The Unexpected Fun of Mario Kart 8: What a capitalist culture produces that’s good

If I sat and thought about it, there are a lot of things I deal with on a daily basis that I could claim drove me to depression or misery—where your expectations for things don’t match up with the real-world output. After all, that is the #1 cause of unhappiness.  Such things might be some distant family member that you care about. who got a new tattoo against your wishes, or some catastrophic expensive business disappointment—which happens all the time.  But I stay pretty happy all the time because of my personal means of management no matter what is going on—because I have a lot of hobbies that make me very happy.  One of those things I do is video gaming where I continue to be surprised at the technical achievements that are now coming almost quarterly from the industry—the latest great surprise being the Nintendo Switch counsel.  There have been 900,000 sold in the United States as of this writing and I consider myself lucky to have one of them.  It wasn’t easy to get—but once we did get one it has become a good friend to me.  I use it all the time and it has brought a lot of joy to my family after only a month.  The new Zelda game exclusively on Nintendo is for 2017 what Uncharted 4 was to last year’s game market for the PS4.  It is just a marvelous game on every front.  It’s like playing in a virtual Akira Kurasawa film—just something really special.

On Friday April 28th Mario Kart 8 was released and I didn’t realize how big of an event that was going to be.  My youngest grandson was about to have his 1st birthday party and a lot of family members were going to be there so I planned to bring along the Switch for everyone to play and of course Mario Kart is one of those great games for a crowd to play with. So I found myself at Target hoping to get a copy of the new Mario Kart 8 Deluxe that is simply a revamp of the 2014 game released on the Nintendo Wii.  I thought it would be a fun game and it was a priority for me because we did have a Switch, but I wasn’t prepared for the all-out display that Target had done for the new game on the new system.   Mario Kart 8 had its own display right at the cash register the way a hot new movie release might—which I thought was odd because likely very few people in the marketplace had a Nintendo Switch yet to justify such a roll-out.  But Target was absolutely committed to the new Nintendo game system and they were not shy about it.  I was impressed by that.

We had fun with the Mario Kart 8 game all weekend.  Another of my grandchildren stayed at our house and we played it until he went to bed and then again starting at 8 AM Sunday morning until about noon when his mother picked him up.  As we were saying good-bye to them I noticed she had McDonald’s Happy Meals in the front seat and on the boxes were advertisements for Mario Kart 8 on the Nintendo Switch.  Like Target, McDonald’s had jumped on the whole Mario Kart 8 release with great capitalist enthusiasm and it was fun.  I enjoyed with all the things going on in my life to have a delightful weekend playing with this fun new game system with my kids and grandkids sharing the enthusiasm that often comes from Nintendo products while being exposed to it everywhere I went.

Last week I went to great effort to convey why I liked the movie, The Founder so much.  McDonald’s is about more than food—on many occasions in the past they have infused themselves directly into our culture—as they did recently with the Mario Kart 8 game release for the Nintendo Switch.  As I say a lot, these video games are now part of our cultural heritage—they are updated story telling avenues that are in many cases replacing the effectiveness of movies and books—so I consider them significant.  And specifically, these efforts by Target, McDonald’s and all retail companies associated with Nintendo and the release of Mario Kart 8—a simple kids game that is just fun for anybody to play—are all creations of capitalism and convey the optimism that pours forth from creative enterprise that exists for the pleasure of past time indulgence.  That indulgence only happens in free societies led by capitalist monetary commitments.

I had to see a young lady at her office on the day that Mario Kart had been released and I was early for our meeting. So when I walked in on her she was looking sheepishly at her computer screen trying to hold back a laugh.  I knew she was hiding something so I walked behind her desk and saw that she was playing Mario Kart 8 on her Nintendo Switch and she was trying to hide it from people walking by her office window. I told her I understood and she proceeded to tell me that she went out for lunch to get the new game and she couldn’t wait to play it.  This was a grown woman with a pretty important job.  So Mario is for anyone and there isn’t any harm in blowing off a little steam with some fun—which is why this Switch game system is so powerful–culturally.

After my visit to Target I stopped by Gamestop to see if I could find an AC adaptor for taking the Switch on the run, so I could charge it up away from the docking station connected to my television.  While there the guy at the counter asked me if I had Mario Kart 8 yet—which of course I said I did because I had just bought it at Target from the big display they had there.  That’s when the sales clerk said “but do you have the steering wheels?’  I was a little shocked to see him present two Mario Kart steering wheels to use while playing the fun racing game and of course I couldn’t pass them up.  So It was a Mario weekend for me and I enjoyed it greatly in spite of having plenty to worry about in all other aspects of my life.  Being surrounded by the influence of one game for a game console few people had yet was enjoyable.  I spend a lot of time talking about cultures ancient and present—and Nintendo certainly has a place of honor in our modern myth making efforts as human beings.  I couldn’t help but be impressed because there really isn’t any downside to it.  It’s all a positive aspect of capitalism—you won’t find Mario Kart 8 bringing that kind of joy to places devoid of capitalism—places like Iran, Syria, Russia—Afghanistan and so on.  Only healthy countries functioning from good philosophy and positive money flow can enjoy these types of things and Nintendo was doing a good job of putting their product in the hands of the most people possible which was wonderful.  I’d love to see a world where kids in the middle of Africa could participate in the Mario Kart fun—but for them—they are lucky to find a stable meal because of the lack of capitalism in their countries.

Nintendo specifically is a good, clean company.  All their characters are wholesome and playful.  You don’t have to worry about illicit sex and mental depletion when it comes to Nintendo products.  In every instance I can think of they are child-like in their approach to gaming but revere intelligence in the actual game play. Mario Kart 8 is a smart little party game—and Zelda is very deep—but they all have in common that Nintendo fun of living life without the burdens of modern adulthood drowning in expectations.  Everything is optimistic—just like when we were all children—which is why many people are bringing these Nintendo Switches to work with them.  I don’t get mad when I see such things because I think it makes people more productive and that this video game element to our society is taking the place of more restrictive past times that used to be utilized during lunch hour.  It is a lot more productive to play Mario Kart 8 for an hour than going to BW3s and drinking a couple of beers.  The Mario Kart player will be ready to solve problems and tackle challenges after lunch while the beer drinker will struggle to stay awake and engaged for the rest of the day.  So I see no downside to all this capitalist excess because it helps our society in every phase, mental wellness, economic development, problem solving, enthusiasm endurance—when a simple game like Mario Kart can enhance the level of excitement when shopping at Target or buying Happy Meals at McDonald’s really—everyone wins.  There is no downside.

In that regard, the Nintendo Switch has turned out to be a little bit of a miracle. In just one month it sold over 2 million units worldwide which puts it up there with the PS4 and ahead of Xbox.  A few years ago Nintendo looked like it was falling off the map.  After watching the Superbowl commercial for the Nintendo Switch I was highly skeptical—but now I am a huge fan.  I love it.  It is a perfect marriage of incredible technology and innovative product development rolled up into one beautiful package that touches many aspects of our capitalist culture which advances human thought through entertainment and philosophy.  That to me is a big deal and is something to celebrate.  I certainly did.  After a weekend like I had with the Nintendo Switch, I felt privileged to be able to play a part in it.  Not only was it fun, but it was enhancing in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible even a few months ago.

Rich Hoffman


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