As of late, I’ve been getting a lot of comments about the name I chose for my website. The easy accessibility of my website within trolling distance of computer-savvy, basement-dwelling maladroits notwithstanding, I decided that my subscribers were indeed entitled to an explanation…
When I was five years old, by far my favorite Christmas present that year was a “brand new” (relatively) Nintendo Entertainment System. I remember watching my mom and dad practically tripping over cables and checking channel after channel until it was set up and working properly. My mother handed me the controller and said, “Have fun!” I sort of stared at the controller, not really knowing what to do. Eventually, however, the title screen of “Duck Hunt” came on and I was kind of freaked out by what was happening; particularly when my father replaced the standard rectangular controller in my hands for the red, plastic hunting gun that would be used to pick off any ducks that the ever-loyal lumbering, snickering dog would flush out of the bushes for his master.
After a few minutes of experimental gameplay, I found myself getting into a steady rhythm and indeed managed to thin the duck flock considerably (just for the record, it isn’t really “cheating” if you stand an inch away from the TV set to shoot; it’s strategy). I also discovered that it was possible to shoot and kill the dog if one was so inclined (it was laughing at me!) After about an hour or so, my mother asked if I wished to play the other game.
… other game?
Super Mario Bros., of course. It apparently came as a duo with Duck Hunt and it was my first time meeting those renowned plump little plumbers. A simple switch of the cartridges and soon I was hitting the START button to guide Luigi (I chose to play as him because he looked taller and I thought blue/green was a cooler combo than blue/red) through the Mushroom Kingdom to rescue Princess Peach (way cooler for a five-year old than all the cliched stories I’d been subjected to in my kindergarten class until such a point).
Of course, I did the standard Mario Bros. actions such as jumping, eating mushrooms, growing, stomping on Goombas and stomping on/stealing shells from Koopas, but what I could most vividly recall were the coins. Golden, rotating 8-bit discs either concealed in blocks or floating in mid-air, waiting for someone to collect them. For some reason, I refused to allow myself to move forward until I collected every coin on my screen. It took me a while longer to finish the level, but oddly I felt more secure going further into the game and taking on its challenges.
This trend didn’t end with Mario Bros. For every game, I regarded each collectible as a something that was meant to be collected and accumulated until I was awarded an extra life, extra superpower, and so on. Even today, when I feel the urge to play Yo-Kai Watch again, I have a difficult time traversing areas on the map until I’m sure that I have left no stone upturned or character spoken to.
For a long time, I never bothered to question this behavior until I began to seriously examine my life outside of the realm of video games and fiction. I asked myself, how is what I did on that Nintendo different from what I do now?
The answer is “not much.” In a way, we all have to be a little like Mario (Luigi if you feel tall and underappreciated). We go through “stages” in our lives, stomp on “Goombas” who try to hinder us and we eventually “rescue” non-playable characters who have been waiting for someone like us to come into their lives for one reason or another. But we cannot do that without collecting coins. We need to accumulate anything that will help us along the way to provide us with what we need when things look bleak.
For me, a “coin” (or its equivalents) is not just a coin. In my adult life, I seek to accumulate as many experiences, as much information and as much understanding of my world as it has to offer. Any experience, for good or bad, inevitably leaves me with more to work with than I could have had before it. I truly believe that, in a way, we all need to be like those plumbers and collect all that is available to us to help us on our way.
We should all endeavor to become masters of our lives and environments, and in order to do that… we need to keep collecting those coins!
And besides, the domain name “DucknDogSlayer” just didn’t seem appropriate.