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Nintendo nerds battle for glory at the ‘Mariolympics’

The Brooklyn Paper
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It was in the fall last year, when Park Sloper Rob Blatt was struck by a vision of grand spectacle — a monthly tournament of borough-wide proportions, where liquor would be drunk, heckles would be yelled, and the greatest video game players from Kings County would battle for beer tickets.

He would call it — the “Mariolympics.”

“Mariolympics was mostly Rob’s idea,” said Steve Heisler, a comedian and co-host of the event, which kicks off at Union Hall on Jan. 26. “He had this grand vision of people playing video games on a giant screen, drinking beer, and yelling at each other.”

At the tournament, revelers will take their turn at vintage Mario-centric Nintendo games, competing for high scores, glory, and the greatest prize of all — free beer.

Meanwhile, Blatt, with a background in professional wrestling and an enthusiasm for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures, brings a knack for competitive-video-game commentating to bear.

“I’m a pro wrestler, so in terms of speaking quickly and freely, that helps,” explained Blatt, who also hosts the bar’s monthly “Wrestling Mania” night.

Heisler makes his living as a comedian and humor writer, complementing Blatt’s in-depth analysis with witty observations regarding the lunacy of classic video game tropes — such as inexplicably floating platforms.

“In Mario, programers spent years making weird, floaty platform things,” Heisler said. “It’s just a block! What’s the point of any of this? How could anybody find meaning in a floating block?”

All this, to the uninitiated, may sound like the makings of sophomoric diversion, comprising a lewd combination of vice and pablum — namely, beer and children’s video games — all wrapped in the moniker of a clever, sporting pun.

But the organizers said that playing amidst the racket of a cheering crowd, and seeing your high score displayed in stunning 16-bit on Union Hall’s massive projector screen, elevates the experience to something much bigger and more glorious.

“It’s different when you play at home, as opposed to at a bar,” said Blatt. “The whole goal really is that we don’t very often get to walk into somewhere and fulfill that fantasy of playing on a big screen, while two guys commentate.”

Compete for beer and glory in the “Mariolympics” at Union Hall [702 Union St. between Fifth and Sixth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 638–4400, www.unionhallny.com] Jan. 26 at 7 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.
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