Mario and Luigi travel in a whole different world than the one I knew on Nintendo - twenty years ago.
Back then, each person took his or her turn to conquer the level, each player moved forward independently (therein lay the competition), and I could play the game for hours on end. My mom instilled in my brother and me a love for video games, although my fondness doesn't quite compare to her passion.
But let me just say, back in the day, I could hold my own in the world of Super Mario Bros.
Here's what has changed in twenty years of gaming.
Now, all the players play at once, so the boys and I can work together. We tag team against the hammers, the turtles, the little brown guys and the man-eating plants; we work together for mushrooms, bullets, star powers, and flying dragons.
(My children are so fluent in this language. They've even figured out a way to protectively eat each other's character in moments of stressful battle, only to spit him out when it's safer terrain.)
There's a lot of shouting.
"Help me, Mommy!"
"Somebody come rescue me!"
"Mommy, don't get too far ahead! You're leaving me behind!"
"Wait for me!"
"Mommy!! Help me!"
I didn't realize - until I was in bed, shaking and battling anxiety - that my subconscious mind can't translate those words lightly. Turns out, those phrases and commands trigger something in me, something familiar and terrifying.
It doesn't help that there's a ticking clock and rushing music and sound effects and larger-than-life emergencies.
It also doesn't help that I'm the one they're counting on to 'save their lives' - even in the most virtual, figurative sense.
Forgive me and my post-traumatized mind. But this is the stuff my nightmares are made of.
Maybe later I'll join them again on the gaming screen. Maybe someday we'll all find it to be a recipe of bonding, stress release, and quality togetherness.
For now, I'm steering clear.