomping mushrooms with eyes (the “Super Mario Bros.” series).

The latter is what really made me think, even as a bright-eyed lad who didn’t know the power of eating mushrooms had on adults (another life lesson for another time) I knew the little plumber dressed in red was too on a journey toward understanding without even knowing the truth directly in front of him. The phrase “World 1-4” appeared on my TV screen after I spent several of minutes stomping on walking mushrooms with eyes, banging Mario’s head against bricks to capture coins & items that could do everything from making the protagonist grow to shooting fireballs, and sliding down flag poles to cause a cavalcade of fireworks that had my little body bouncing with joy & satisfaction. Not being a gamer just yet, I assumed Mario entering a castle full of fire and few points of safety was the fitting end to a relatively short, yet enthralling trek. Failing to overcome the fire-spewing dragon man I would later know as “Bowser”, I buckled down and learned the patterns that would eventually take me to victory while casting Bowser down into a pit of fire. With celebratory music playing and a rather stumpy fellow waiting, I watched in anticipation for Mario’s prize. Then the words that would shake the very foundation of my being slowly (slowly at least in my mind at the moment) unveiled themselves: Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!


Befuddled I sat as the game loaded the next of what were seven stages to come. Though I was taken aback by this mushroom hat-wearing messenger’s information, I pressed on with the intent of seeing The Princess in all her glory. But the more I advanced in “Super Mario Bros.” the more I forgot about the reason for me playing initially. The endgame didn’t matter anymore as I learned of secret pathways, took on the dreaded Hammer Bros., and eventually conquered the seemingly invincible Bowser one last time to eventually see my fair lady. And as great as it was to witness Princess Toadstool for the first time, the effort itself in moving across worlds that took me both high in the sky and into the deepest waters is what kept me coming back for more as I repeatedly played “SMB” for years; even picking up the re-mastered version released for the Gameboy Color to play on the go any time I felt nostalgic. “Super Mario Bros.” (and so many other games to follow) proved that it’s not about the destination, but the journey. How many of you who finished “Super Mario Bros.” and remember what Princess Toadstool’s message is? I bet you remember the iconic theme song that played through most of the game, or the location of the game’s first hidden extra life mushroom. Though the destination might seem golden, it’s the journey to that glorious moment that truly resonates long after it’s over.



Mini-Lesson: Always Dress For Success



If the “Super Mario” has taught many a generation one key lesson it’s that one must dress with the intent of succeeding when facing a challenge. Need to have a short flying trip across something like a gorge? Put on your squirrel tail. That frog suit in your closet is perfect for all your aquatic needs. If a problem seems a little too difficult, look at what you’re wearing. You might have to switch it up if you want to succeed and embrace the fashionista in you just like Mario.


Have you learned any major life lessons from playing “Super Mario Bros.” or any video game for that matter? Leave them in the comments below or email me at james@kwinnpop.com, and, as always, thanks for reading.