Chapter 2: Literacies at work, for fun, and at school

2.11 Mario Kart: Just a game or a way of life? (argument from experience)

Sarah Ciha

English 102, February 2020

Mario and Luigi have had a presence in my life since 2009 when Super Mario Bros was released on the Nintendo Wii. At the time I was 8, and I had no idea how much I would fall in love with the game and characters. Growing up with the basic Nintendo Wii, games that involved Mario and the “gang” were always the most fun. My parents would all play with us and it was a great bonding experience for my family.  Mario Kart 8 has influenced my life since the start of my freshmen year in college. My roommates and I bonded over Mario Kart. Our evenings always involve a round of Grand Prix and can always continue for hours. Mario Kart has continuously brought us joy and the sounds the characters make allow us to get so wrapped up into the game it has almost become an escape from the real world and all the stressors we encounter. My roommates and I tend to be blasting music and just focus on winning. While I was thinking about some of the discourses I’m involved in, I realized some people have never had the privilege to play Mario Kart 8.  

A discourse is how a group of people speak and or act in a certain situation. The discourse in the Nintendo realm is understood by anyone who’s played any game by Nintendo. Nintendo games are viewed as a stress reliever by most fans. Players play to have fun. Nintendo has its own discourse; however, Mario Kart 8 has its own discourse as well. Mario Kart has been a part of the Nintendo discourse since 1992 when it was first released. When Mario Kart was introduced into the Nintendo realm, most of the discourse was the same from previous Nintendo games. As the years pass and the more Mario Kart games get released, the larger the community gets. While the Mario Kart discourse grew, the Nintendo discourse would grow with it. People who only play Mario Kart tend to investigate other games made by Nintendo after playing. Which, in turn, enables the Nintendo community to increase in size. Lifelong Nintendo fans also follow any new game which is being released so both discourses work hand in hand.  

For someone who has never played a video game, the language and discourse present throughout the game can easily confuse them. Right off the bat, the menu for Mario Kart is simple. It first asks how many players there are, if you want to play online, or play wirelessly.  After you select what you want, it then shows the three to four types of “games” you can play. If someone decides they want to play with just one player, they will be provided with four options to choose from. The choices are Grand Prix, Time Trails, VS Race, and Battle. This is where it gets a little tricky with the language. All the words they use make sense and are straightforward; however, without knowing the rules or the context of how Mario Kart uses the words could be confusing. The textbook definition of Grand Prix is “any of a series of auto-racing or motorcycling contests forming part of a world championship series,” and while this can be applied to the Mario Kart universe, there is a slight difference. Grand Prix in the Mario Kart and Nintendo world means four races. There isn’t a championship game at the end like the definition implies. Time Trials is just what it sounds like, competing in a timed race. You tend to compete against yourself or against a computer. VS Race can be used with multiplayer or can be played by one person with other computers playing as well. Finally, Battle is one of my favorites. Battle is not a typical race like Grand Prix. During Battle, you have five modes: Balloon Battle, Bomb-omb Blast, Renegade Roundup, Shine Thief, and Coin Runners. All the modes are different but have the same core idea, to win.  

All the characters on Mario Kart 8 are characters from previous Nintendo games on all their platforms. They all have a storyline, but they aren’t referenced in Mario Kart 8. Not knowing every character’s story line is not a crucial part to the game. Newer players to the Nintendo realm might not know all the characters and that’s okay but the storylines for the characters aren’t important for Mario Kart. Most of the characters within the Nintendo world have their own game which explains their story or the purpose of the game. For someone who’s interested in learning the storyline for a specific character, they should look into playing one of the games that’s based around that character. For example, in Super Mario Bros the purpose of the game is to free Princess Peach from the “enemy” Bowser. Once you complete the game, Mario saves Princess Peach and Bowser leaves.  

Every character has unique characteristics to them. For instance, Princess Peach only wears pink clothes and many of her things in Mario Kart 8 are pink. Another example is Shy Guy. Shy Guy, also known as ShyGuys, is a common enemy for Mario and Luigi. They are found wearing masks, ultimately because they’re shy. Shy Guy has multiple versions due to being in so many Nintendo games. Each variation of Shy Guy has different tricks and different colors. The original Shy Guy is red and has the basic tricks but going other colors have more “advanced” skills. Each character also has their own discourse. Shy Guy makes very random noises throughout the game and his tone changes based off the situation he’s in. Since Shy Guy wasn’t introduced into Mario games until Super Mario Bros. 2 came out in 1988, many have followed him since the first time he appeared in another game. Players have favorite characters based off of previous games or even rounds. My roommates and I all like different characters for different reasons. For instance, I love Tanooki Mario, while one of my roommates loves Blue Shy Guy. Our favorites are based on previous games played, although we mainly play Mario Kart 8, not storylines.  

To further explain my appreciation for Mario Kart 8, my roommates and I made a podcast. The podcast is linked here: During the podcast, we discussed how we play, our preferences on characters, and the discourse we use throughout the game. The podcast helped organize my paper and help me get my argument across. Presenting my multimodal helped me gauge how everyone in the class felt about my topic. I was able to ask the class some questions which helped me add to my argument.  

To conclude, Mario Kart 8 and Nintendo has had a tremendous impact on my life. I have never had to sit down and read the instructions on how to play any Nintendo game. Every Nintendo game has a tutorial of how to play when you first start playing. For example, in Super Mario Party there is a tutorial on how to play the minigame before it officially begins. Another example is in the beginning of any Super Mario game, it shows you the storyline, the objectives and how to play. The discourse in Nintendo games vary in every game. For instance, the discourse in Animal Crossing is different than in Luigi’s Mansion. The “slang” is completely different and they both occur in opposite settings. Nintendo games are played across the world and the literacies that happen during different games can be used anywhere. While recording my podcast, I did ask my roommates if they tend to look into other games made by Nintendo. They both said they investigate other Nintendo games that have the similar gameplay. While all Nintendo games aren’t the same, they all have the same goal, for their players to have fun.   

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