[Nintendad Coffeehouse] Nintendo’s Emotional Resonance

Written by Abram Buehner

The troubles of Twitter

Nintendo Twitter is a bizarre coagulation of hype, toxicity, and thirst. On rare occasion it’s rational, but during even rarer moments, it’s vulnerable. During these infrequent episodes, though, there is a genuine air of warmth that underscores the general discourse, spread typically through a retweet campaign. Retweet this post if Nintendo has ever changed your life or helped you through a tough time. The verbiage will change, but the sentiment stays constant. For a fleeting second on the bustling timelines of community members and figureheads alike, everyone pauses to acknowledge the incredible power that Nintendo’s games have, and their ability to define moments in our lives, to smooth over our rougher edges.

It’s somewhat of a recurring joke between myself and my girlfriend—first, she’ll ask me if I know what day of the week a certain upcoming date coincides with. Chances are, if I do know, it’ll be as a result of a particular Nintendo title launching on a Friday in the proximity of the date in question. We’ll both chuckle, she’ll call me a nerd, and we’ll move on with the day. The truth is, my sense of time; past, present, future, is largely segmented by the Nintendo games that I played at those moments. I didn’t break my wrist in September of 2014, I broke my wrist the week before Hyrule Warriors came out. I didn’t graduate middle school the first week of June, I graduated the week after Splatoon launched. I don’t remember my grandmother’s retirement party, but I do remember being allowed to stay up past my bedtime after the event to finish the Good Egg Galaxy and defeat Dino Piranha. I don’t remember these moments purely because of games’ quality, though, but instead because of how resonant these experiences are to me.

The elegance of escape

A large part of the allure of video games, when viewed through my personal lens, is the fact that they’re an escapist medium. The ability to lose yourself in the rich fabric of a game’s universe is incredibly valuable for two dichotomous reasons, both artistically, and as we’ll discuss, emotionally. Like in Luigi’s New Super Mario Bros. casino minigames, we all have to play with the hand we’re dealt. In cards, that can be tough. In life, that can take you to the depths of depravity. To tumble into that void is scary, but to be pulled up, even temporarily, by a great game can be indispensable. It can be Lakitu’s Hook during lap three on Rainbow Road or the Golden Hammer on the last stock, metaphorically speaking. In no unclear terms, Nintendo’s games, worlds, and characters have been the hook and the hammer in my life, pulling me from the depths when everything else around me felt empty.

I struggle with a laundry list of mental health troubles, and Nintendo has caught me every time I’ve stumbled. Nintendo creates such imaginative, evocative universes, the sort that wrap the player in a feeling of wonderment and engage their senses in the way that few other worlds can. Whether I’m skimming the waters as I approach Corneria in my Arwing or summiting one of Hyrule’s towering mountains with the Master Sword in hand, I can get away from the issues plaguing my day. Whether I’m nabbing a Power Moon from Cookateil’s stewpot or overtaking an opponent in Mute City, I can be someone else, do something fantastic. Yes, these are video games. These are digitally constructed experiences powered by repeating strands of ones and zeroes. But, they’re something else, something more, and they’re always there when you need them most.

The importance of discussion

The truth is, I’ve retweeted posts along these lines often, but not every time they’ve surged past in the never-ending deluge of discussion online. The blame for that lies squarely at my feet. It may not seem like much of an issue, but every time we don’t hit retweet, as a community, we miss a moment to celebrate an aspect of gaming that is often overlooked. We can review and critique games from an artistic merit, and I partake in that often. It is an integral part of becoming a more nimble, informed community. But video games are much more than that, and as such, they deserve to be roundly and comprehensively discussed. Plus, it reminds us all, if just for one moment, that we’re all people on the other side of the screen. We’re all vulnerable and complex, we all bring our own perspectives and histories to the community and medium at large.

And this, my friends, is the central charge of Nintendad Coffeehouse. This is an editorial series that seeks to, above all else, discuss and debate the world of Nintendo with respect to all of its facets and all its disparate pieces as intellectually curious members of the community. Styled after European, Enlightenment-era coffeehouses, Nintendad Coffeehouse is meant to be a forum for people to come together and discuss games critically and honestly. Every topic is on the table, and everyone is free to contribute thoughtfully and honestly to each discussion. For now, though, this inaugural installment is done. Your charge, as members of the Nintendad community, is a single task with a twofold purpose. Leave a comment. Let us know how Nintendo has helped you in your life and let us know what topic we should unpack next. This column will be ever-changing, and the input of the community is integral to that evolution. Together, we can foster a community of curious, intelligent players with one common goal; thoughtful discussion about the wild world of Nintendo.

4 thoughts on “[Nintendad Coffeehouse] Nintendo’s Emotional Resonance

  1. Kieran Fifield says:

    Where to begin? Nintendo has shaped nearly every facet of my life from early childhood. From receiving my NES at the age of four, to upgrading to the SNES and meeting my partner for life, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

    The most recent game changing moment however was the release of the Nintendo Switch along with 2017’s GOTY, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Nintendo’s hybrid console released 6 weeks before the birth of my daughter, along with BOTW. The console’s versatility not only changed my perception of gaming, it also allowed me to continue being a gamer. Putting a game into sleep mode when my newborn daughter stirred at night, and picking up exactly where I was once she had settled again, often hours later was, at the time, an heaven sent blessing. Breath of the Wild was also the perfect tonic at this time in my life, as the synergy it offered my new found status as a parent was staggering. Hyrule was familiar but completely new. Life was familiar; I still had to work, do chores and whatnot, but at the same time there was this human life I was responsible for. I often sat in the nursery with my Switch in handheld mode, headphones in, just playing and simultaneously staring in utter wonderment at both this vast new game world and tiny human being sleeping peacefully.

    Without the Nintendo Switch, I probably wouldn’t be able to partake in my favourite pastime anymore.

  2. Schwetty says:

    What a fantastic piece! Glad to know that Nintendo has touched other individuals in similar ways.

  3. Jeanne says:

    This article is incredible, and it made me view video games from a new perspective! I love your work!

  4. Richard Strachan says:

    Nintendo games have always been a big part of my life, but much like Abram, I’ve found them a real help in coping with the more difficult times.

    Shortly after the Switch came out, my wife and I lost a baby. It was a heartbreaking and confusing time and I really wasn’t sure how I could move on from there.

    In the days and weeks that followed I used Breath of the Wild as my escape from real life. I feel like the way it presented familiar Zelda locations in a completely new context felt somehow fitting with my own time in trying to make sense of the world around me.

    The game provided a huge comfort and helped me cope with the situation, and now stands in my memory as a big stamp where everything that came before and everything that came after can be considered almost as two different versions of me.

    I’ve been lucky enough to go on and have a wonderful baby boy since then and am starting to feel more like the person I once was. A big part of my coping mechanism for a while, as well as the support of my wife, was the ability to immerse myself in the magic of Nintendo.

    When I look back on my life, I’ve always found Nintendo games in particular to be the perfect tonic in times of sadness, worry or stress!

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