Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Universal Language of Nintendo

I was having dinner at a friend’s house a couple nights ago, and of course, I tried to bring up the topic of video games. This was a little difficult, however, for two reasons. The first reason was due to the Taiwanese sense of gamer shame that I have blogged about here before. The second problem was communication.

My Chinese is not yet fluent and neither is my friend’s English. To make things more complicated, game titles (and movie titles and other pop culture references for that matter) are often not directly translated. So even if I knew the words, for example, "world," "of," and "warcraft," saying them in Chinese doesn’t make any sense to the person I am talking to.

My friend, like most Taiwanese I have spoken with, told me that he doesn’t play games now, but that he used to. He tried to tell me about a console he had as a child, but wasn’t sure what the English name for it was, so he tried to describe it using hand gestures.

He held his hands out to show me the approximate size of the machine, which of course isn’t much help since most consoles are roughly of similar size. He then says, "You know when you play you have to..." and then he pantomimes taking a cartridge out of the system, blowing on it, and then putting it back in.

"Nintendo! Of course!" I exclaim while loling, "Everyone knows the original Nintendo."

With this one simple gesture, the two of us found a common history from which to relate to each other. Our conversation had been a little strained before this moment, but the next couple hours were filled with effortlessly reminiscing about the good old days when we didn’t have to work and when saving the princess was the hardest thing in the world.

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