Gaming with Grandma: Mario Kart

Mario Kart is a ruthless cutthroat race to victory. Friendships are tested with red shells, green shells, and the supremely merciless blue shell. Brothers and sisters plot the downfall of their kin, deploying bombs and banana peels behind them. Desperate “Hail Marys” cause complete upsets with well-timed lightning bolts, Bullet Bills, and stars. Mushrooms are hoarded until the perfect opportunity strikes to pass another opponent or use a shortcut. Mario Kart is a parallel of the harsh truth that people will use whatever they can to gain the upper hand. It is clear to see why such a game is a beloved family-friendly Nintendo classic. 

At least that’s how I grew up playing it. Mario Kart was a fierce competition between me and a cousin try to set the most records with our initials and win whenever we played together. I was especially competitive as I was almost always Player 2, his system his rules. Good times… This set up the play to win mindset. Naturally, I became a little less competitive as I grew older. Losses didn’t feel as dramatic. My motivation to devote hours to practice to become the best waned. However no matter how old I got I still always got somewhat competitive at Mario Kart. This was the first time in my life I didn’t play to win. 

Grammy, Shaggy (my husband), and I played the Switch version, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. One of the perks with this edition is the assist modes available to players who need them. Shaggy made sure she had both auto acceleration and smart steering active. We also made sure ours were off because we are both pretty darn good at this game. He then set the race at 50cc (the calmest) and set the computer drivers to easy. Then it was up to us to pick out the courses. We each tried to pick out the easier courses for the four races.

The first round was in Moo Moo Meadows. Shaggy was giving Grammy instructions while we were racing since he sat next to her. I considered doing the same but figured two people talking at you might get confusing. It was a pretty chill run and I snagged first place with a sizable lead. After all, we made the settings super easy. Once the round was over I realized that Shaggy was in the bottom half of the racers. I asked him “How did that happen?” That’s when he told me that he wasn’t trying to win. Instead, he was acting as a bodyguard by eliminating the computer racers getting in her way. Now I almost felt like a jerk for winning so easily. 

It sounded kind of interesting to play that way. So for the rest of the match, I joined him as a bodyguard for Grammy. In round two, Mario Circuit GBA, Grammy placed first. The third round was Cheep Cheep Beach. Despite our best efforts, Grammy didn’t win that race. She came in third. Our final shot to get Grammy to the top was Toad Harbor. She won that last race. After we all crossed the finish line we saw the results of our four-race match. Unfortunately, I won. Every round I was in the top three so my points from the first won me the match. However, Grammy did get third place. To a degree, Shaggy and I succeeded at our goal of ensuring Grammy’s win. 

After that four race match, Grammy decided to call it a night. She said she had fun and thanked us for helping her out, joking that she couldn’t have done it without us. I think she would have been fine on her own. After all in round one with only Shaggy helping out she held onto third place for the first two laps. By the later rounds, she was holding her own. Grammy didn’t need instructions from either one of us. 

Shaggy and I had fun discovering a new way to play Mario Kart. One that wouldn’t have occurred to us otherwise. Changing the goal of trying to win to making someone else win by acting as a protective detail completely changes the experience. We had to talk to each other during the races to determine Grammy’s position, our positions, and the locations of the other racers. It required a team effort of sabotaging the NPC racers and falling back as needed. We both had to be more aware of what items we were using and when we used them. Because the entire time we were trying not to hit each other or Grammy. I know a few times I accidentally hit Shaggy. I actually felt genuine remorse for those moments. To be fair, he also hit me by accident. Playing that way was challenging. Working as a guard dog team was a lot of fun because it was different. When we have both played several versions of Mario Kart and had always played it like a normal racing game. Figuring out a new way to experience a game we have played tons of time was a lot of fun!

In the future, we will most likely play that way again. We will choose another player or an NPC to escort to victory. I like the new option we discovered as a fun way to mix it up. Unless we’re feeling ultra competitive and want to toss shells at each other. It’s thanks to Grammy that we figured out this new way of play Mario Kart. We never would have tried protecting someone as we would be too busy trying to win. Now we have a new way to play Mario Kart.

*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to Nintendo.

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