Soapbox: I Flew 3,000 Miles To Get My Arse Handed To Me In Mario Party

Soapbox: I Flew 3,000 Miles To Get My Arse Handed To Me In Mario Party

Mario Party 3
Image: Nintendo Life

Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they’ve been chewing over. Today, Kate reminisces about a memorable trip… to Loser Town!

I can’t believe I’ve been allowed to use the word “arse” in a title. I feel so powerful. Anyway. Let me tell you a story…

A few years ago, I decided, on a bit of a whim, to move from the UK to Canada. I’d been dreaming of living in Canada since I was young, enticed by its crystal-blue lakes, its friendly reputation, and whatever a “Timbit” was supposed to be. And so I did it, packing everything I cared to take with me into three large suitcases, and flying across the Atlantic.

Being in my mid-20s at the time, I had that sort of self-assured resilience that comes from believing that you’ll stay young forever. I slept on couches and trains, and even one night on a single papasan chair, the only piece of furniture I owned in Montreal, convinced that my back would never punish me for the mistreatment. I carted around a crappy laptop and a Nintendo Switch (which I wrote about over here) from airplane to café to co-working space, as my only forms of getting paid work. I rented shoebox apartments I could barely afford, confident that I’d figure out some kind of job-having situation one way or another, which (luckily) worked out in the end. And, I told myself, I’d make friends. I’d done it before.

But then the pandemic happened, etc. etc., Animal Crossing during lockdown, banging pots on balconies, you know the details. We were all cut off from each other, but I — having also hastily moved from the metropolitan Montreal to the relatively remote Nova Scotia to be with my partner — had never felt more alone.

ACNH lonely
Pictured: me, being alone in Animal Crossing — Image: Kate Gray

I didn’t really know anyone in this new province. I wasn’t expecting to be here, after all. It wasn’t part of the plan. The version of me that decided to move to Canada in my 20s (fun! daring! resilient!) was a very different version of me that moved to Nova Scotia in my 30s (tired! tired! very tired!) and I found myself wondering if I’d made a mistake, as I traced the miles on the map between me and my friends and family in England, across a temporarily uncrossable sea. I had taken for granted that I would be able to visit others, until suddenly I couldn’t.

Then, in 2022, for the first time in five years, I returned to London, this time with my partner. We stayed near my friends in the northeast part of the city, and we started planning hangouts, just like we used to do.

And we booted up Mario Party.

Mario Party 2
Pictured: me on the boat from Canada to the UK — Image: Nintendo Life

So, the first half of this story is full of melancholy and loneliness, but the second half of this story is… well, it’s Mario Party. My friends are obsessed with Mario Party, in the same way that a toddler is obsessed with Frozen, or a man-eating shark is obsessed with man-eating. You’ll be fast asleep, and then you’ll wake up to one of them looming over you in the dark, Joy-Cons held out to you, saying weird and creepy things like “hey do you wanna be Monty Mole” and “I promise I won’t use any of the bad items on you. No, really. I promise! On my mum’s life.” Playing Mario Party with the aforementioned friends is the only way I was going to get out of London with my kidneys intact.

So, there we are, playing friendship-ending minigames on my friend’s sofa, sharing a pot of tea and loud, messy laughter. Even though Mario Party is predictable in its unpredictability, and you always know to expect nothing but Nintendo-flavoured betrayal, it’s got a deep range of minigames and twists that always manage to surprise you. You can easily be lulled into thinking there’s any kind of strategy to the thing, or that the best player will always win, or that the world is fair, but none of that’s true. Mario Party is an engine of chaos, and that’s what makes it so special.

me and my friends
Pictured: me and my friends playing D&D in person shortly before playing Mario Party. Yes, we all look like this. I’m the horse. — Image: Kate Gray

And the thing is… it just wouldn’t work as well online. Over the pandemic, I played a lot of online games, and still do, with these same friends — from chaotic Stardew farms and Minecraft realms to Jackbox sessions that end in us trying not to pee ourselves laughing. But playing games on the same machine where I do my work, on a browser that also happens to contain every single distraction in the known universe, tends to put the social interaction I’m currently having on the same level as, say, Wikipedia. It’s just another thing I’m doing on the big rectangle.

The internet is a wonderful thing, but I’m glad that it never comes close to the beauty and intimacy of a real-time, shared game experience. I wish it wasn’t true, because honestly, taking a six-hour plane journey just to experience local multiplayer is not really financially feasible most of the time. Maybe it’s being in the same time zone, which was something I never really considered until I left a country that only has one for a country with six — things are always somehow funnier when you’re all sharing the same sky. Or maybe it’s just the closeness and intimacy of being able to kick my best friend in the face when she steals one of my Stars.

Mario Party 4
Pictured: Mario Party being an unfair game — Image: Nintendo Life

If I’ve learned one thing from this expensive-yet-beautiful Mario Party session, it’s this: Never trust your friends. Nah, I’m kidding. I think I’ve learned that I need to find ways to see my real friends in-person more often. Social interactions over Discord and video calls are wonderful, but they’re no substitute for the real thing. If you have friends nearby, go and hug them for me. And then steal their Stars. It’s the perfect crime.

Do you prefer playing games with friends online or in person? Let us know in the comments.

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