The Plumber Lives On

There are people in their 40s who’ve been playing video games for virtually their entire lives, which is interesting to think about in generational terms. This is a thing younger people do, but those younger people are now mainstream middle-agers, or that’s the idea, anyway.


But it’s never been like that. There are people in their 60s (and older) who’ve been avid gamers since that was a thing, at least beginning in the 1970s (a friend’s family had a Pong console when I was in high school, and it was a curious and fun thing to play for a few minutes).

And then there were arcades, which seemed to appear out of nowhere in my memory. Suddenly everyone in college was playing Space Invaders in places where normally they’d just be getting as drunk as possible.

I liked electronics, but I rarely played and never enough to develop any affection. It was just a pastime, although I appreciated the technology and always had interest in things that beeped and blinked.

In 1985, Nintendo introduced the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and we were off. We were a little behind, actually, but only because we had a toddler and she was learning to crawl, not wall jump.

By the time my son was born, the Game Boy was introduced and we gave Beth one for Christmas, just after her sixth birthday in 1990.

Her mother became a little obsessed with Tetris, and I spent some hours playing with it too, my introduction to Mario and other tiny-bit creatures.

Here’s another item for the time capsule—back in the 1980s and early 1990s, people sometimes rented technology. I rented several VCRs, in fact, before I finally bought one in 1984 (I actually bought one in 1979, but I ended up selling it). If you wanted a movie night, you borrowed a machine and a few cassettes and had yourself a ball, no big investment needed. VCRs at that point were still several hundred dollars at least, and those were 1980s dollars.

After the Game Boy, then, I decided to rent one of those NES consoles, just to see what it felt like on a bigger screen. It turned out they were out of them at the rental store, so I just went to the mall and bought one. I was on a mission.

Here’s the scenario, then. I’m 32 years old. I’m running a business and working downstairs for multiple hours, 12-14 not being unusual. When I was finished, it became relaxing to play a little Super Mario Bros. and try to save the princess. I played it almost every night for a while, and my family would watch, after their own attempts.

And I beat it, eventually, the first one in the family and the last time I did that. Gaming was taken over by my daughter and then my son, and I stepped away.

A friend brought over an old NES console to my daughter’s house and eventually Bix started playing, Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. and other 8-bit games, a nice throwback to those days. He didn’t believe me when I told him I could, you know, actually play that first one. It made him very nervous, although when I finally dumped Bowser in the brink he was pretty impressed with the old guy. I still got some moves.

That was a fun thing we did sometimes on this trip, then. I like video games and I’ve always understood that there was plenty of good stuff, problem-solving, sharpened reflexes, quicker decisions. And it was fun. As with anything, moderation is a must, but it’s not a passive thing and far more engaging than watching a cartoon. Count me as a supporter. His parents aren’t going to let him spend his days in front of screens.

And he pronounces Super Mario Bros. just like that. Bros. If you heard him say it, you would laugh.

You’d laugh a lot anyway.


I had a frantic morning yesterday, trying to catch up on what social media responsibilities I have (I had to edit a newsletter and a few other things). After I did that, and reconciled my bank statement, I talked to my son for a while, tried to eat something, then sat down in my recliner and napped for two hours, completely unintended. Then it was out to pick up a pizza, because Julie was going to be late and John was all for that.

I decided to catch up on VEEP, which ended its run this past Sunday on HBO. I’ve got nothing to add to what you can read, if you didn’t see it. Raw, profane, raunchy, without a decent person to be found, and a show I’m to understand, from people I trust, is the most representative of how politicians actually behave in Washington, D.C.

I enjoyed the show. That’s not really the point. It’s that I watched the final six 30-minute episodes, just to wrap it up, and that kept me up until after 11pm, which is crazy. I still woke up at 6am, which apparently is when I wake.

Less sleep than I’d like is the domestic equivalent of a first-world problem. It’ll work itself out. I’m glad VEEP is done, because honestly it was getting a little close to reality and uncomfortable, although very funny.

There are other funny things. I laughed a lot in Texas; I hope I brought some of that home. I think I can always remind myself, though, by just imagining that 5-year-old, now with a missing front tooth and so currently offering this fabulous lisp to listeners, saying, “I want to play with the Super Mario bros.” I’m a simple guy, with simple pleasures. I can hear that all day long. And those are my kind of bros.

Chuck SigarsComment