Blockbuster Nostalgia

With the year 2020 being what it is — and we don’t need to belabor the point, do we? — can we expect to see an increase in nostalgia for years and things gone by?  Even things that, at the time, seemed like unexceptionable, even annoying, elements of our daily lives and routines, like, say . . . Blockbuster video stores?

exterior-hero-newsroomfeaturedThere is reportedly one — one! — remaining Blockbuster store in the United States.  Once a standard tenant in virtually every strip mall in every town in America, as overwhelming in sheer number as the immense clouds of passenger pigeons that formerly filled the skies of the Midwest as they flew by, Blockbuster video stores have followed the passenger pigeon into extinction.  The last of its kind is located in Bend, Oregon, where the local residents have apparently made a conscious effort to keep the store afloat.  I suppose there is a certain point of civic pride in having the last Blockbuster in your town.

And now the proprietor of the last Blockbuster wants to thank its supporters and give those who are interested a little up-close-and-personal taste of the ’90s video rental experience.  For a measly $4.00 — one penny more than a movie rental — you can rent the store and spend the night taking in every kitschy detail of the Blockbuster experience, from the familiar blue and gold ticket stub shaped sign on the wall, to the racks of movies and “new releases” in their sturdy plastic boxes, to the impulse purchase shelves groaning with supplies of candy, chips, and soda.

I guess I can understand the urge to immerse yourself in an earlier, pre-coronavirus experience, when no one wore masks and everyone handled the same plastic video containers without giving it a second thought, but spending the night in a Blockbuster store gorging on junk food, guzzling Mountain Dew, and watching Independence Day wouldn’t be my choice.  For too many years, my overwhelming emotion in walking into a Blockbuster was a brimming rage at having to pay late fees for some crappy Hollywood product — late fees that were totally avoidable if the person who rented the movie had just watched it and returned it promptly.  Even thinking about it now, years later, I feel a sour taste of that unique combination of anger, disgust, and embarrassment.

I guess I don’t need to spend the night in a Blockbuster to relive that sensation.  The scarring late fee experience will be with me, always.

The Return Of Super Mario And Donkey Kong

Nintendo has announced that Super Mario and Donkey Kong will return to the new gaming world.  Super Mario will be featured on Wii U in Mario Kart 8, and Donkey Kong will be available on Wii U in Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze.

Interesting, isn’t it?  Nintendo decides to bring back some old characters . . . and by gaming standards, Donkey Kong and Mario are truly ancient.  Both were first featured in the Donkey Kong game that was released in the early ’80s.  Most gamers weren’t even born when Donkey Kong hurled his first barrel.

So why bring them back?  Because Donkey Kong and Mario are established characters who have fans.  You don’t need to invent a back story for them.  I remember Richard and Russell playing Mario Kart and Super Mario Three and God knows what else in the ’90s.  I remember sitting with the kids and watching, vacant-eyed, as Mario raced a princess and somebody with a mushroom head and Donkey Kong and a turtle.  Gah!  The things parents will endure to spend some time with their kids!

Many of those early ’90s are still interested in gaming.  So why not bring back characters they know, and allow them to experience a bit of the nostalgia that grips every generation of Americans at some point or another?  Who knows?  They might ask Mom and Dad to sit and watch them as a 3D Mario races upside down and tries to beat Donkey Kong to the finish line.