Courtesy of Nintendo
Brie Larson is many things: actor, writer, director, activist, YouTuber, podcaster, on-screen superhero. You can also add "formidable Mario Kart opponent" to that list, because as the actress tells HelloGiggles, she's been playing video games for as long as she can remember.
"I mean even in my earliest baby videos, I had a Nintendo console," the 31-year-old says, speaking after a Nintendo press event in June. "My earliest memories are playing The Little Mermaid, playing Volleyball, playing Super Mario Bros... All of my Christmas memories are getting the latest consoles like the [Nintendo] DS."
Even when certain consoles or games seemed impossible to get, Larson says her mother, Heather Edwards, always seemed to be able to figure out a way to be "the big hero" during the holiday season. Larson attributes playing video games with her mom and sister, Milaine Desaulniers, growing up as the reason she didn't face much of the harassment that plagues many women in the gaming community today.
"[My mom, sister and I] were all into games, and this was before social media, so it wasn't like there was this stigma," Larson explains. "By the time I was hearing that there was any sort of issue about anybody not being included in the gaming community, I was like 'this is ridiculous.'"
The star adds that she has "zero tolerance for bullying," noting, "the gaming community is bigger than a lot of people realize. It's not some sort of niche thing. It's for everybody and if you have a problem with that, then that's on you to figure out."
Courtesy of Nintendo
Unfortunately, many female gamers have an inherent fear of referring to themselves as a "gamer", as the label is often derided by male gamers who claim women don't belong in the gaming community or know anything about video games. Larson condemns this attitude, saying that she believes most people are gamers without even realizing it, and that the pressure to have to define oneself based on a hobby you enjoy shouldn't hold such serious weight. She reveals that even she herself has been called out by other gamers for her own gaming content, which she shares with her 600k+ followers on her lifestyle YouTube channel Brie Is Online!.
"People are like 'oh, she's a gamer.' What does that even mean?" she asks. "If you love a game, then great, you're a gamer."
"We need more people to just own that there's a lot of different games out there and there's not just one way to play it or enjoy it."
The actress credits the Nintendo Switch, which she owns along with the Switch Lite, for providing a variety of games made for gamers of all ages and skill levels. "I find [the Switch] to be a really approachable console for anybody who's looking to step into [gaming]," Larson says. One of her favorite games is Animal Crossing: New Horizons because, she explains, its low-stakes gameplay makes it perfect for first-time gamers. "You can't do anything wrong and it just gets people into [gaming] and understanding that it's actually just about playing and having fun," she notes.
Animal Crossing has long played a huge role in Larson's life, even before the Switch release in 2020. "Growing up, my sister and I were obsessed with the original Animal Crossing that was on GameCube [released in 2001]. So much so that my mom had a rule that whoever finished their homework first got to play first," she reveals. "And so it was this race. I'd be in class doing my homework, trying to get done before my sister. We were more interested in trick-or-treating in the game than we were going down the street. It was huge for us."
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When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, Larson and her sister, who had played every iteration of Animal Crossing together over the years, used the game to stay connected when they couldn't meet up in-person. "It hit something very deep in our hearts," the star says. "I mean, it would have hit deep anyways if we could have been together but because we had that shared space, we could go to each other's islands and support each other."
Courtesy of Nintendo
Larson even got her friends into Animal Crossing so that she could virtually play with them as well."I was like, 'I know we can't go out to lunch and we can't go shopping together but we can in my virtual world,'" she recalls. "'We can buy matching outfits and go fishing.' We had a lot of good times with that."
"Of course," she adds, "being in a virtual space is not the same as being in-person, but it really helped a lot. It was very soothing and comforting to have this wholesome space to go to."
Animal Crossing isn't the only game that has helped Larson get through the past year; she also enjoyed Mario Kart Deluxe Eight and Fortnite, among others, playing both on her own and virtually with friends. As someone who suffers from anxiety, she says that the "pure joy" she feels from gaming helps keep her mental health in check, as it allows her to connect with her family.
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"It doesn't matter how busy our schedules are. That is always the thing that we make time for," Larson explains. "It's just a huge part of my life in terms of bringing me joy and also being a communal thing for my family."
"Some families have card games. We have video games."
Gaming has even helped Larson as an actress. Early in the press event, she notes that playing has become a regular part of her routine when she's on set filming a movie. "Some of the most dramatic roles of my career, I'm playing video games in between takes just as a way to stay in the flow, keep my focus and stay present while also loosening up and having a good time," she reveals.
When asked what game she is most looking forward to playing this year, Larson picks The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild a fitting choice given the recent E3 announcement that the sequel, Breath of the Wild 2, will be released in 2022. "I feel like I'm at a point where it's been enough time since I played it that I could go in fresh and it would inspire and surprise me like it did the first time I played it," the actress says of the original game. "And it would help gear me up for what's to come."
While it may be awhile until we see Larson again on the big screen (her next film, The Marvels, is scheduled for release on November 11, 2022), she's available any time with just a quick click on Youtube.