My parents were incredibly cool. They were some of the first in line to bring home this new toy, along with the Super Mario Bros. game cartridge.
Nintendo has gone through some major changes since that first system. So have Mario and his pals. Even though over the years I have played many games on many different consoles, I am sure that being handed the controls of Mario at the tender age of three is part of what shaped my life and outlook on the world.
Here are the motivational life lessons I learned from playing Mario 1, 2, and 3:
Life Lessons From Super Mario Bros 1 :
When You are Small, You Are Vulnerable
As a "shrunken" Mario, you are much more likely to get killed by your enemies or get into a predicament you cannot escape safely.
In real life being small doesn't necessarily mean size. (Although being a child certainly means your enemies may be much bigger than yourself physically.)
Being "small" in the adult world can mean so many different things. Maybe you are a small business facing competition from Bowzer sized corporations.
It can also mean you aren't part of the mainstream. Most of us at one point in life will face difficulties based the way we look, our sex, or our income bracket. Embracing a lifestyle that is "out of the norm" can also mean being part of a smaller group.
The good news is that small doesn't mean weak. And it doesn't mean you can't win.
Don't Waste Opportunities
When Mario grabs a star, he begins to flash. This is the ultimate chance for him to go! For a brief time he is invincible.
If he hesitates, the star power fades.
How very true. We are often given opportunities to shine, but sometimes we hesitate, and the moment is lost.
Sometimes we let the opportunity go bouncing past us because we are busy focusing on something else. Only later (like say, after getting squished by a turtle) do we wish we had grabbed our star when we had the chance.
Your Actions Can Come Back On You
In Mario's world, some of his enemies can't be killed. Instead, hopping on their heads just sends them sliding off-screen.
Although you gain extra points for hopping on your enemies, there are times when it is best to just let them wander off while you search for coins and bonuses.
If you pop a turtle for no good reasons, he can bounce of something and slide into Mario, taking either his size or his extra life.
Lesson learned? If you don't have to hop on a turtle, then don't. Especially if you are low on extra lives.
In real life? If you don't have to step on your competition to get ahead, then don't. Actions done out of spite for a paltry reward can come back and rob you later of all the progress you made.
Know Your Goals
Each time you play Mario, you can decide on what goal you want to set for yourself.
- Do you want to defeat the bad guys and save the princess?
- Or do you want to play for score?
- Maybe you are trying to beat your record for time?
In real life we have to set goals too.
Are we playing for reputation, score, or time? Are we playing for popularity, success, money, or fulfillment?
Try, Try Again
Even when Mario is loaded with extra lives, points, and goodies (such as the ability to spit fire balls), he isn't guaranteed success.
He can still accidentally fall off a bridge, get sat on by Bowzer, slide off a cliff or get get attacked by a squid.
As the levels progress, so do the challenges. It is one thing to run under a jumping dragon, and another to run under a jumping dragon that is juggling hatchets and spitting fireballs. It may take hundreds of tries (and many days) to succeed. So don't give up.
So you got sat on by a juggling dragon. Twice today. So, you lost everything and had to start over from scratch. Keep trying! Life isn't easy!
In real life, this means two things:
First of all, keep trying. (obviously).
But also that we should never assume we are going to be successful just because we have a lot of advantages with us. For example, we can invest in the best education, have the biggest budget and own the best tools for a job. And we can still fail a few times.
Life Lessons from Super Mario 2
Just when we had all gotten smug about our ability to beat Mario 1, the sequel appeared.
Just like entering a new stage of life, Mario 2 brought new challenges. For one thing, we had to start digging for our food!
(Yep, definitely like being in your 20s and 30s!)
This game taught us:
The Value of Teamwork
In the first game, there were two players. You were either Mario, or his brother Luigi. You couldn't be Luigi unless someone else was Mario.
Luigi was humble player #2. But...when Super Mario 2 came out, you could choose to be Luigi. Or the Princess, or their pal, Toad. (with or without a second player.)
Each character had different skills and ways of doing things. For instance, Luigi could jump higher, and Toad could dig faster. The Princess could fly for a brief time.
What this taught us was that although Mario could make it through the entire game by himself, it was much easier if he turned to his friends on certain levels of the game.
Mario, that favored child of the first game, learned to step aside and let people more qualified skills take over certain parts of the job.
