Lucia with her Game Boy. Photo by Alessandro Tessari

Renewed love for old games

Killing time with Mario

Lucia with her Game Boy. Photo by Alessandro Tessari
To get through the lockdown, you could take walks, do puzzles and read, but many students have also rediscovered a love for old games. ‘I still knew all the races by heart.’
30 March om 16:25 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 31 March 2021
om 11:28 uur.
March 30 at 16:25 PM.
Last modified on March 31, 2021
at 11:28 AM.

Door Thijs Fens

30 March om 16:25 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 31 March 2021
om 11:28 uur.

By Thijs Fens

March 30 at 16:25 PM.
Last modified on March 31, 2021
at 11:28 AM.

Thijs Fens

Volledig bio
Freelance journalist
Full bio

When Lucia Najjar (21) was in Lebanon last November to visit her family and was rummaging through her parents’ old stuff in the attic, she suddenly found her Game Boy Advance there.

The psychology student hadn’t seen the device for over seven years. ‘But I immediately thought: I’m taking this back to the Netherlands.’

Because of the lockdown, students can do very little at the moment. The bars are closed, they cannot go to university and they don’t see their friends as much. So those old games are a great solution to still have some fun.

Lucia’s favourite: ‘Final Fantasy, that’s a game where you have to fight monsters.’ She doesn’t play it as much these days, but at one point she would spend a few hours a day on it. Nevertheless, she wouldn’t call herself an addict. ‘It’s just a great way to pass the time. I especially play a lot before going to bed.’

Dance steps

Three months ago, 21-year old law student Merijnen Sonneveldt also decided to take the Wii that was at her parents’ house to Groningen. ‘It was just sitting there anyway, since all the children have left home’, she says. 

Before you cross the finish, you have down a bottle of beer

Her housemates are very happy she brought it along, because anyone who wants to play can use it. Just Dance is a particular favourite, especially the Michael Jackson version. ‘We dance to his music and you have to try and do the steps as well as you can. It also provides a bit of exercise, so that’s good too.’

They also play Mario Kart and the nostalgic Mario Bros. ‘It’s just fun to pass the time with. And it’s something different.’

Bavario Kart

Eline Slotegraaf (21) moved to Villa Kremlin during the first lockdown in April last year. In her new house, the Wii is on pretty much 24/7. ‘There is always someone in the living room playing.’ The only game they play is Mario Kart. Or well, Bavario Kart, the beer version. ‘They used to play that before the pandemic, but it exploded during the lockdown’, says the international relations student.

During those first months, Eline and her housemates played at least ten games a day. ‘The rule is simple: before you cross the finish, you have to have downed a bottle of beer.’ Until about half past 2 in the afternoon you can play Mario Kart in Villa Kremlin, but after that the game changes to Bavario Kart.

They even organise tournaments sometimes, says Eline. ‘Four housemates played all 32 tracks of Mario Kart for a whole day and while they were doing that they drank a crate of beer per person, so they had to divide 24 beers over 32 races. They were also dressed up as their characters.’ A referee kept track of everything.

Sticky controllers

It’s not just students who are rediscovering their old games, though. Leonie van der Land (29), who works for the examination committee of the Faculty of Arts, also dusted off her Wii during the lockdown. ‘It had five kilos of grime on it, but it still worked. I really thought it would be broken.’ 

She did have to clean the controllers thoroughly. ‘They were really sticky all over. And there was a battery in one of them I couldn’t get out. It had been there so long that it had sort of melded together with the controller.’ She decided to order a new one, because during the first lockdown she played a lot with three friends who were in her ‘bubble’. ‘Then at least we didn’t have to argue about who couldn’t join in.’ 

My hands just went on autopilot

Whenever she played Mario Kart, ‘my whole childhood came back’, she says laughing. ‘My hands just took over and everything went on autopilot. I knew all the race tracks by heart and even used the same avatar as before.’ 

Eline wasn’t allowed a Wii by her parents when she was younger, but she often played with her friends, so she too remembered the tracks. ‘Me and my housemates have finished them all thousands of times now, so it’s not as exciting anymore.’

But one of Eline’s housemates came up with a possible solution: ‘He mentioned a hack that would make 120 new tracks available, so we’re working on that now.’


Merijnen also took a trip down memory lane when she started playing her Wii again. ‘I used to do those Michael Jackson dances with my sister, so I still remembered them a bit. And I used to create my own characters for the Wii and they were still there.’

‘That nostalgia is perhaps what makes it so enjoyable’, Lucia thinks. ‘It reminds me of my carefree childhood.’ She used to play a lot of games like Garfield and Mario Kart, but she isn’t interested in those anymore. ‘I wanted something new. Hence Final Fantasy, because I think I may have been too young for that back then.’

Would Lucia have taken her Game Boy out of the attic if there had been no lockdown? ‘I don’t think so, to be honest. But maybe I’ll keep playing it when the lockdown is over. So in the end, this whole corona thing did bring me something positive.’