The best way to deal with life’s problems is playing video games. I know this because fortune cookies never lie, especially the one that said (really), “The rubber bands are headed in the right direction.”
Before video games existed, people sat around in abject misery, contemplating how they would ever find any enjoyment out of the comparatively short lives they had. Some of them, like the Romans, were so disappointed that video games didn’t exist that they spent centuries building an empire to distract themselves from their depression–their frustration eventually getting to the point where the closest thing to video games they could envision was gladiatorial games. Think of how many gladiators’ lives could have been saved if they had only had Super Mario Brothers.
Because a game of such beauty and perfection holds a dear spot in my heart, making it far more important than my children (Mario has been with me since I was five; my oldest kid is five. Mario wins), I took it upon myself to discover how this glorious savior of humanity came into existence. After extensive, unpaid research that will earn me a Nobel Peace Prize, I unearthed a transcript of the original pitch meeting for Super Mario Brothers:
Executive: What’ve you got for me today?
Developer 1: We have a game that will change the world.
Executive: That’s wonderful. Who’s the hero? A knight? A super hero? A hulking slab of masculinity?
Developer 2: (excitedly) It’s an Italian plumber!
Executive: A what?
Developer 1: An Italian plumber named Mario.
Executive: I had a plumber fix my toilet once, but is that really—
Developer 2: And he can jump really high. And fall really far. Unless it’s a fall to nowhere.
Executive: To nowhere? What does that even mean?
Developer 1: He falls into one of the abysses.
Executive: Why are there abysses?
Developer 2: Because we made it that way.
Executive: (scoffs) Why not just make him fly?
Developer 1: Crap! We forgot to make him fly. We’ll save that for later.
Executive: I wasn’t being serio–never mind.
Developer 2: (encouragingly) When Mario eats mushrooms he gets taller.
Executive: What? So he’s a midget Italian plumber?
Developer 1: Only sometimes. When he starts and when he gets hurt.
Executive: People don’t turn into midgets when they get hurt.
Developer 2: It’s okay though. Like I said, the mushrooms make him taller.
Executive: Where does he get these mushrooms?
Developer 2: There are these blocks with question marks in them. Some of the mushrooms are in there.
Executive: Who put all of the mushrooms in these question blocks?
Developer 2: I, uh, don’t know. They’re just there.
Developer 1: But he also has a friend who’s a mushroom.
Executive: So he eats his friend?
Developer 1: No. Only the mushrooms without arms, legs, and a face. His mushroom friend is called Toad. Like a toadstool. He’s like a more highly evolved mushroom.
Executive: If he’s a mushroom, why didn’t you call him a Mush?
Developer 2: Um…
Developer 1: I, uh, that was Jo’s fault and not mine in any way, shape, or form. I’ll try to remember to change it.
Executive: I don’t want a game where the kids are going to wonder if Mario is going to eat his friends. But kids might eat more mushrooms (Makes note to himself to buy some mushroom stock).
Developer 1: Tell him about the flower.
Developer 2: Oh yeah! When he eats a flower, his overalls change color and bouncing fireballs shoot out of his hands.
Executive: (Makes note to himself to begin random drug tests for employees) Good, good.
Developer 1: This will help him, because a fire breathing turtle has captured the princess. And he’s holding her in a castle that has lava in it.
Executive: Why is a plumber rescuing a princess? Does this take place in Persia?
Developer 2: No, it takes place in, um, Castlevania.
Developer 1: That’s the other game we’re working on. There are vampires and stuff in that one.
Executive: When was the last time you two got some sleep?
Developer 2: I only sleep at stop signs and red lights.
The conversation continued along those lines, getting even more perplexing for the executive when the developers told him about the magic star that turns Mario into a human strobe light and allows the intrepid plumber to kill anything he touches, just like angry plumbers can do in real life. And that isn’t even getting into the flashing gold coins floating all over the place (except for the shy ones that hide in brick blocks).
By Mario 3, the developers had the executive so far into their pocket, they could propose anything and he would okay it. Here’s one snippet from the Mario 3 pitch:
Developer 1: So Mario eats a dead leaf, then grows a raccoon tail out of his butt, and raccoon ears appear on his hat. Then when he runs really fast, he can fly by slowly bobbing his cute little raccoon tail up and down.
Executive: You are literally a genius machine. (Makes note to himself to buy dried leaf stock).
As brilliant, and unquestionably logical all of those aspects are, the game’s real impact comes from its existential aspects. If you work really hard, defeat the bad guys, collect lots of gold coins that are randomly lying around, kill turtles and weird looking armless things called goombas, and defeat a mutated, fire breathing turtle, you’ll marry a princess no matter what station you occupy in life…but only if you’re a plumber. Forget Beauty and the Beast, Super Mario Brothers is the tale as old as time, mostly because it doesn’t involve Stockholm Syndrome.
Follow me in a completely non-creepy way: