All switched up: Mario Kart Club zooms into room 215

Graphic by Pia Doran

Maya Bravo and Oliver VanArsdale

Traveling down Rainbow Road, skidding around red shells and green shells, and powering up: This is Mario Kart Club. The lunchtime group led by sophomore Walker Price is rather obscure—he describes it as a sort of “underground club.”

“It’s not officially a club, and we don’t meet every week,” he said. “It’s very touch-and-go sometimes.” Mario Kart Club meets most Wednesdays at STEP in social studies teacher David Heckler’s room, 215.

Entering the room, you find yourself in darkness, the only light source being Heckler’s smartboard screen. Price’s Nintendo Switch is plugged into the projector, displaying an intense Super Smash Bros. battle between two opponents. Looking around, you see members gathered around the smartboard, goading the contenders on.

“We do either Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros., depending on popular opinion—we vote in the GroupMe the day or so before. We’ve been doing Smash a lot more lately,” Price said.

“I’d say the atmosphere is somewhere in the middle of competitive and friendly,” said sophomore Grant Allvin, a regular attendee and winner of the most recent tournament. “You don’t have to be a good player to come and have fun.” That said, members would not be opposed to the idea of becoming a more serious group—Price has been thinking of turning the meetings into something more official. “Mr. Heckler knows someone at another school who runs a similar club, and we were thinking of having a tournament between our two groups. Maybe we could develop into something like a team, per se,” Price said.

Heckler has a background in Nintendo gaming. When he caught Price using his Switch in class one day, he challenged him to a match during STEP. “I don’t think [Price] knew that I had been a college student once upon a time and played a lot of Mario Kart, so I mopped the floor with him,” Heckler said.

“He sauced me,” Price said of the match. “He totally beat me.” After their head-to-head, Heckler agreed to sponsor Price’s new Mario Kart Club in his room. “They don’t know yet that I’m actually pretty good at Smash Bros. too,” Heckler said. “I haven’t had time yet to demonstrate that ability, but I still have some tricks up my sleeve.”

As STEP comes to a close and the competitors file out, they continue to laugh about the day’s tournament, already discussing plans for next week.