I think that there are some video game characters that will just never go away. Like, probably ever. How many of you have never heard of Mario, or Sonic, or Donkey Kong, or Zelda (if you haven’t, you have been living in a cave. A very, very remote cave. On another planet). And how many of you have never heard of POKEMON, probably the most successful game franchise ever (though I have not technically researched this, just that everybody I have ever known has a soft spot for Pokemon and most of these have had at least 3 of their games. Gameboy Colour, anyone)? Some game characters have become so well-ingrained into our psyche that they are more like cultural icons than playable entities, an EXCELLENT THING in my opinion as it encourages our future younglings to think imaginatively whilst playing games and whilst considering the aspects of the characters that we like so much. Far better role models and alter-egos than Ronald McDonald or Clippy (that paperclip from Microsoft Word, who was also a prominent animated character during my growing-up. I liked him at the time but on reflection he was very transparent).
Mario in particular, has stuck in my head over the years as potentially the King of video game characters who will not ever go away. Perhaps he had found the Philosopher’s Stone. I prominently remember sitting for hours on end in the kitchen with my dad screaming in horror at Bowser’s castle – do you remember Mario Sunshine? Of course you do. Or even if you don’t, the repeated pitfalls and obstacles within all Mario games are likely to resound with something in your memory (you can’t have had an entire childhood without experiencing at least a fragment of the Mario world, even if it was in one of those shitty Mario Kart arcade games that you find taped onto the front of bowling alleys in England). More recently I remember Mario Kart (the cause of the upwards rise in divorces – ask anyone) and Super Mario Bros for the Wii U which myself and my boyfriend have battled through (him a lot more quickly than me). And throughout all of these – throughout their history and my childhood – Mario has been the same, with the same motives, and the same cast of cool characters, all bobbing along in unison to the iconic music and himself yelling “MEXICO!” at regular intervals, myself often chanting along in a one-fan-chorus (it is Mexico that he shouts, isn’t it? Is somebody about to tell me that I’m wrong and shake the entire foundation of my youth)? Mario has gained not one wrinkle, and his world has never developed via new Mario-related releases past the point of recognition. He is a modern classic, in the way that Dickens is a classic writer whose stories consistently arise at Christmas and Mozart a classic musician, who will forever give Classic FM radio hosts a boner. He will never “get old” – metaphorically, as in we won’t tire of him, and literally, because he is a bloody animation and we are probably going to be playing him with part-glee, part-obligation for the rest of time based upon this fact.
Mario’s cast, along with Sonic’s and Donkey Kong’s and Zelda’s and Ash’s, are all glaringly inventive and bright, and our society defies those who try to replicate it. You cannot kill what is inventive and bright, nor can you copy – which makes the chances of them ever dying infinitesimally small. How many times do we see in today’s entertainment culture the same characters getting regurgitated by different authors and made their own? How many times does that really aggressively take the biscuit? Alice in Wonderland seems to be everybody’s motif these days – not that she wasn’t an excellent character to begin with – but when will creators start creating their own original ideas? Of course, it is always hard to come up with something completely original (perhaps impossible) but the effort to do so would at least not go ignored. But you can never copy classic video game characters in such a way. Mario, in his seat as an icon, can never be replicated by another – for it would be too damn obvious. You just wouldn’t get away with it – another prominent reason as to why we will likely never be visiting his grave. He can be the Only One. I was absolutely mortified when Digimon came out, believing it to be a sad replication of the never-ending Pokemon – and indeed, where is Digimon today? You cannot copy what will never die and what is so unabashedly in the limelight, for the copy will always be shirked in favour of the original. Nor could you imitate Sonic or Zelda. They are irreplaceable, as cherished a memory as your favourite holiday or birthday party or Christmas present.
More than this, these characters are supposedly always aimed at “kids” – meaning that they rise from the ashes like a phoenix every time a new baby is born to a game-loving individual. Obviously, everybody knows that they are not-so-secretly actually for the adults that grew up in that generation to steal off these aforementioned babies that they’re popping out. Because you can’t go wrong with such games. Having babies is just an excuse to play these games over and over (and having something to love and keep on the family name, blah blah blah, sure). Your favourite characters are magically tireless, and make us such in turn, forever-fond of their games and encouraging those younger than us to keep up their good names. I will never not create interesting curses whilst playing Mario Kart, and will always want to continue murking my family members at it – the thrill of competition and the happiness linked to memories of Mario keeps this game undeniably alive. Nintendo has done it again. Similarly I will never pass up a game of Sonic, because the Sonic franchise is closely interlinked with my feelings of happiness as a child. More still I will never not find Pokemon fun – they use the same structure over and over, but catching new Pokemon – catching them ALL – hasn’t that been their idea all along? And guess what – WE WILL NEVER CATCH THEM ALL – because they will always be creating new ones. The crafty bastards. Our quest continues. We are taunted by its eternity, and we love it. We love them. And real love – cheese-avalanche impending – will never die.