I died thirty seven times.
I did beat the level. But it took my hearty 187 lives down to a mere 150. And it felt fantastic finally beating that level.
Along the way a little box popped up. Nintendo was telling me that my handling of Mario was not up to par. "Here is a white leaf. It will help you," they said. I acknowledged it. But I refused to take it.
A few deaths later another box appeared.
This time the box was garnished with a wing emblazoned with the letter P. "I know that wing," I thought, remembering how many times I used the fabled P-Wing in Super Mario Bros. 3 to get past that dastardly sun in the desert level of World 3.
It was the perfect motivation.
They never told me how to beat the level. They never told me what I needed to do to stop failing. But they said, "Hey, you look like you are having a hard time. We've got this stuff to help you." And that made me want to do better.
There have been so many games I have given up on because they were too hard. Or, and this is shameful, that I eventually used a guide to beat. But not this time.
Because every single time I failed, I knew that if I really wanted to give up, the answer was right there. All I had to do was take the P-Wing. Take it and win. It would be a cheap win. It would be like using the guide. It would be like using a cheat. But it would be a win. And I could do it.
But it also was telling me that I didn't have to take it.