In a shocking revelation that everyone's been fully aware of for going on thirty years now, legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto finally "revealed" that Super Mario Brothers 3 was, in fact, a stage play. I mean, intrepid players may have guessed this from the curtain which rises in the beginning and closes in the end, not to mention the curtain call of all the levels and...but I digress. It's now at least revealed to be canonical.
I wanted to be able to get riled up about this. I'm not that hard to rile up about things, really. And Super Mario Brothers 3 is a game I've played quite possibly longer and more often than any other, to include the original SMB. We never had a Super Nintendo growing up, and only about 4 or 5 games, so SMB3 was a staple of my gaming life from its release in 1988 (actually, before that, considering I first learned about it from watching "The Wizard" in the theater...) until I finally got my next generation system, the Nintendo 64, in 1998. So ten years. And it's not like I ever really stopped playing it - I have it on my Wii even now.
So, point being, SMB3 is important to me, maybe even more important than it is to the average video gaming nerd. And instead of being infuriated or whatever the expected response is to finding out that it was "fictional," I found myself unable to ignore the ridiculousness of the concept.
I mean, of course SMB3 is fictional. It's exactly as fictional now after this Shyamalanesque reveal as it was the day I first picked up a controller to play it. There's real and there's non-real, and SMB3 has always been decidedly non-real.
I mean, you can raise the "Inception"-style question of what "level" of reality SMB3 takes place on. Let's take SMB1 as an example. There are basically two planes of reality.
1 - Reality
2 - The Mushroom Kingdom
I occupy reality, and Mario occupies the Mushroom Kingdom. Most fiction is this basic. Now let's take a look at SMB2. Here we have three levels of reality.
1 - Reality
2 - The Mushroom Kingdom
3 - Subcon
I occupy reality. According to the premise of the second game, Mario is in the Mushroom Kingdom. He falls asleep and enters the (fictional?) world of Subcon. Theoretically, SMB2 is two layers of reality removed from me. But, really...it's all made up, right?
So now let's look at SMB3 with our "new" data. Like SMB2, we now have three layers of reality.
1 - Reality
2 - ???
3 - The Mushroom World
I occupy reality. One layer down from that someone is conducting a stageplay. The stageplay is The Mushroom World. Perhaps the level where the stageplay is occurring is meant to be ostensibly "real" but in the same sense that "Days of Our Lives" is meant to be ostensibly "real" but it's still fiction, this level is still fictional. And it may, alternatively, be overtly fictional, like the residents of the Mushroom Kingdom decided to put on a show and this was it.
The reason I don't give a shit is because it's all fictional. Just because "Mousetrap" is positioned as a play-within-a-play in "Hamlet," neither "Mousetrap" nor "Hamlet" is real. Nor is "Hamlet" any more real by dint of not being "Mousetrap." They're both equally fictional.
"Inception" made great hay out of this concept. To a lesser extent, so did "The Matrix." "Inception" at least had the balls to hint that reality may not be what it seems, while I remain disappointed to this day that the last scene of "The Matrix" wasn't Neo realizing that the world he thought was real was really simply another Matrix. (I had that shit pegged from the first time he had magic powers in the real world - but alas, he really did have magic powers. Although, of course, he didn't because he's not real...ugh, this is making my head hurt.)
I guess my point is I've always thought this was a stupid thing to worry about. People often complain about the "just a dream" ending. Like, remember how upset people were when it turned out that "St. Elsewhere" took place inside a child's mind?
I've been confused about this shit forever. Did you think that when it was happening on your TV it was real, but since it turns out that it was happening a level down in the mind of a kid who was on your TV that it was suddenly unreal? Like, what difference does it make? The stakes have literally not changed. Your investment in a fictive character remains the same whatever level of fictionality he exists on.
One of my favorite shows, "Life on Mars" turned out to be all a dream - a simulation of a dude in cold sleep on his way to Mars. People got really upset about this because I guess because they felt like their time had been wasted because (and I want to reiterate this point) they weren't watching a real fictional cop show, they were watching a fake fictional cop show.
I dunno. I know the "just a dream" ending pisses a lot of people off. And I guess if it's just crap writing it would piss me off, too. But when it's not crap writing, when it really turns out that something was just a dream - why be any more irritated about that than anything else?
Feel free to sound off in the comments. I know from experience a ton of you feel super strongly about the "just a dream" thing.
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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