The Gamer’s Conscience 08.25.03

You know, one could tell you otherwise, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the summer is a great time for discoveries. Discoveries of any sort. Take for instance the following: young undergrad at a UC school decides to take a summer school class that is 8 weeks long, meets from 9AM to 1PM Monday through Friday, and is worth 15 units. Yeah- that’s right, 15 units. Graded units. While it only took me less than 2 minutes to enroll in this class, that time was eclipsed by 90 seconds when I realized that I just may had 8 weeks of Intermediate Arabic might not be the smartest thing to do.

But during my naps in that class, I had some time to think of other things. Like old NES games.

Take the premise of the original Super Mario Bros for the beloved NES. Stop anybody with any shred of cultural hindsight, and chances are that they know what you’re talking about. Let’s face it- there aren’t that many slightly overweight Italian plumbers that can go toe-to-toe in name recognition with an age-old American icon, and surpass him. With the advent of Mario, and his apparently somewhat-mentally-disturbed brother Luigi, Nintendo brought to the world a franchise stronger than Ronald McDonald; and arguably twice as competent.

From there, I got to thinking. The complete presentation of that first Mario game is probably the most surreal works of creation ever put to code. While other game developers of the time put elements of plausibility into their works (arguably! because there is always a psycho-retentive contingent of sticklers out there) like Mega Man or Contra, the Big N really tossed all elements of realism into the air when the came up with the concept of a plumber saving a princess from a giant turtle. A GIANT FREAKING TURTLE.

“But Fred, as usual, you don’t look at the big picture. Evidently, you have no grasp of a concept called creative license.’ In Street Fighter, everybody and their mothers can toss fireballs, but you don’t see me complaining. Your misguided pre-occupation with the Mario series falls in the same boat. You have too much time on your hands. And you smell bad.”

OK, fictional reader. You’re right on two levels- with that last part being correct half the time. But regarding creative license,’ I’m just trying to find out how the entire body of work that became Super Mario Bros came to fruition without the aid of outside chemical vocation.

Yes, friends. The only logical conclusion is that the house that Miyamoto’s genius built must have been on drugs when producing this game. Specifically, magic mushrooms.

SMB is quite possibly the most chemically-influenced work of art since Dark Side of the Moon or !And Justice for All.

“OK, now you’re just crazy. Not just plain crazy, but “I enjoyed the SNES port of ‘Mortal Kombat 3’ crazy. You used to make sense, but now you’ve lost it. I’m gonna go back to reading earlier editions of Retrograding.’”

Still don’t believe me? OK. But, before you go on and read about why Final Fantasy VII isn’t a great RPG for the 750th time, allow me to dissect this behemoth of a game- this monster of 8-bit acid trip that is Super Mario Bros. Then if you don’t fully concur with my thesis, that SMB is the product of soil-grown hallucinogens, then there is no hope.

First off, lets look at the protagonist himself, Mario. Personally, I have nothing against him or his occupation. But I have a little trouble trying to swallow the notion that the hero of this game IS A PLUMBER. A PLUMBER. A guy whose career revolves around guaranteeing the free flow of water from Point A to Point B. Now, not to say that your garden-variety plumber isn’t as industrious as the next blue-collar joe, but I can’t fathom a plumber being the prime candidate to save a necessary part of any given royal family, let alone the fate of an entire kingdom. Just take a look in your Yellow Pages and ask yourself, honestly, if any of those characters look like they have what it takes to do anything more than un-stop your toilet.


Moving on!

No hero is complete without some kind of gimmick. Mario’s tricks lay in the fact that upon eating plant life that would normally be toxic to you and I, he gets super-plumber abilities. He eats a BROWN MUSHROOM WITH BROWN SPOTS, and what happens? HE GETS TWICE AS BIG AS HE WAS– direct perceived effect of sum under the influence of, oh, I don’t know- eating mushrooms!?!?!??!?? Not only that, but upon touching a PSYCHEDELICALLY COLORED FLOWER, he can now TOSS FIREBALLS FROM THE PALM OF HIS HAND. Now, I’m no rocket scientist, let alone a botanist, but already, this is too damned much.


This is the exact reason why Sunny Bono hit the tree. But I digress!

So, our “hero” now has his stature and his method of 1-upping the opposition. But, alas, we’ve not discussed the opposition at all.

Now, if I were in charge of putting together a team of baddies and such to hold onto a ransom token like Princess Toadstool (again, shrooms!), I’d go the Simpsons route and enlist the help of hired goons. Or at least, try to pay off corrupt cops and use their services as bodyguards. But what does Mario have to face? TURTLES (of multiple varieties which will be discussed), ANGRY WALKING MUSHROOMS, and WAYWARD HERMIT CRABS WHOSE SHELLS ARE RAIDERS FOOTBALL HELMETS. You may remember them as “Koopas,” “Goombas,” and “Buzzy Beetles.” To make sense of this, I’ll even put it in bullet form.

