March 13, 2020 | Narrative
i bought a used nintendo dsi
an impulse purchase of joy
I’m not usually the most impulsive person, but, a couple weeks ago, I bought a used Nintendo DSi: a cute, sky-blue handheld system, with a miniature backpack for a case. The system came prepackaged with three used games: Big Brain Academy, New Super Mario Bros., and, my personal favorite, Mario Kart DS. Looking back, the decision seemed to come at the height of a personal crisis. A part of me just wanted to feel a glimmer of the instant gratification I had felt back in elementary school—the lightning flash of emotions targeted toward the section of the brain that detects and distributes mental “rewards.” Now, all of this sounds a little clinical. A strangely calculated math equation, intent on delivering as much “happiness” as possible: Nintendo DSi + Mario Kart DS + struggling college student = a direct path to instant paradise. But, of course, it’s not that simple.
I struggled with the idea of the purchase for a few days prior to completing it. I questioned the quality, the timeliness, and, ultimately, the cost. Adding fuel to the fire, Facebook, knowing my increasingly crumbling will, kept providing strangely specific ads: “Student discounts for Nintendo Products,” “Free shipping through Amazon,” “Game Bundles Available,” spend your money on us, dammit! And, I’ll admit, I did spend a couple hours scrolling through various sites. Rather than tackling school work or addressing my growing list of responsibilities, the Nintendo DSi was all my head seemed interested in. For a while, I obsessed over the pink XL version. It was bold, a little quirky, and eye-catching. The pink DSi XL was definitely a “Clyde.” You see, I do this thing—I name all of my electronics. They all carry personalities, and that’s a fact. My laptop is Marrrk (with three r’s), my phone is Rooonald (with three o’s), and my old DS lite from sixth grade was Matty. But damn, were pink DSi XL’s expensive. The cost seemed to be my only barrier. So, for a short while, I gave up, reluctantly exiting the bright Facebook ads just begging to be clicked on by my cursor.
Memories of my red DS from middle school lingered. One Christmas, my nalí (paternal grandfather) gave me a black plastic lunchbox to use as a case. Over time, the edges frayed and became worn, tearing a bit near the handle. I carried that lunchbox everywhere. The pockets kept my growing collection of DS games organized and safe, the soft interior kept my rolled up charger from garnering dents and stains, and the small compact size fit perfectly into the front pocket of my backpack. Eventually, my younger brother also got a DS lite—a glossy black system with a gray Mario case. We dueled like crazy. Multiplayer on Mario Kart became our way of settling arguments, and long car rides were filled with Mario Bros. battles. He was always Luigi. I was always Mario. We declared wars on Plants vs. Zombies. I, the regal and humble Plants. He, the chaotic and hungry Zombies. My brother and I weren’t the closest pair as children. But these games brought us together in a way that didn’t really require the pressure of speaking or filling uncomfortable silences. I know many people would argue these games distanced our relationship, but our compatible systems only seemed to strengthen it, if only for a few hours at a time. Browsing online at the DSi years later, I wanted those feelings back. Or, at least, something similar to those feelings.
I dawdled a bit in my disappointment; the lack of reasonably priced DSi was a weight in my stomach, an unreasonable sense of loss. But, around this time, a close friend of mine was also searching for a new laptop. Noticing my personal plight, she introduced me to a new site.
Before this, I’d never heard of Mercari. My knowledge around used item selling sites was limited to eBay, Letgo, and Facebook Marketplace. Back home, nobody really sold things online. We just walked down to the local flea market or drove around ’til we found a couple of yard sales. You sort of just…crossed your fingers and hoped to find what you were looking for. But Mercari was different. There were dozens of options showcasing exactly what you were looking for—with varying prices, or course. I let myself get excited again. And though I couldn’t find a pink DSi XL, I came across a $40 DSi system and game bundle. So, for once in my life, without thinking twice, I placed it in my cart and bought it. It came in the mail half a week later. I felt that old rush of childhood excitement as I tore open the package. It fit comfortably in my hands, the buttons crisp and both screens unblemished. I was met instantly with the old zing after switching it on, followed by the soft hums of the DSi home screen.
The moment I saw it come to life, I realized something. It didn’t matter whether the old emotions of the DSi experience came back. It didn’t matter if I never felt that old rush of instant childhood gratification. Because emotions aren’t that simple—Nintendo DSi + struggling college student doesn’t equal being happy. But memories (whether they’re childhood DSi-related or not) + struggling college student does equal something closer to being content.
It’s been about two weeks since, and there’s one thing I can say with absolute certainty—I still crush it at Mario Kart.