When I lived in London I got really good at Mario Kart.
I took a year off from uni when I was 20 to travel. I did the typical Northern European backpacking circuit and moved to London when my money ran out.
When I got to London I moved into a share-house in Stratford, which is in grimy East London. My good pal Zander had moved into the place a couple months before me and let me know there was a spare room going. It was cheap and I’d get to live with my only friend in London so I snapped it up straight away.
I got a job at a non-profit in West London. I’d get up early, catch the Tube across the city and work ’til five. Unless I was boozing with work pals I’d get home at around six.
After dinner me and Zander would often stay up real late playing Mario Kart 64 in his bedroom. We had other games but we only ever played Mario Kart.
Kart was a huge thing for us back in Perth. We’d play while pre-drinking with friends. It’s a four-player game so it works perfectly if you’ve got a big group of people.
In London it was different. It was just me and Zander.
Mario Kart 64 is a fascinating game. It’s the gaming equivalent of Sgt Peppers. You’ve played it a thousand times but on the 1001st game you’ll see something you never noticed before.
Me and Zander are pretty competitive cats. Best of all, we were evenly matched in terms of skill level. Kart is no fun if one player is far superior, particularly in two-player mode.
Fueled by Kronenbourg and skunk we would race until the wee hours of the morning. Our skill level became off-the-chart good. We knew every part of every course intimately.
In the interest of full disclosure, we did use YouTube sparingly to learn about racing techniques that would optimize our performance. However it was mainly the sheer amount of hours we spent on the track that helped us get so good.
Occasionally another housemate would challenge us to a race. This would inevitably result in a bloodbath. I remember several serious conversations where we considered going pro.
When I think of my time in London I immediately think of Kart. Perhaps it was a slightly stupid way to spend so much time, especially during a temporary sojourn in a foreign land, but it’s all a matter of perspective.
I never became a pro Mario Kart racer. But I did experience the exhilarating feeling of expertly avoiding banana bombs on the ramp to make it inside the cave shortcut on Koopa Beach, I did aggressively boss my way around the world of shit that is Moo Moo Farm, I did make several competitors slam against the train through skillful handling within the dusty landscape of Kalimari Desert. And I have the wonderful city of London and my good pal Zander to thank for that.