Daddy-daughter Wii showdown, Week 2: This racing ain’t like real life

500x_mario_nascarSometimes, being a parent actually has a few benefits. My pal Don Povia over at 30 Nothings hooked me up with a Wii system and some games as part of an ongoing semi-scientific study about the benefits of dads and daughters playing video games together. My daughter was extremely excited by the prospect, though her excitement dimmed a touch when she realized she’d have to be playing with me and not just her friends. Anyway, this is the first installment of several in our little Wii odyssey. Today: burning virtual rubber with Mario Kart!

I’m allegedly something of a racing expert, since I write on the subject for Yahoo! Sports and all. And even though writing about something and doing it are two very different things, I theoretically have absorbed enough strategy just by osmosis that I ought to be able to stay competitive with a friggin’ 11-year-old kid on a racing videogame.

You’d think. Problem is, Mario Kart doesn’t have a whole lot of connection to NASCAR. Well, that’s not entirely true; Mario Kart and NASCAR are extremely similar, except that in NASCAR you can get busted for using the equivalent of cheat codes and shortcuts, whereas in Mario Kart you can cold-bloodedly dominate your opponent with an array of attacks, dodges, feints and fakeouts.

Mario Kart for the Wii features tracks that run you through routine settings like towns and shopping malls and insane locales like volcanoes and outer space. Of note to dads with younger kids: plenty of the lower-level tracks keep your car on the track like bumpers in bowling lanes, always nudging you toward the finish. It’s not until later that you can plunge off the track into a canyon or the depths of outer space, and by then, your little driver should be talented enough to stay on the track.

The goal of the game is something even the youngest gamers can understand: get to the finish line first. Of course, it’s not just a matter of who’s the fastest; you get the chance for power-ups and shortcuts that can carve through your opponents like you were Dale Earnhardt Jr. running illegally souped-up rides. (Allegedly.)

Familiarity with the courses is a must, and this is where my daughter absolutely shines. She can’t always remember to get her math homework done before 9 p.m., but she can remember every hairpin turn and the location of every bullet-speed power-up in every one of what seems like three dozen tracks. It’s impressive to watch, even if I’m usually about half a lap behind.

There’s an old saying that age and treachery will always beat youth and skill. Whoever said that didn’t know that youth can figure out how to use power-ups faster than age. Learn those tricks early, fellow dads; it’s the only chance we’ve got.


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