Battles Waged and Balloons Popped During Drexel’s Live Mario Kart

Drexel students playing live Mario Kart.

A lot of people have played Nintendo’s wildly popular Mario Kart video game, but only Drexel University freshmen got to actually be in a game of Mario Kart, live and in person at the home of (a different) Mario.

Well, kind of.

On Sept. 21, freshmen gathered on Drexel’s Buckley Recreational Field to try their hand at, yes, a live version of Mario Kart. The event, which was organized by Recreational Athletics for Welcome Week, didn’t feature any joysticks or television monitors. There were, however, lots and lots of balloons. 

Why balloons? In the “Balloon Battle” version of the video game, each player’s character drives a car with three balloons, losing a balloon with every sustained hit until the last player with at least one balloon wins. 

“I was kind of expecting there to be cars,” said Mario De Lorenzo (another Mario!), a freshman computer engineering major in the College of Engineering.

Instead, the students became both the car and the player. These Dragons tied a balloon around their ankles — there had to be four inches of ribbon extending from the leg to the balloon — and gathered on the turf. The goal of the game was for players to pop someone else’s balloon with their foot without getting their own balloon popped, or loosened from the ribbon (which happened quite often). Once the balloon was popped or let loose, the student was out, and the last Dragon standing won.

The first round was divvied up by teams, via the color of the balloons — pink, green, yellow and orange and blue combined. After that, it was three rounds of free-for-all Mario Kart — of which De Lorenzo won the first (as Mario should).

“This reminds me a lot of a game we have back in India called kabaddi, but there aren’t any balloons in kabaddi,” said Mohammad Sahal, a computer science major in the College of Computing & Informatics. In the popular contact team sport commonly played in South Asia, teams situated on either side of a court send someone over to the other side to tag as many opposing players (who are linking arms Red Rover-style) without being tackled before returning to their side.

There was no tackling at Drexel’s live Mario Kart, but there were a lot of balloons being stomped on, run over, kicked, squashed, removed and, ultimately, popped (which was unfortunate, to say the least, for people who don’t like the sound of balloons popping).

“The worst was having the balloon just come off the string,” said Matthew Czerwinski, an undeclared engineer in the College of Engineering, after winning the third round.

To avoid having that happen, or having their balloon get popped, students employed a variety of moves and strategies, from leaping to lunging — whatever it took to keep their precious balloon safe.  

“At the beginning, everyone was kind of hyper and trying to pop everyone’s balloons, but I just kind of stayed at the edge of the field,” said Brian Edmonson, an animation major in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. “Then, for the second game, I moved in a little closer, and then a little closer for the third. I saved all of my energy for the last round, which I won!”

Before trying to pop one another’s balloons every round, the students huddled to sway, cheer, raise their fists and, once, quack like the Mighty Ducks, at the request of emcee Dylan Volpinesta, coordinator of intramural sports in Recreational Athletics. Volpinesta, in addition to refereeing the game, was also responsible for bringing live Mario Kart to campus, having played it as a team-working exercise when he was in college.

“I’m all about competition because that’s my job, but at the end of the day we’re all Dragons and we’re a family,” Volpinesta said during one such huddle.

Want to see more of these live Mario Kart games? You can watch this recap video made by College of Nursing & Health Professions student Axxel David and check out some photos below.