Mario and the Real World

This entry was originally published on my former blog on 12/25/09.

Playing my new Super Mario Brothers game for the Wii is an experience like no other, the kind of electronically-soundtracked journey into the past that made me feel like the super-cool kid I never got the chance to be in my youth.  Everybody loves Mario.  All you have to do is go out in public and sing a little Mario “Da-da-daaaa-duh-duhhhh-DA-duh,” and someone will join in.  Seriously, go to the grocery store and wait for the fun.  Just don’t sing it in the pharmacy line up, or some person who is trying to refill the anti-psychotic prescription that ran out four days ago could mistake you for a flying turtle and break your face.

Because I’m a nerd, I ended up with a heap of analogies of how Mario relates to the real world.  Because I’m a super nerd, I wrote up my analogies into a list to share.  I’m cool like that:

1.  It doesn’t pay to be a princess.  Even a hot, blonde princess in a pink dress.  Sooner or later, some weirdo is going to take advantage of your kind nature and inability to do things for yourself, and you’ll find yourself locked up in a scary castle waiting to be rescued.  Better to learn how to pump your own gas and use basic hand tools with reasonable skill and look after yourself.  Even better, learn to fight a little so you can cope with weirdos who might happen to show up.  Ask me to tell you the story of the football tackle yard sale, and you’ll see what I mean.

2.  Sometimes rushing is a crummy idea.  Granted, there are times when you will need to barrel through the scary parts of life with your head down and your little feet running like crazy so nothing massive and heavy squashes you, and it’s beneficial to know when those times are.  However, it’s generally better to stop and watch a little bit.  Usually, most of the dangers in life can be avoided if you stop and watch to see the patterns.

3.  Know your enemies.  Some are like squishy mushrooms you can take out with a well-timed ka-pow, and some are tougher so you need to smack with a fireball.  Matters can be complicated if your enemies toss hammers or spiky globes or whatever, but you can usually figure out a way to subdue most of the things in life that threaten you or stand in your way.  Others, you are powerless to defend yourself from in any way except the classic art of avoidance.  If someone is too big or spiny or throwing flames too huge to tackle, run like heck and don’t look back.

4.  The power-hungry of the world are dangerous.  Granted, the big burly guy with all the castles might look peachy for a while, but you’re better to find yourself a nice, steady plumber who gets all starry-eyed when he sees you.  Don’t worry: if he really loves you, he’ll shave his mustache.

5.  Weigh the potential cost of your risks.  Sure, you might appear to be hot stuff if you snag the last couple of coins way up above that moving platform, but is it really worth your effort and the risk and of having the play the first part of the stupid polkadot tree level over again?  Not really.  Is it worth risking everything to sneak past the chompy plant with jagged teeth so you can warp to World Seven?  Probably.  The payout of some risks is worthy, and it’s up to you to figure out how badly you want something.  Think about what you really, really want, and then go for the things that are worth the gamble.

6.  There are more important things than money.  This is true even in video games where a hundred bucks can buy you a whole new life.  A friend recently teased me by saying, “Oh, are you one of those coin-getters?” because I had Mario jumping all over the place, collecting coins like there was no tomorrow.  Truth be told, it might have been more fun to stomp on some turtles, or ride on a dinosaur, eating stuff, but there I was, filling my pockets.  Maybe I should work a little less and play a little more, even if I don’t actually have a dinosaur or the ability to break bricks with my bare knuckles.

7.  There is a trick to just about everything.  I don’t mean that you should Google how to kill off the stupid cackling baby Bowser that shoots crazy green fire before spinning around like a top, rather than letting him kill off your Italian plumber for the fifty-seventh time.  It’s just that things sometimes seem much more complicated that they really are, and if you pay attention, the answers to your big and scary problems might be quite simple.

8.  Be considerate toward pets.  If you don’t keep your creatures’ needs in mind, sooner or later your dog will bite you, or your cat will pee in the laundry basket, or you will carelessly bump your dinosaur into a spiny beetle and he’ll run terrified off a cliff before you can catch up with him.  In any of these scenarios, you won’t be impressed.

9.  Music makes all the difference.  If you change the music, a challenge seems much more conquerable.  Mute the TV and play some loud, exciting music when you have to play through a tough castle (or fight critters in that big bad ship will all the bullets thudding and flying at you) and it will seem much less scary.  I also use this technique on days when the roads are especially terrifying in the winter.  Somehow, the Dixie Chicks don’t get me home confidently in a blizzard, but The Offspring will.  (Side note: “Another One Bites the Dust” is not appropriate confidence-buoying music for Mario play or Alberta road conditions.)

10.  There is no such thing as invincibility. Sometimes things will make you feel unstoppable.  Sure, it might feel great to be all flashy with star power (or Jack Daniels or a good push-up bra), knocking stuff over without trying, listening to crazy fast pump-you-up music, but it’s all a bit of a deception.    You’re really not as tough as you seem to think you’ve become.  Sooner or later, you’ll do something dumb, like say something you can’t take back, or fall off the edge of a cliff.  Temper your sudden swagger by reminding yourself that pretty soon, whatever has gotten into you will wear off.

I’m having a retro riot with my new Mario game.  Call me up and come on over to share the joy.  Castles are more fun and less freaky with a little company, and maybe you can help me figure out how to kill that stupid giant fish that keeps chomping me before I can grab the star coin.

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