Middle school was a drag for most of my pre-teen classmates—unless it was computer class. Computer class felt less like the boring, uninspired rote that the rest of our education was and more like a gateway to a technological wonderland. Most of us couldn't even afford computers, so that was our one chance to mess around with something that seemed like it wasn't meant for us poor kids.
Three games reigned supreme: Snood, SimCity 2000 and Mario Teaches Typing. Mario has sold millions, can fly, can turn anything into gold, but to me his most impressive feat is that he managed to make learning fun.
Mario Teaches Typing was released in 1995 (for the Mac, anyway). That was a while ago. Typing is still a useful, necessary skill, but it's far from the only one we need. So I was thinking: what if Mario could teach us some other skills? Here's four things I think Mario should teach us.
I only recently got one of these newfangled smartphones (seriously!) and the thing that's given me the most headaches has to be texting. How you people text all the time, I'll never know.
A Mario Teaches Texting game could teach the technical aspects of texting, sure—proper form for fast output, best methods to text while walking/eating/driving/showering.
But there's etiquette to be taught, too. When is it appropriate to text? If I'm on a date? In the middle of dinner? With my friends? How should I respond to people? Are shortenings of words ("BRT" for instance) more acceptable than on the web?
All of this can be addressed with scenarios - quick! Text someone a sext in the middle of dinner without anyone catching you, and use the lessons we taught you about proper sexting! Bonus points if you can do it without looking down at your phone and if manage to keep a poker face.
Personally, my biggest trouble is that all these stupid keys on the smartphones are too tiny for my giant fingers. Help, Mario!
140 characters is all you have to communicate complex ideas, and learning how to do it well so is a skill. Good practices for condensing thoughts to fit into tweets could be taught.
Etiquette wise, how many tweets is too many tweets; at what point are you flooding someone's timeline? Can I tweet about my sandwich today? What about this rash on my arm? What about this random errant thought that nobody else will understand? How many people is too many people on a tweet? And what should I do when I feel like I'm connecting more with these ebook bots than I am actual people?
A Mario Teaches Tweeting game could pose challenges like "explain string theory in 140 characters" or "compose tweet that is retweeted or faved x many times" if not "get famous person to respond back to you."
There's an art to proper Facebooking, but I don't think most people know it. So, we need a Mario Teaches Facebook. This way we can learn the secrets to a proper status update, rules around tagging people in posts or pictures, promoting own work without being obnoxious, and the nightmare that is choosing who to friend (and how to unfriend!). Hell, "managing Facebook's privacy options" could be a Mario Teaches game onto itself, and a much-needed one at that!
The game would have you create a fake profile and then you'd interact with a number of stock characters. I can imagine scenarios like "deal with friend who just had a baby and won't stop posting pictures" or "how to interact with acquaintance that has incendiary political opinions but you can't unfriend or avoid without burning bridges."
Status update challenges could detract points for posting song lyrics, friending people you don't know, or spamming your friends with social game requests.
Look. We all do it. Really, it's okay. Sometimes you meet someone and just feel this urge to look up their entire digital history, from that Myspace page they forgot to delete, to endless Facebook pictures, to that fanfic they wrote when they were 14.
Sometimes it's compulsion—having the ability to Google someone is hard to resist. And sometimes you just need to know that that person you want to friend or bed isn't a crazy serial killer who posts on MRA forums and likes to wear a fedora. These things are important to know, and Mario can teach us how to properly Internet stalk without crossing lines, or letting people on to what it is we're doing on that Wednesday night at 3am.
And the tricks we learn here have wider use, too. Basically we'd be learning how to best Google things without leaving a trace, and how to soak up vast amounts of information on a person for usage in Actual Real World Setting. You can't just go up to someone and be all like "hey I read every single thing you posted on your daily updated blog." You gotta have tact about how much you reveal about what you actually know about a person. And I think Mario could teach you how do to all that.
I for one think the world is ready for a modern Mario Teaches series. Make it happen, Nintendo.