Gaming with Grandma: Super Mario Party

Mario Party is a unique game. I haven’t played any other game that is a combination of a board game with mini-games. There is a little bit of strategy but it’s mostly luck. Until you get to the mini-games. Then it becomes a combination of luck and skill. Using dice and any items acquired during the game, players make their way around the board collecting stars. When the last turn is over the player with the most stars wins. Of course to add some extra tension, during the awards ceremony extra stars are awarded to players for various reasons. Those extra stars can easily change who wins. Unless a player has a big enough lead in first place before the end of the final round there are no guarantees of victory for anyone. 

Mario Party can be hard to win with all the luck involved. Especially when you are playing against real people and not the AI characters. Despite that, it is easy to play. Moving around a board with dice is a very familiar game mechanic for pretty much everyone. The spaces on the board don’t have complicated rules and only a few variations. After the end of every round, there is a mini-game. Before it starts there is a practice screen that shows the rules and lets players practice the game as many times as they need before starting the mini-game for the real.  

It’s pretty easy to pick up on the rules and start playing. Which is why I thought it would be a good game to play with Grammy. I thought it would be easy for her to pick up as well. After a couple of rounds, she would be playing Mario Party as easily as I can. I was wrong. There were parts of the controls and parts of the game itself that were challenging to her. It made me look at the game in a different way and recognize my own bias. I have spent so much of my life playing video games and computer games that it’s become ingrained into my brain. It’s easy for me to pick up the mechanics of most video games. That’s not true for Grammy. Gaming isn’t something she normally does. For her, all those connections I make automatically are something she has to make an effort to do. It made me really appreciate the fact that she was willing to try out Mario Pary despite it not being her thing. 

What she seemed to struggle the most with was using the controller. Throughout most of the entire game, I would have to show her which buttons to use or how to use the Joy-Con controller. Now, whenever I see the little infographics in-game where it demonstrates how to use the Joy-Con I think it’s simple, almost too simple. Grammy isn’t familiar with video games like I am so for her it just didn’t click. For the most part, I had to continually remind her about which buttons she needed to press to select something or what buttons she would need to use during a mini-game. By the end of our game, she was catching on to Mario Party’s controls. If she plays Mario Party again I’m sure she will have an easier time with them. It was eye-opening for me to see how much difficulty there can be for people who aren’t used to how video games are played even in games that I deem easy.  

Grammy did do pretty well with the mini-games. The instructions and practice she was able to do before starting really helped her do well with those. There were multiple mini-games she won or placed second. I did help her out by further explaining the rules and showing her which buttons to use on the controller. But once she started playing the official mini-game matches she was just fine on her own. 

After our game, she told me her opinion on Super Mario Party. She had said,  “Cute. Wish I knew what I was doing. But it was cute”. Funny enough despite not feeling confident about what she was doing she won. Her reaction to winning was honestly really hilarious as well. “I don’t know what I did and somehow I ended up winning?” she was pretty surprised and what should have been a statement sounded much more like a question. Grammy honestly did well throughout the whole game. Entering the award ceremony I knew I would have to win all of the extra stars to even have a chance at winning. Second place… that competitive part of me was sad. Nothing is ever certain when playing Mario Party. I enjoyed playing with her. Introducing family and friends to things I enjoy is always a good time. 

*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to Nintendo.

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