  • Koopas: Now, I’ve never heard of any sober person being frightened to death of turtles. So for there to be any semblance of intimidation MUST SIGNIFY SOME LEVEL OF HALLUCINATION OR INTOXICATION. Furthering the trip,’ some are red, which somehow grants Galileo-esque insight into not being able to fall off the ledge of their immediate platform. Not enough? Some HAVE WINGS. But get this- not only is the ground a point of danger, but some of them EVEN RIDE IN CLOUDS. And to top it off, the ones that ride clouds drop RED ONES WITH SPIKES. And these are only the dumb ones! Later, Mario comes across the homo-erectus variant, the Hammer Bros,” who surpass their devolved cousins and are able to- get this- TOSS HAMMERS! at our hero/plumber/working-oxymoron. This ain’t the work of Red Bull, friends. This something more organic AND potent.
  • Goombas: Nothing too out of the ordinary here! IF YOUR NAME IS TIM LEARY! Mushrooms! with feet! angry! supposedly with Mario. The only explanation I can think of for this one is that some intern at NOJ saw the bag of shrooms on the table, while on them, and thought “I can turn that into a worthy adversary of our heroic plumber.” Quit trying to find the metaphor, Sherlock. Nothing to see here.
  • Buzzy Beetles: My guess here is that the same intern who brought the Goomba to life also had a keen fascination with all things American, and probably had a football helmet in his office that belonged to the then-Los Angeles Raiders. Glancing away from his waving hand during a 5 second break, he caught a glance at the black side of the helmet and thought “whoa!. What if that roamed around aimlessly like Miyamoto’s drug turtles?” And thus, out of the trip, BB was born.

Now tell me this half-witted “Legion of Doom” isn’t from the mind of a drug user! No one in their right mind would find ANY of this plausible! Only a drug user would be able to think of a cadre of creatures like that, let alone cast them as enemies! Need more proof? Hell- look at the main villain!

Further taking a page from the now terrifying turtle pool, Miyamoto probably figured “if small turtles are scary, and dexterous hammer-tossing ones are even scarier, then a really big, really large one that SPITS FIRE and TOSSES HAMMERS absolutely must be downright EVIL!” And following the allusion to the human evolution chart, the shroom trip gave birth to the homo-sapien variant, which was named “King Koopa.” A villain whose cunning lured Mario to rescue the princess, and whose offense sports, as mentioned before, SPITTING FIRE and TOSSING HAMMERS. A GIANT TURTLE THAT SPITS FIRE AND TOSSES HAMMERS. Man, gimmie some of what those cats were taking!

My thesis has thus been explained: Super Mario Bros, at it’s core, is nothing more than the exercise of a magic mushroom trip. One of the defining works that impacted our generation is nothing more than a shared trip in the Nintendo of Japan offices. Hell- if you’ve missed any of it, or still don’t believe me, allow me to recap it all in one short descriptive paragraph- and tell me that this doesn’t sound like a hallucination:

“A plumber is sequestered into a world where time is identified by fractions, called the Mushroom Kingdom. The plumber is charged with the mission of rescuing the princess of this land, from an evil giant turtle who spits fire and tosses hammers. In the course of this, he has to fight against lesser turtles, angry mushrooms, hermit crabs that inhabit Raiders football helmets. Aiding the plumber in his quest is his ability to get physically bigger when he eats mushrooms, and toss fireballs from his hands after touching a psychedelic flower.”

Man, they must love their jobs.

Still think this isn’t plausible? Well, just remember this: at the time SMB was made, the possession and selling of shrooms in the land of the Rising Sun was NOT ILLEGAL . That’s right, folks. Prior to June 2002, Miyamoto and company would have been able to shroom it up as they damn well pleased, which would give my theory a green light into the parking lot of plausible though. I always thought Nintendo was hardcore in their own damn way, but it took me 4 weeks into an Arabic class to finally make the connection.

Damn, I’m smooth.

And now, a new case to crack: a relatively tall elf who seeks to unify a three-sided geometric figure and kill a dog-wizard! while saving a princess with an eastern European name and collecting Indian currency on the way.

Cracking the genius behind the game.

That’s the Gamer’s Conscience.

This section is for those who may have taken this one a little too seriously: please understand that I mean no deprecation or libel towards Mr. Miyamoto or any of Nintendo’s corporate bodies. This is merely a work of satire and comedy that draws it’s inspiration from the franchise icons that are beloved and respected throughout the gaming world.

Well, that’s it for this week. Read all of the great heads here, and remember that feedback is always appreciated.