Nick Davis with permission for Varsity

To those unfortunate souls who do not go to Homerton, some background is needed. The jewel in the crown of the Homerton college buttery is a battered 2005 edition of a Nintendo Wii. The stress of an all nighter at the library or the allure of a Sunday Lola’s evaporates in the face of a head-to-head Grand Prix. Mario Kart is the premier public service of Homerton; open to all, free at the point of use, with relatively short waiting times.

Mario Kart may have started off as the idyllic stress reliever; the ultimate antidote to all those core readings about 4th century Greek philosophy my degree foists on me. But instead, it has slowly become the bane of my existence. It’s robbed me of my money, deprived me of my dignity, and almost wrecked my marriage. The person responsible for this — my college wife, Sophia Liversidge. My greatest Mario Karting rival, and this is the story of woe that follows from it.

I was a smug and precocious prick of a kid

We need to go back to the late noughties. I was always very good at Mario Kart. My dad and sister faltered as I weaved my way across Wario’s Gold Mine, thundered through Mushroom Gorge, and hammered down Rainbow Road, that most iconic and lofty of Mario Kart courses to win. I was a smug and precocious prick of a kid — and I prided myself on unrelenting victory on those tracks. I thought that part of me had gone; my Wii collected dust for many years at home and Mario Kart remained untouched. But the Homerton Mario Kart rekindled that part of me, a part which was only dormant. I’d established myself as a fairly dominant player in the college Mario Karting scene, chasing the sweet rush of seeing my character (Luigi), adorn the 1st place spot.

That’s where SL comes into the picture. We first played — and she won. An error, I thought. Then again. She won. And again. And again. How could this happen? She knew the tricks of the trade, the shortcuts in every course, blocked every shell, made every turn I was beaten down in defeat, jeered at, bullied off the road by the red shells she targeted at me. This was like the first act of any good Quentin Tarantino flick. The main character, beaten down and humiliated, plotted to take their revenge.

“There’s an important principal at stake: my inalienable right to care about the stupid and insignificant”

I couldn’t allow this to continue. So I raised the stakes. I thought forcing myself into a high stakes bet would bring out that residual fire needed to push me. It came to a head one drunken evening at the Homerton buttery — with a bet. The terms: if she won, I offered to pay for two bottles of pink gin, with two bottles of tequila being brought for me if I won. But I was no gambler in a casino; this was skill and I was ready. It all came down to Rainbow Road — of course it did. My premier course.. . I performed flawlessly. But alas, victory was still hers. Deflated and burdened with onerous debt, humiliated in front of my peers, it was time to face acceptance.

I wasn’t the man I thought I was after all. The sound of the Coconut Mall theme song ringing in my ears like some cruel joke. However, amid my despair and rage there is an important lesson and a silver lining I’ve drawn on.

Cambridge is a place where people prize high ambition; people sweat for starred firsts and those internships at JP Morgan. All I want is to beat Sophia Liversidge at Mario Kart, and in that — there is something quite liberating in my Cambridge experience. At 21 years of age, I care more about victory at Mario Kart now than I did when I was seven. But I’m not ashamed because there’s an important principal at stake: my inalienable right to care about the stupid and insignificant. I think when we stop caring about the stupid and insignificant and only care about ‘the things we should care about’ — we lose a little something of ourselves — we begin to take ourselves too seriously, we begin to wear the Cambridge gown and lose our ability to laugh at ourselves so-to-speak. Openly competing and caring about whether you win at a course called ‘DK’s Snowboard Cross’ is a great way to remind yourself — yep, a bit of me is a weird, immature prat — self-recognition is vitally needed at this university. So I revel in my immaturity and know that no matter how many pink bottles of gin it costs me, the day will come when I beat Sophia Liversidge at Mario Kart.