In real life, this is "outsourcing". For years we are taught that we are pretty much crap if we can't learn how to do everything and do it well. Then we reach a stage in life and business we are told we should have just outsourced that task to someone else.
You Won't Know Until You Try
One day you are standing on a cliff facing a waterfall. The thought comes into your head, "I wonder if there is a hidden world down there?"
Do you jump? Or do you continue on the way you have always played? The truth is there were hidden worlds. Sometimes you jumped and discovered a new area filled with bonuses. Sometimes, you died, because it really was a waterfall.
If you rush through life without ever stopping to think about or try something new, you can be guaranteed a safe existence.
You may even defeat Wart in the end. But along the way, you lost the opportunity to discover some amazing things.
If you did take the chance to try something new (like, could you go down this pipe?) you were sometimes treated to a different view of Marioland.
You saw it at night, and there were all these goodies hanging there for you to pluck. Everyone should stop occasionally and try to look at the world from a different point of view, or from someone else's perspective.
Life Lessons from Mario 3
This game threw us for a loop. It didn't look anything like the other games. It had an interactive map, so instead of advancing through the levels automatically, you could choose which "scenes" to play first.
And you could play them over and over again. Not only did this cement the idea that practice makes perfect, it taught us that it is never a bad idea to go back and correct a mistake.
Occasionally you had the option to bypass a land. Then you had to weigh the choice between getting to your goal faster, or earning more bonuses.
Along with the new menu came some new life lessons:
First and foremost, there are ghosts. And you should never turn your back on them.
There are also big fish in the water, and you cannot swim as fast as you can run. I think this knowledge, if applied properly, would prevent many shark attacks in real life.
An important takeaway here is that while it's great to be optimistic, one should also be realistic when facing potential obstacles (and giant fish).
You might not get eaten by a big fish if you jump in the water, but it is a possibility. So make sure you've planned accordingly (stocked up on mushrooms, bought a funeral plan, etc.)
Turn to Stone
In Mario 3, Mario can turn to stone with the aid of a special token.
When he is frozen as a statue, his enemies bump into him and then turn away, leaving our hero unscathed.
In real life, we can all use this technique without any tokens. No, we can't turn ourselves literally to stone, but you can certainly pretend.
When you ''turn to stone'', negative influences slide off of you, leaving you unharmed.
As we already learned from Mario, if you choose to fight it out instead of using your power, you could be shrunken or killed. Why take the risk for a few points? Keep the bigger goal in mind.
When playing with two players, each player had to advance separately. Sometimes one got to end of the level before the other, and was thus the one to face down the bad guy.
If you wanted, you could enter a special scene where Mario and Luigi duked it out. When this happened, the victor walked away with the loser's assets (bonus items, such as the Tanuki suit, stars, and mushrooms).
We often opted to volunteer these items to the other player, giving them a much needed arsenal to defeat the enemy. To do this, you had to stand still and let them "steal" your items. By doing so, you were increasing your partner's chances.
This is not how the game was designed. Mario and Luigi (i.e. players 1 and 2) were essentially competing against each other to see who could win. Still, in a child's mind, we had a common enemy, and we found a way to work together against the game to defeat him together.
It made sense to give your bonuses to the player who was closer to the bad guy.
There are tons of real life lessons from this. We see it in action everyday with bloggers and other online entrepreneurs giving out freebies and helping others reach their goals, even though there is no big bad guy to defeat.
It would certainly be helpful in the political arena, where this too much focus on which character is ahead, and who has the most flowers and stars...rather than teaming up to defeat the bad stuff.
Take Life By the Controller
Many people claim that video games ruin the world. I beg to differ. A game is a game. It is how it is perceived that makes it good or bad.
The advantage we had as children was that our parents played too. We watched them play and have fun. It was never a serious competition.
We learned to take turns. We learned to share. We were encouraged to keep trying, until we succeeded, but when we became frustrated, we were taught that it was just a game.
Although we could learn about life by playing, we were always aware, from a very early age, that the game itself was not reality.
Even though it was actually how our "coaches" guided us through the perils of leaping off of waterfalls, and jumping on turtles that shaped our present selves: there are still times as an adult when I am faced with a sticky situation, and find myself thinking,
" Wow...I wonder what Mario would do?"