Nintendo Games, Awareness, and the True Self

The other night, I decided to re-connect the old Super Nintendo that’s been buried in my closet for the last 20 years. I connected it to my oversize 70” flat screen television, which the game system was never designed for. Then, I took a slightly pixelated trip down memory lane, revisiting classics like Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, Star Fox, Batman Returns, and Donkey Kong Country. It was with Donkey Kong that my night took a turn for the worst. How many of you 16-bit generationers remember Mine Cart Carnage? It’s the Kong level where you ride a rickety mine cart across broken tracks through a cave, filled with obstacles barreling towards you. My 15-year-old self beat this level at least a thousand times -- at least a hundred times with my eyes closed, just syncing the events of the level to the music that was playing. God bless repetition and muscle memory! But why couldn’t my 35-year-old self get past the first couple of obstacles? I crashed into every damn thing and died more times than I care to remember. Was I really that out of practice? An even scarier notion... Was I really that old? I refused to give in to such a ridiculous notion. Therefore in rebellious teenage spirit, I skirted all grown-up responsibilities and played this level repeatedly until 2:30 AM. Fragile sleep cycle be damned! After what nostalgically seemed like a thousand tries, I beat the level. But, only once. My palms were drenched with sweat, and my thumbs ached with a sharpness not felt since 1996. But my goal had been accomplished. My ego and self-esteem was restored, and I could feel the respect of my younger self, permeating the room. At approximately 2:45 AM, I flopped into bed. My last thought of the night was, “Really? Was it really that serious?” Five hours later I woke up. You know, because of those pesky adult responsibilities. Immediately, that taunting word once again flew into my mind... Really? Sure, gaming-out like that was as equally fun as it was frustrating. But, was it really necessary to compete with my younger self? Was I trying to prove to myself that I wasn’t just some irrelevant old fart who can't tell the difference between NBA 2K and an actual basketball game on tv? Or, had I simply set a goal for myself and refused to quit until that goal was accomplished? After all, my site isn't called 'Obsessed With Progress' for nothing. Until this particular night, it'd never occurred to me that I was a fiercely competitive individual... against myself. Often, I set goals and I work towards them no matter what. No matter how long it takes, no matter how uncomfortable it gets, no matter what that goal is: professional, personal, emotional, whatever. I work obsessively until I either accomplish it, or I'm forced to revise them in some way. Donkey Kong Country clearly illustrated that fact. Now, don't get me wrong. I’m not trying to paint myself as an overachiever. In fact, I’m trying to illustrate that I may have a mental condition. Because I don't know if this self-competitiveness is normal behavior. I was never even aware of it until Donkey Kong showed me my true self. It made me wonder, what else was I not aware of? And that's my point. As adults, you and I have lost something that we took for granted as children. That 'something' is time. We spend so much of it trying to balance our responsibilities that after a while, we simply exist on auto-pilot. We focus on our daily routine, and anything peripheral gets ignored then eventually forgotten. We sometimes become less aware of how we're treating others and ourselves. Of course taking time for yourself is important. Everyone needs to reset once in a while. But perhaps within that down-time, we should revisit the things that once made us happy. It's no coincidence that Nintendo games, board games, and coloring books have made a drastic comeback. Also, cartoon movies aren't just for kids anymore. Think about it. When's the last time you played freeze tag? Or hide-and-seek? You don't remember do you? You just stopped playing one day. Well, do yourself a favor and play again. When we engage in those youthful activities, it hopefully takes us back to happier times. It hopefully helps us to see ourselves from a different perspective, and gives us renewed awareness. If it wasn't for Donkey Kong, I wouldn't have asked myself if beating that level was worth it, and I wouldn't have realized how harshly I regularly treat myself. Wow! That’s significant insight gained from a gaming system. God bless you Donkey Kong. God bless you Super Nintendo. Thank you for showing me my true self. Something Candy Crush has yet to do.  
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