As a lifelong Oakland A’s fan, I was floored when the team decided to combine two of my favorite things in life: baseball and video games. This past Friday, June 13, the A’s played the Yankees, and capped the night off with a Super Mario Bros. fireworks display. During the course of the game, the A’s played Mario sound effects to coincide with strikeouts, and the Bros. themselves raced against classic A’s player puppets around the stadium. The A’s lost, sadly, but the show itself was an incredible piece of pyrotechnics. The show featured a huge variety of Super Mario music, starting off with Super Mario Bros. and making its way to Super Mario Galaxy 2. Fans in the audience swooned with every beat, and the fireworks overhead mirrored the bubbly reverie of the music itself.
One of the best parts of the evening, for me, was watching people line up to take photos with Mario and Luigi. the costumes that the performers wore looked very similar to the ones that Nintendo has been using in its Direct videos, which is to say, they looked really convincing! The Bros. were a hit, as kids and grownups alike were going nuts trying to be the next for a photo. Nintendojo writer Angela Marrujo was actually lucky enough to be the last person to have a shot snapped before the plumbers departed! It was a great night, but also a great sign of how video games continue to intertwine with and be accepted as a legitimate part of mainstream entertainment.
I think about the crowd, an eclectic mix of kids and adults, most of whom from different walks of life, all sitting together and bonded by the experience of playing Super Mario games. Sure, it was just a simple fireworks show, but it really spoke to how ingrained video games have become in our culture here in the US, in particular the ones made by Nintendo. For almost thirty years now, generations of people have grown up with a Nintendo system as part of their lives. From NES all the way up to now with Wii U, fans from coast to coast have powerful memories of toiling away for hours playing games, memories that often start in their youth, and continue up into adulthood.
One of my first memories growing up is a blurred vision of playing Tetris in my uncle Michael’s apartment. That very NES sits in my closet today, and as I’ve grown up I’ve seen my sister and all my cousins grow up with their own gaming experiences. It’s something that ties us all together. So many memories now of playing together, whether it was to bowl or reach the top of flagpoles, but all of them fun, all of them wonderful. A lot of people reading now have similar experiences, no doubt, and the number of us so-called gamers continues to grow as the years roll by.
Celebrations like the one in the Oakland Coliseum on Friday are just further proof of how important all these bits and polygons are to people. Once upon a time, Mickey Mouse was just some goofy cartoon on a movie screen. Now, he’s as much a part of American pop culture as The Beatles or Star Wars. Like Disney’s beloved mouse, what was initially an idle curiosity in video games has ballooned into an integral outlet of entertainment and artistic expression. Sitting and watching so many people in the stands cheering at the sound of all that great Mario music was an awesome experience that I won’t soon forget. Here’s hoping for more public displays of affection for everyone’s favorite plumber, and video games in general.