Last night I sat down and busted out some Mario Kart 64. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve played, and a long time since I dove into time trials. I looked back at my twitter and it’s been 1,086 days since I put down a time that was good enough to rank in the top five on any tracks on my cart. So that probably means it’s been at least a decade since I’ve had a time good enough to place first on any of those tracks.
For whatever reason I’d been thinking about this game lately. All the hours I’d spent perfecting those tracks and to some extent if those were skills that were lost forever, or if they were still inside me, buried beneath all the work stress, car repairs, bills, and savings. Of course there’s been a lot of good additions to my life too since then like my family. As nerdy as it sounds, my Mario Kart times were a very special thing to me in my school years. By both the good and the bad, since the late 90’s Mario Kart 64 is something that’s been steadily been pushed aside by other things that were of greater significance.
Sometimes it feels like I’ve changed so much since then. With the pressure of being pulled in so many directions, I feel like it’s wore me down making me more tired, irritable and cynical than ever. Changes I’m not really proud of. So from time to time I wonder if that free spirit is still at the center of the layers of serious crap that have been rolled and caked on top since then. I guess I felt like if I could still compete with my old self at something I was best at back then, then maybe I wasn’t as different a person as I felt after all.
Part of the reason it’s been 1,086 days since my last “blistering” time is because I’m always afraid that some day I’m going to sit down and not be able to do it anymore. That the “old” me really will be nothing more than just a memory. So with some mild trepidation, I picked a track I knew I’d spent a considerable amount of time on. Kalamari Desert. To put into perspective just HOW much time I’d spent racing this track, there is just a 0.42 second difference between 1st place and 5th place. That’s less time than it takes a fluorescent light bulb to turn on. This is exactly the reason I’ve been reluctant to race tracks like this because unless I really am as good as I used to be, there’s no chance I’ll ever have of ranking in the top 5.
My first run through was pretty far off the mark. Relatively at least. When you start getting picky, finding 2 seconds to shave off somewhere can get pretty tricky. But I did notice that my third lap was in the ballpark of my best lap ever. So I felt like getting on the board was achievable, especially since I was literally picking this up cold after ages.
After just my second run, I was really feeling good. My third lap was slower, but I’d picked up big time on laps one and two. Heck, over all I was just a half a second off 5th place and I knew I’d made some mistakes during the run. If I could just correct those, I could be on the board easily. Heck, maybe three runs would be all it would take and my skills had virtually never left me. Hell, maybe a new personal best was in store for me, all on just my 3rd run!
What followed in the 4th, 5th… 12th runs were waves of frustration. As I’d try to get more aggressive on each lap to cut into that time, I’d push just a little too far and make a mistake. I’d only finish all three laps maybe one out of every 5 attempts or so. But you know what, I wasn’t too bummed by it, because this was exactly how I used to play. In fact these exact scenarios used to infuriate the hell out of me. (Maybe I wasn’t so free and cheery as I’d like to think I used to be). Actually… I think Mario Kart Time Trials is the only game that literally made me throw controllers. I would start, restart, start, race, restart, start race finish… restart… all until my thumb was literally raw. So to think I just cranked out these times at will is far from reality.
Then finally after about an hour of racing this track. This one track. I finally did it.
I’d never been more happy to get 4th place. Only 0.16 seconds away from 1st place. I did try a couple more runs to see if I could crank out a 1st place. But honestly, after two runs and it not happening, I didn’t even want to keep going. As lame as this is, part of me didn’t want fell my old 1st place time because of all the work past me had put in to get it. WTF is wrong with my brain? The motivation this whole time was to prove that I’m still the same Matt I’ve always been, but when I have a chance to even be better I draw a line. I’ve gotta be nuts.
So someday I’ll beat that time. Maybe it will take another 1,000 days, but I hope not. I was thinking today about playing and caught myself saying I didn’t need to be playing it two days in a row because of all the other things I needed and wanted to do. Which is exactly what I’ve been telling myself for years that brought about this blog post today. So you know what. To hell with that mindset. If I have the time, and I want to play Mario Kart 64… or ANY other game for that matter. I’m just going to do it. Otherwise I end up convincing myself why I shouldn’t and end up doing something I enjoy less. I’m going to quit over thinking all this crap (see previous 1,000 words) and just have some damn fun. Time to go beat some old ghosts… in Mario Kart that is.