My belated introduction to Super Mario Brothers

On a hike today my friend noticed a clump of Amanita Muscaria and took away this glorious specimen. As we headed down the trail he said: “I can never see one of these without hearing the music from Super Mario Brothers — beep, boop.” He went on to explain that the spotted red mushroom was a coveted power-up that made Mario grow large.

I knew nothing about this. I have never played Super Mario Brothers, or any other iconic game, or really any computer-based game at all, except briefly in the early 1990s when I played Rogue during an office craze that lasted a few weeks, and around the same time played Putt-Putt with our young kids.

This seems unusual for someone like me. I have spent my adult life deeply engrossed in computer-based activity, and am often described to others, by friends and family, as a “computer guy.” That makes me a geek and/or nerd by definition. But I’ve never been comfortable with either of those terms.

Over the years I’ve known a great many others in the geek/nerd tribe who self-identify as gamers. It always puzzles me. I’m perfectly happy to spend long hours in front of a screen reading or writing or coding. But games? I simply lack that gene. It baffles me how other members of the tribe — especially adults who like me already put in long hours in front of screens — could then pile up more screen time playing games, when they could be outside hiking, or cycling, or gardening, or doing really anything else at all.

Perhaps this explains my reluctance to self-identify as a member of the geek/nerd tribe. If I really belonged I’d be gamer. Since I’m not I must be an impostor. I wonder if there’s a word — in some other language than English probably — for when you share certain core attributes with a tribe but not others?

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6 thoughts on “My belated introduction to Super Mario Brothers

  1. Re: sharing most, but not ALL traits with your tribe…. The term you’re looking for is “unique individual.” And it’s a good place to be. 🤗

  2. You have every right to be reluctant, of course, but I certainly consider you part of our tribe! While I am a gamer myself (in addition to Python nerd, database hacker, electronics wannabe, etc.), I know a number of folks in the family that don’t have the gamer gene either. We’re a big tent! :)

  3. I can add a ditto to that comment… if that is the admission price to the tribe, I am with you outside the velvet ropes. I do not own or play video games, and I can respect the attention paid by others it’s just never clicked for me.

    Plus when I have tried, I do terribly…

    I once was visiting a good friend and avid player who had me try a game with a futuristic plot line he found compelling. His then teen daughter walked in the room, glanced at my futile efforts, and in 15 seconds of observation declared, “You don’t play many video games much, right?”

  4. This is an interesting way of characterizing your interest level/engagement. I dare say, I was into video games LONG before I ever realized, confronted the fact they ARE computers. For instance in 1977 my dad brought home an RCA Studio II game console: That’s a computer, but it didn’t allow one to program, or type into it in any way. But even when some people did have access to a real computer, that also played games, what do they do? They sometimes ONLY play games. I’m reminded of Brian Dear’s account of the Don Bitzer’s PLATO project at UIUC (The Friendly Orange Glow). For some playing games was the ONLY reason to get onto a PLATO terminal. So it’s an interesting spectrum on which people find themselves. And no doubt changes over time.

  5. You’re not the only non-gamer in the “computer nerd” tribe, so don’t worry about it. Being unique is quite good!

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