It’s how you play the game

One recent summer day, my three-year-old great niece handed me her pad and told me it was my turn to play. Nearly moved to tears by the child’s capacity for sharing, I took hold of the pad.

My happiness turned to disappointment when I realized we were playing a version of Super Mario Bros. In case you’re unfamiliar with the video game, Mario, a plumber by trade, runs through several worlds, encountering mushrooms, coins, and some sort of creature that resembles a flying goose, on his quest to save a princess.

The plot reminds me of some migraine-induced nightmares I’ve endured and, in spite of my older nieces’ repeated attempts over the past two decades to school me in the art of Mario, I’ve never gotten the hang of playing the game.

There was no need for both my newer niece and me to be disappointed, though, so I gave it my best. Mercifully, Mario was running on his own accord, so all I had to do was make him jump. The game even prompted me – with instructions – when it was time for Mario to jump.

I tapped that screen whenever Mario came across a mushroom or had opportunities to obtain coins. Nonetheless, Mario kept falling off the course and/or getting himself minimized by objects the flying goose threw at him. Not wanting to give up, I suggested we find an easier version of the game. That’s when the other adults in the room informed me that we were playing the easy version.

Sighing, I told her, “I can’t do it,” and immediately regretted my words. Whenever she informs me that she can’t, for example, slide open my closet doors, I remind her that “can’t never could.” So, there I sat, basically telling her to do as I say and not as I do. (Or would that be do as I say and not as I say?)

But to my credit (or would that be discredit?), I can’t play video games. What’s more, other than Ms. Pac-Man, I’ve never had an interest in learning to play them. (Don’t even get me started on my comedic attempts at Mario Kart.) And, since I’m being honest, I’m not an exceptional Ms. Pac-Man player, either. In fact, I’m probably not even good.

So it didn’t take long for my niece to pick up on my lack of video game-playing skills. After I had led Mario to yet another death, she eased the pad away from me and gave it to my  sister. When I asked her who played better, my sister or me, she pointed at my sister.

The child’s capacity for telling the truth nearly moved me to tears.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

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