Introduced to most of us thanks to it being the game that came packaged with the Gameboy in 1989, the Russian-invented Tetris was the Angry Birds of my childhood.
I never owned a Gameboy, but by 1991, all my friends did. Because of enough spend-the-night’s at my friends’ houses in the midst of watching the Ninja Turtles movie for the 27th time on VHS and drinking Sharkleberry Fin Kool-Aid, I was able to be just as good at playing it as the next kid wearing a neon green slap bracelet over-using the phrase “Cowabunga, dudes!”
Over two decades later, as a 30 year-old dad, I realize that this seemingly-non-fun yet highly addictive game symbolizes my life as father in five particular ways:
1. There is always one more logistical problem to solve. Just like the need to manage and maneuver the constantly dropping blocks on Tetris, so it is in the life of a dad. Driving somewhere today with your kid today? Better hope you packed everything, including a camera to take pictures to share on Facebook. Fingers crossed that your child will actually fall asleep on the car ride there.
2. You must maintain solid ground by eliminating inconsistencies. In Tetris, the more gaps left in each row, the harder it becomes to pass the level. Obviously, we as dads have to be clear on the boundaries we set for our children and consistent on following through with discipline. Otherwise, the whole thing sort of becomes a frustrating mess.
3. Being passive doesn’t really work. Just like in the game, the sky is always falling so there’s no time to just sit back and watch things work themselves out on their own. As I’ve published more Dadvice articles, a common theme I’m seeing is the importance of the dad being proactive.
4. It takes looking at each challenge from several perspectives. You can turn each block around from each angle to see which will be the best fit before it hits the ground. Similarly, if you’re trying to figure out whether or not you should let your baby “cry it out” to learn to sleep through the night, you have to consider it from several perspectives: yours, your wife’s, your child’s, and common sense.
5. The experience is nearly universally known. While many versions of Tetris have been released over the years, the one on Gameboy is the Tetris most of us remember. Not every man has ever played Tetris at some point in his life nor does every man eventually become a dad. But as for the rest of us, we share the same frustrations and joys by default.
Tetris and fatherhood are important rites of passage for a man. At least for those of us who were still kids when The Simpsons was a just brand-new show which our parents were reluctant to let us watch and Jaleel White was on TV because he was playing Steve Urkel, as opposed to being a dancing game show contestant.
Do the Urkel. Or the Bartman.
Interesting trivia: “Do The Bartman” was written by Michael Jackson; though he was never credited for it because of contract obligations with another record label.
It’s funny how a quirky Japanese video game about an Italian plumber who busts bricks by jumping up and hitting them with his fist ever became a phenomenal hit in American culture.
Yet, I don’t know any dad around my age who wasn’t greatly psychologically affected by this unquestionably weird game known as Super Mario Bros. for “regular” Nintendo.
In fact, I have good reason to believe that modern day fatherhood can be easily represented through this nostalgic part of our childhood; which in essence, has become part of our manhood as well.
1. We are constantly working hard to earn money. Sure, it’s more convenient when you have the ability to jump 6 stories high to collect gold coins which are magically floating in the air, but just the same: We as dads are constantly reminded about the need to provide for our family.
2. We have to be strong and not let it show to the world when we are in pain. Mario was able to smash bricks with his fist (and his head?) yet he never bled nor showed any sign of injury. Sure, it’s important we share with our wives what’s really going on inside. But for everyone else, it’s culturally important for us to not go around expressing our concerns about financially providing for our families.
3. We must commit to our decisions and responsibilities. The first Super Mario Bros. was the only one where you couldn’t move back to the previous screen; only forward. Similarly, we as men and dads are dedicated to our families; not looking back to easier days, but instead to the challenges ahead.
4. We continue learning new lessons in fatherhood, therefore passing to the next level. In the way that Mario had to jump as high as he could on the flagpole to complete the level, sometimes we gracefully pass (jumping to the top of the pole) while often we barely get by (landing at the very bottom of the pole).
5. We become accustomed to disappointments, but continue our mission. Fatherhood is full of those “Thank you Mario but our princess is in another castle!” moments. I often feel that the times I figure out how to solve the current puzzle regarding how to get my son to go to sleep or convince him to eat a certain food or something like that, he figures out that I figured him out. Then he finds a new way to challenge me.
I could really go for one of those mushrooms right now. It’s be pretty cool to truly become “Super Dad” where I actually knew what I was doing.
If nothing else, I’d love to be able to change the burned out headlight on my 2004 Honda Element without ruining the bulb. Who knew that the natural oils from your fingers can actually ruin those stupid things? I think the last time I changed a headlight was on a 1988 Ford Bronco II.