Throughout the short duration of my life, I have tried to expose myself to as many creative stimuli as possible. I’ve read hundreds of books, watched countless movies, and have contemplated numerous pieces of art. While they have all altered me to certain degrees, there is one work that has influenced me to a further extent than any of the others: namely, the video game Super Mario Brothers.
Many people would find it laughable to view Super Mario Brothers as an intellectual work of art. I suggest that these people do not truly understand the game. Yes, on the surface, it does appear to be a simplistic side-scrolling game produced by an archaic 8-bit piece of hardware. If one looks deeper, however, one will find an epic quest involving the human themes of love, disappointment, self-improvement, and the forces of good versus those of evil. These are themes that everyone faces at some point in their lives.
Mario himself is a very courageous, yet unspectacular young man. By reading the instruction booklet, I discovered that he is a native to Brooklyn, where he makes a living plumbing. He represents the everyman, a person I can relate to. I felt Mario’s pain, I celebrated his triumphs. In essence, while playing the game, I became Mario.
The goal of the game is to free the Princess Toadstool from the clutches of Bowser, King of the Koopas. Princess Toadstool represents the love, the completeness we all strive to find. She is very distant- we know very little about her. We’re not even sure what she looks like. We only know that we need to find her. She’s supposed to make the task worthwhile.
Bowser, the king of the Koopas, represents the hardships faced throughout existence. Mirroring real life, the hardships in the game seem to pop up much more frequently than the benefits. I was forced to fight Bowser a total of eight times, each time expecting to finally reveal the princess. Instead, I defeated the terrible fire-breathing monster seven times, only to be greeted after each victory by one of the princess’ lowly aides, the “mushroom retainers.” They gave only one message: “I’m sorry, but our princess is in another castle!” My brief moment of triumph was shattered; I had to trudge onward through another set of challenges and continue the search for wholeness.
This taught me, as a five-year-old, to cope with disappointment. I no longer viewed misfortunes as the end of all happiness; they instead became mere drawbacks. Being raised by lower-middle-class parents, in one of the “less wealthy” neighborhoods of Rio Claro, this proved to be a valuable lesson.
While Super Mario Brothers is much more than a mere game, it IS a game, nonetheless. The player is having fun, despite the fact that reptilian monstrosities are attacking him. This taught me that life should be enjoyed, even when it may seem, at times, unbearable. It is all too easy to dismiss existence as an endless stream of torment.
Super Mario Brothers, in the end, is a game with a message. It has taught me many valuable lessons about real life. I’d say that’s a pretty amazing task- for a mere videogame.