DISCLAIMER: This one is going to be kind of rough. It's all written in the moment, so bear with me. I just wanted to get this all out now, so here it is. Hopefully it's not too horrid in its current state.
My cousin David had cancer. He wasn't technically my cousin, but he dated my actual cousin for over a decade. He'd been to more family events than actual relations of mine, so I considered him family. He had cancer. It started as pancreatic cancer and spread to basically his entire body. He outlived his initial diagnosis by a huge amount, but it finally caught up with him. Some of you may have known of him, he did League of Legends commentary under the name SystemShark. But this isn't just a eulogy; this is about how games bring people together. Specifically for this, how Nintendo helped an outsider bond with people he had never met.
It was either 1999 or 2000 when David first came to visit. My cousin first met him in high school while her father was in Florida, and this was his first time coming to visit the family. Needless to say he was nervous, but luckily we all had video games to fall onto as a topic of discussion. David had moved more into the realm of PC gaming at this point, but he still had a love for Nintendo that wouldn't go away. Whenever we got tired of our outdoor activities, we would go inside and play video games. At the time we were all about the Nintendo 64, specifically Mario Kart, Mario Party and Perfect Dark. We spent more time than I care to admit to playing through Mario Party, but David was always the odd man out. The four cousins would monopolize the controllers and he was relegated to watch. We used to joke that he could play when the new console came out, as they'd surely add more players to the next Nintendo console like they had after the Super Nintendo. They obviously didn't, and David continued to be the one who cycled in when someone else got sick of playing.
Cut to years later, and there still wasn't more than four players allowed on Nintendo consoles. The joke continued through these years, and we all basically gave up on all five of us ever being able to play a Nintendo game at the same time. Wii Sports technically allowed it, but it just wasn't the same. The fun of the entire group of us playing a round Mario Party at the same time was never going to be realized it seemed. Until the Wii U was announced.
It was finally here. Five players simultaneously on a Nintendo console. The idea of asymmetric gameplay and whatever buzz words that Nintendo threw out didn't matter. We could all finally play at the same time on the same console. Visions of a new Mario Party began forming in my mind, and I couldn't wait to play it. It didn't matter how much it cost or what games came out with it, I needed to get this console and I needed it as soon as possible.
Then the unimaginable happened. David went to the hospital to get some nasty headaches checked out. One day before Christmas he got the diagnosis, a double whammy of brain and pancreatic cancer. He was told that he wouldn't live to see his next birthday in July. I knew then that I needed to get that Wii U even sooner than I had ever imagined. I used money that I got that Christmas, plus a little bit that I had saved up for emergency situations, to go and pick up the Wii U. I didn't get any games for it other than Nintendo Land, but that didn't really matter to me. Most of our enjoyment as kids had come from party games, and I didn't see how this would be any different.
We only got to play together one time, but it was literally the most fun I've ever had playing a video game. A lot of people can argue that the Wii U doesn't have a "proof of concept" yet, but there's nothing more that I needed than the ability to get five people on the console at once. Luigi's Ghost Mansion did more to prove to me how the second dedicated screen can enhance the fun of a game than any hardcore title ever will. There hasn't been another game since that has had a more fun use of the Game Pad, I'm hoping that Mario Party 10 will change that, but it doesn't really matter anymore.
David passed away just after midnight today (June 24th). We'll never get to play that five player Mario Party that we always wanted to. Hell, Nintendo didn't even give us the option to play Mario Kart as a five player game. Even though we never got to experience the specific games we wanted to the way we wanted to, we still got the experience we wanted. It was a fleeting experience, but the fact that it happened made it all the better.
Sure we could have all played Mario Kart Wii together online, but that was never what we wanted. The fun of playing games with our little group was because we were all there, crammed in a room staring at a 19" TV divided up until you could barely see anything. This is why the Wii U, and Nintendo as a whole, will always matter to me. Online gaming is great, I play Mario Kart 8 online all the time, but it will never replace the feeling you get of playing with your friends and family in the same room. This is why the Wii U will likely be my favorite Nintendo console from now on. I doubt I'll get as many great games for it as I did for my Wii, and it'll never have the number of memories attached to it that my N64 or GameCube do, but that one evening of play is enough to make it sit at the top of my list.
So here's to David. I'm furious that you won't be here when Mario Party 10 finally arrives, and I'm not sure if we'll be able to play it without you. Not any time soon anyways. We finally got that fifth controller, but we lost our fifth player.