Social Lubricants

Beer and video games and a time when commonality is needed.

By: Drew Millard

Filed Under: Editorial Life Reflections Social


I feel like I should start this piece out by stating that am not, never have been, and have no plans to be a member of a fraternity. I have never been hazed. I have never paid dues to a Greek organization. I have been in a frat house probably five times in my life.

I say that to say this: the first day of college is fucking tough. I remember it vividly: abject terror tends to freeze experiences in amber like that. My parents dropped me and a Uhaul full of unnecessary shit—those of you reading this who are 18 and headed to school soon, just bring a couple suitcases and a laptop, nice things are why you make friends with your suitemates and ditch them forever once you find friends you actually like.

So, we’re here. It’s my first day of college. I’m living with three friends from high school, plus two dudes who seem uninterested in socializing with us, and two dudes who act like they really want to join frats (one ended up pledging; another joined the rugby team, which is basically the same thing). My roommate’s dad bought him a case of beer as a going-away present, so we’re drinking it. The Frat Suitemates have some whiskey, so we drink that too. Everyone’s unpacking, and somebody pulls out a Nintendo 64, which at this point (fall 2007) is like a million years old. Mario Kart is invoked. Future Frat Bro, who went to an elite private school and is therefore insane, proposes that we play Kario Mart.

You probably know what Kario Mart is, or have at least had the idea to play Kario Mart before. The rules are this. You play a race of Mario Kart with an unopened can of beer next to you. You have to finish your beer by the end of the race, or else the floor turns to lava and everyone dies (or something). The trick is you can’t drink while your kart is in motion, or else that’s drinking and driving and everyone knows that’s illegal.

Now, there are a few effective strategies to down your beer within the time limit. First, you can do the boost thingy at the beginning, let your kart slow down and then chug like hell. This works great if you are already good at chugging beer, but that’s one of those skills not readily available to lots of college freshmen, because lots of them (including me) didn’t drink a bunch in high school. If you do this and are good at Mario Kart, you will probably just straight-up win. If you kind of suck at Mario Kart, it’s pretty easy to just wait to bite it, and then drink your beer as quickly as possible while the little cloud bubble thingy to pick you up from whatever ravine/ocean/abyss/fire you have found yourself in. The third method to winning at Kario Mart is just to stop your kart from time to time and drink, which seems stupid. What I always found worked for me was a combination of methods One and Two, because I have always been terrible at chugging things that are not water or being forced down my throat by pressure/gravity/some unknown assailant who is attacking me with things to force down my throat.

The point of Kario Mart, quite obviously, is to get drunk. The night I played it with my suitemates, that is what we did. The interesting thing about the game, however, is that it combines two of latter-day youth culture’s greatest unifiers—drinking and video games—into one. If you have nothing to talk about with people you just met, you might as well do something with them and talk about the thing you’re doing. Having mediators like this in our relationships is how we end up getting along with our awful co-workers who we would have never been friends with IRL, and how people in movies about high school football decide that they’re brothers forever. This is also why two people who have never met and will probably never meet can talk to each other over World of Warcraft. Technology has brought us many things, and therefore many opportunities to talk about these things. Alcohol, obviously, makes us more talkative, and thus more likely to talk about the stuff we’re messing with, which will therefore lead to spin-off conversations.

I realize what I am writing about—essentially, that some people have nothing to talk about unless prodded by outside forces—can be read as depressing. And on some level, it is. Technology has ruined human communication on many levels; it’s hard to imagine knights or monks checking Twitter on their iPhones. Certainly, we don’t need any sort of mediation to get along with the people we actually jibe with, and being able to just get along with someone for the sake of their company is probably a good metric of whether you should be friends with them or not. Sadly, I am not the type of person who gets along with everyone automatically. (As a journalist, this is a terrible quality to have, but that is neither here nor there). So for the terrified eighteen year-old, legitimately drunk off four beers and careening Yoshi into a Cheep-Cheep for the fifth time, knowing in the back of my head I would be forced to get along with these people, for two semesters, Kario Mart was a godsend. So, there’s that.

This has been a post sponsored by Nintendo and the Anheuser-Busch Company.

[art credit]

Filed Under: Editorial Life Reflections Social

About the Author:
Drew Millard is a 23 year-old writer living in New York. He's enjoys horses, unnecessary usage of the word "artisanal," and has met 50 Cent twice.

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