Why Mario Kart is a Microcosm Of Life



The trusty Wii-Mote. On top of my freshly painted chest of drawers that my father and I slaved over during Christmas Break. But mostly my father. 😉

I’ve been playing a lot of Mario Kart recently. And when I say a lot, I mean that my brother fusses at me for playing it at 3 in the morning. I’m clearly out of control. But see, that perfectionist mindset that dominates most of my other activities also applies to video games. I develop a nervous, OCD mindset that requires that every last quest or level in a video game be conquered.

Video games are not something I habitually get to enjoy. Since taking up writing on a regular basis, something had to go (see mention of sacrifice in yesterday’s post). As a general rule, this arrangement works out nicely, but sometimes the lure of instant gratification and target-seeking red shells overpowers my productivity.

Before you think I have no work ethic, let me say this in my defense: Sometimes writing a book is hard, and it makes you crazy. I’m not exaggerating. By the time your poor brain keeps twenty characters and their lives, backstories, and dislike for certain foods straight, it’s already half fried. Add in setting and plot points, and it’s enough to drive anyone to relieve some stress on Mario Kart.

Sometimes a break is in order. Sometimes you lose the fire of your story, and you need space to find it again. I found myself at that point a few weeks ago, and decided that the Holidays would be an appropriate time to take a break (plus I am my family’s designated gift wrapping machine— the OCD periodically proves itself to be a boon).


See above. I have issues. But they are such beautiful issues. 🙂

So, I found myself settling in with my trusty Wii-Mote to brave the land of Mario Kart. With an old-school joystick, I thought it would be easy. I thought it was a children’s game. Maybe I even thought I would return to my writing victorious.

I was wrong.

For three weeks this game devoured my soul and my sanity. It began deceptively easy, and lulled me into a false sense of security. I thought I could handle it. I thought that after writing a book and graduating with a Chemistry degree, Mario Kart would be a walk in the park.

It wasn’t.

Anyway. Whining aside, I toiled through to the end, and finally beat it a few days ago. With my victorious gold license, I moved on to greener pastures.

I have no idea where this image is from, but it adequately summarizes my experience:



…And my facial expression.

But something occurred to me as I was robbed of victory after victory— as shells ALWAYS hit me and computer controlled carts ALWAYS threw me off bridges into lava.

Life isn’t fair.

It’s funny, but one of the most important life lessons can be found in Mario Kart. There is something humbling and strikingly honest about the game’s devotion to one of life’s big facts.

As a grown woman, I am painfully aware of the fact that life is not fair. But I wonder about the younger generation. I teach an after school taekwondo program, and while I love the kids I teach, it seems that each and every group feels more and more entitled to reward without commitment or discipline. These same kids who show so much promise would have a gigantic fit if they were to lose a game of Mario Kart.

Now, I know that kids will be kids. They’re learning, just like the rest of us, and in vast quantities at once. But I’m not sure my generation would have had the same reaction to life’s injustices. My generation was reared on games like these, where a virtual death was always around the corner, and in spite of your best efforts, sometimes you just lost.

And sometimes life works that way too. Sometimes the person working the hardest won’t receive the best reward. Sometimes the least talented person wins.

It is a tough lesson to learn, especially for kids. But I wonder, as we dole out participation trophies to 12 year olds, what we’re teaching our kids. Life doesn’t work that way. Not everyone goes home happy. And I feel that by telling kids that we can all be winners, we’re setting them up for massive failure and bitterness in the end.

Sometimes you are the ‘Kart’.

And sometimes you are the Blue-Winged Shell.


I feel old now (In MY day, we walked 10 miles in the snow! With no shoes!).


Off to work on my draft more (64,000 words!).

Thoughts? Feel free to leave them in the comment box below.


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