Recently I was in the park with Penny, my four-year-old daughter. Penny struck up a friendship with a ten-year-old and the two girls were chatting about their favourite games and activities.
Her new friend mentioned the classic video game Mario Kart, and said Yoshi was her favourite character. Penny replied that Peach was her favourite, because she looked like Elsa from Frozen. The girl’s grandmother joined in to the conversation; “I prefer Toad, he’s slower, but has better road handling…”
Of course, she was right. Toad and Koopa Troopa are the best Mario Kart characters for this reason, but I was more amazed by the conversation itself. Few video games have had such a cultural impact that three generations could be discussing its characters, with everyone keeping up.
Mario Kart 8 is one of the few video games I’ve introduced to Penny, thanks to clever hardware and software. The Nintendo Switch edition features driver assist, which allows my daughter to race me and sometimes win, despite the fact I’ve been playing variations of the game for twenty-six years now. The Joy-Con controllers are small enough for her to hold, and we put one of the motion-sensitive devices into a simple wheel enclosure so she can steer without mastering the joystick. And of course Nintendo’s brand has always been family friendly, so there’s nothing to worry about in terms of adult themes or content.