A photo of a family huddled around a 1989 Game Boy has been circulating on the Internet for more than a decade as a meme known as ‘Game Boy Mom.’ Now, a YouTuber has discovered that the family comes from Prince Albert, Sask., about 130 kilometers northeast of Saskatoon.
“We couldn’t be more proud that [the YouTuber] It really does justice to our memory,” said Scott Wolford. He is one of the grown children in the image, which captures the nostalgia of a mother playing Super Mario Land on a Nintendo Game Boy, surrounded by children.
“[It was] just an innocent, ‘here’s my mom and a nice picture,’ and it blew up, like millions of views in a matter of weeks, and we just weren’t expecting that,” Wolford said.
“We knew it was popular. But no one really knew who we were.”
That changed this week when American YouTuber Sakura Stardust posted the story behind the photo. She was able to trace the image back to the 2012 Reddit post where Wolford originally shared the photo. Stardust said people have described the meme as a Norman Rockwell or Renaissance painting.
“Mom in general loved spending a lot of time with her kids and Nintendo turned out to be one of those things. She was our best gamer during Super Mario Land“Wolford said in the video.
Watch the Sakura Stardust video here:
Story behind the photo
Stardust revealed that the ‘Game Boy Mom’ was Debra Tooley, a mother of four who loves horses, designs cakes, and was the only one who could beat a particularly difficult level in Super Mario Land for Wolford, his sister Jenna and his cousins Dean and Dustin Millis.
“They would bring it to me and say, ‘Okay, Aunt Debbie or Mom, take us through this level,'” Tooley said.
“They were watching me do it so they could recreate it… There were a lot of times that day where they brought it to me to get over it, but they finally figured it out.”
Tooley said the photo was taken by his sister, Janet, who had a good eye for taking photographs.
“It wasn’t until Sakura and Scott got together on this project that I realized how popular it was… It’s like all over the world in other languages and stuff. So it blew me away,” Tooley said.
The power of nostalgia
In the video, Wolford lifted the curtain on the beloved ‘Game Boy Mom’ and described how proud he was of her.
“Mom is a very kind and gentle soul. She is very smart and extremely talented. We are very proud of who she is and she inspires her children and grandchildren every day. The world is a better place with her here,” Wolford said.
Upon watching the video, Tooley said she was shocked to hear how her son saw her. As a single mother of four children, she said she had moments of doubt as her children grew about how much she could give them.
The Morning Edition – Sask10:53‘GameBoy Mom’ photo traces back to Saskatchewan after more than a decade of memes
“But it’s really humbling and comforting to hear that you can remember the good things and let go of your mistakes and the things you could have done better,” she said.
“So yeah, I’m very excited.”
The family is now trying to recreate the photo when they are adults. Wolford said trying to reunite the cousins and siblings is not an easy task since they live all over the country.
He’s raising money through GoFundMe and meme merchandise to reunite his family and use the power of nostalgia to donate money to the Children’s Wish Foundation.
In the meantime, they enjoy watching an American YouTuber bring their story to life. Both Tooley and Wolford said the finished video brought them to tears, as it reflected their love for each other but also the love people had for their photo and the memories it evoked for them playing with their own families.
“When they say a picture is worth 1,000 words, this one really says it,” Wolford said.