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The NL - Mario Kart DS Interview

Author: Darryn King
Monday, 12 May 2008

There are probably a lot of 13 year-olds who are good at Mario Kart, but Baulkham Hills High student Lenny Andreev is – at the time of writing – the 40th best at the DS version of the game in the world. He trains, Karate Kid-style, under Ben Stoneman, the second best Mario Kart DS player in the world. Lenny spoke to Darryn King.

Were you always really good at Mario Kart, even when you played it for the first time-

To be honest, no. I have vague memories from my childhood when I played Mario Kart 64 and I remember falling off on Rainbow Road a lot! When you first play a Mario Kart, it is a difficult concept to grasp, because all Mario Karts differ in handling and techniques, and each technique takes time to learn and perfect. There is a lot more to learn about than meets the eye in this game!

How did you find out you could compete with the world’s best Mario Kart players-

I had bought a DS and not too long after my friend brought his to school – and take a guess at what game he had- He showed me a few races against the computers, and his consistency had me convinced that he was a pro. (Now though, I’m much better than him!) I really wanted the game, so I got it a few months later, and began playing, trying to imitate my friend’s driving style. It was very difficult! It was at this point that my friend told me of The Player’s Page, a site for competition of all Mario Karts in existence. I joined by sending a simple email, and done! I was on the page… I watched the videos, and I remember thinking, I’ll never be able to do this!

At the moment you are the 40th best player in the world – how accurate is this ranking-
Not every Mario Kart player has joined The Player’s Page, so not all rankings are true. But most of the best players are on the site, so the higher up you go, the more accurate your rank gets. My rank is pretty high at the moment, so it’s pretty accurate. Back when I joined the page, I was very low-ranked – it took work to get to where I am today!

You’ve competed in gaming comps, is that right- What are they like-
Yes, true. They are competitive, and people do anything to win. Because Mario Kart isn’t the most hardcore of games where you win money, these comps are on a smaller scale, but much more fun due to less pressure. Clans are set up in cases, and clans can have wars. It can also be individual, but it’s great to have more people to enjoy the game with. I myself am in the KS clan, but many clans exist around the net.

You compete in Mario Kart DS particularly – do you think there’s a reason you’re especially good at that game, rather than the others- What about other racing games, do you play them-
I think the reason why I specialise in MKDS is because it’s the first Mario Kart I played competitively. Each game is different, but I’ve spent the most time on MKDS honing techniques. I play other racing games as well, all kinds of games in fact (unless they’re really bad), but Mario Kart suits my playing style very well, so I stick to it.

The second best Mario Kart player in the world is your mentor. How did that come about-
I first talked him on the message board of the site, then we exchanged messenger addresses, and kept talking and talking and talking. We’re good friends now, he doesn’t live too far away from me, so we meet up on a regular basis to play and so on. I’ve seen world records pulled right in front my eyes, absolutely amazing!

What sort of skills does your mentor teach you- How does he teach you-
Well, he teaches me the best driving lines, ways to do things, what buttons to press, and what I have to do to perform certain techniques. If he shows me a technique, it’s not that difficult to copy, assuming it’s within my capacity. If he can’t explain it to me, I’d normally turn to the world champ for some advice. The Internet is an amazing thing!

Can just anyone become a great Mario Kart player-
Anyone. You just need a bit of determination, time and, most of the time, a fast left thumb! This is for performing a mini-turbo, the essence of becoming a good Mario Kart player. In most instances, to perform a mini-turbo, you must first initiate a drift by hopping and turning at the same time, normally performed by tapping the R button. Once you are drifting, you must go left, right, left, right on the analog stick or the D-Pad, depending on which game you are playing to charge the mini-turbo (MT). In each game, the charge varies, but is something along those lines. Then release R to get a boost. This can sometimes come with a disadvantage, but pros are able to find the best way to utilise MTs.

How much practice do you put in-

I play a lot: about one or two hours a day at least. To reach the top 10, it would take around two years of practice. When there is a new skill to learn, you learn it, and move on to the next.

What’s one of the secrets to your success in Mario Kart-
Perseverance – but MTs are definitely the most important aspect. When you practice, you will even be able to drift and pull MTs on straightaways, giving you a huge advantage in some places. If you can master that, you will almost definitely get better and better!

What do you think of the new Mario Kart Wii game – are you as deft behind the wheel controller as you are with the DS-
I tried the wheel – not my kind of gameplay. The wheel is fine if you’re playing rookies and want to give them a handicap or something like that, but I prefer the Gamecube controller. It is much easier to handle and gives better control. When I played Mario Kart Wii the other day, I could beat everyone using mini-turbos and wheelies!