#4: Music is a teleportation device, a new video game experience, your grandmother's mashed potatoes
The feeling of nostalgia
👋 Hi friends, it's Hesam with issue #4 of 4 bits. 4 bits is a biweekly newsletter where I share thoughts and musings on how to build memorable experiences.
Here's what I've been listening to: Armin van Buuren's Imagine album from 2008. I had a chance to see him live that year during his Armin Only tour, and it was an experience I'll never forget. Listening to the album brings back memories.
In music, in theme parks, in fancy takes of classics at a fine dining restaurant, the feeling of nostalgia can elevate any experience.
Music is a teleportation device
It was nearing 1:45 am, and I knew exactly what track to drop...
Just a small-town girl
Livin' in a lonely world
She took the midnight train goin' anywhere
Whether you're in a dark, sweaty club or a sports bar hanging out with friends, the keyboard riff that kicks off Journey - Don't Stop Believin' is full of good vibes.
While DJ'ing, I found myself going back to this track time and time again. Journey was a reliable ally that I knew would keep people moving.
There are hundreds of remixes of this track, and no matter which one you listen to, it's familiar and clearly recognizable.
When designing experiences, consider how you can trigger that moment of nostalgia. Our brains remember experiences that evoke emotion, and music can instantly transport you to a happy place.
You'll always remember the first song at your wedding, the track you used to listen to with your friends when you drove around, or the anthem that keeps you going when you're in an intense state of flow.
A new video game experience
"Dad, who is Mario? And the other guy?"
This past Sunday, my son and I attended a Mario Kart-themed 6 year old birthday party. And much like every new fictional character he encounters, my son had questions.
"What does Mario do? What's a plumber?"
"Who is the bad guy with the shell?"
Any child growing up in the 80s or 90s is familiar with Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Bowser, and countless other characters that made up the greatness that is the Mario universe.
These characters and their stories appear over and over again in pop culture. Mario is featured in 200+ video games, a live action/animated TV series, and a soon-to-be-released animated movie.
Nintendo capitalized on Mario frequently: they released versions of Mario for their Switch, Wii, and other gaming consoles. And there's also the Mini NES, which comes with 30 retro games, including 5 Mario options.
But your interactions with Mario don't have to be confined to a screen. You can now experience Mario in real life at Super Nintendo World, a theme park experience. Previously only available in Japan, the attraction opens on Friday at Universal Studios Hollywood.
The team that designed the park attraction went into painstaking detail to bring a Mario-themed adventure to life:
- Upon arriving, you can purchase a Power-Up band to play interactive games. When you play the games, you collect keys. When you collect enough keys, you get to play Bowser Jr. in a boss challenge.
- You punch "?" blocks to collect digital coins, also captured in your band.
- You navigate a Mario Kart-like course with AR goggles, competing for the coveted Golden Cup. No two rides will be the same, meaning repeat visits will result in different outcomes.
- When you're hungry, you can visit Toadstool cafe. Run by Chef Toad, you can expect Mario-inspired food and drinks including Super Mushroom Soup, Toadstool Garlic Knots, Luigi Pesto Chicken Burger, and Princess Peach Cupcake.
- On your way out, you can stop by the 1-UP Factory retail shop to pick up some Super Nintendo World merch.
- The Power-Up band can even be used when you get home, with integration on some Switch games.
What excites me most about Super Nintendo World is that people can connect to it regardless of their age or experience: it’s nostalgic for those of us who grew up with these characters, while a whole new world for those learning about them for the first time.
*(h/t to Kyle Judah for sharing a tweet that highlights what makes Super Nintendo World special)
Purée de pomme that reminds you of your grandmother's mashed potatoes
What happens when Joël Robuchon, French chef and "chef of the century" (as coined by Gault et Millau's cooking guide in 1989), redesigns a classic home dish like mashed potatoes?
Food critics have hailed Joël's purée de pomme as "the best mashed potatoes in the world" and an "emotional experience".
Intrigued, I had to find out for myself.
When my wife and I visited Paris in 2012, we were arguably at level 2 of exploring the city like a video game. And despite spending most of our time walking around the city with no destination in mind, we made a few dinner reservations.
One of those reservations was at L'Atelier De Joël Robuchon. And of course, we had to try the fancy mashed potatoes.
Joël's purée de pomme recipe requires only four ingredients: butter, milk, salt, and potatoes. The mastery comes in the preparation, which involves boiling the potatoes skin on, running them through a mill, and stirring briskly while adding well-chilled butter and very hot milk. Or it could be the 2:1 potato to butter ratio.
How was it? Damn good.
I can't say I had the same out of body experience that the food critics did. But these mashed potatoes were magnificent. And I found myself licking the spoon and wanting more.
Mashed potatoes weren't a staple in my home when growing up, but for many, savoring this dish is a trip down memory lane.
As Joël reflected:
"Maybe it’s a little bit of nostalgia, Proust’s madeleines. Everyone has in his memory the mashed potatoes of his mother, the mashed potatoes of his grandmother.”
Think about how you might bring nostalgia to your next party, event, or experience. You'll delight people when you do.