Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Trapped in a convention center and bored out of my mind...

... which made me think of the MAME software I just installed on my laptop (a particularly neat little program that tricks your computer into thinking it's a working 80's arcade cabinet, allowing you to play all kinds of pixelated but fun games), which in turn made me think of Donkey Kong.

Great game, lousy name.

That game was followed by Donkey Kong, Jr., which I had a lot of trouble understanding as a little kid. So in the first game, you were Mario, the heroic carpenter, scaling dangerous buildings and construction sites in an attempt to free your girlfriend from the evil giant monkey, Donkey Kong, right? So after I had pumped allowance after allowance into that machine, constantly fending off the evil monkey and rescuing the girl, spending hours and days and weeks helping the carpenter best the ape... Donkey Kong Jr. came out.

And now, all of a sudden, Mario was the bad guy. And I had to play as Donkey Kong Jr., helping poor old Donkey Kong escape from the evil Mario.  As an eight-year-old who thought too much, I was very, very confused. Wasn't Mario the good guy? Wasn't Donkey Kong the bad guy?

I remember at the local arcade they had the two games, Donkey Kong and Jr., right next to each other, and I felt strangely compelled to play them in a logically story-based order. In other words, I'd put a quarter in Donkey Kong, and Mario would defeat Donkey Kong. Then I'd put a quarter in Donkey Kong Jr., and I'd help the little chimp rescue his father, whom I'd just defeated. Then I'd feel obliged to go back to the original game and catch him again, because that damn monkey kidnapped my girlfriend again! Then I felt bad about it, and would put a quarter in Donkey Kong Jr. and rescue him, because darn if he didn't look awfully sad and pathetic in that tiny cage. It got expensive after a while, because I was really much better at Spy Hunter and Ms. Pac-Man.

Young Jim pondered for far too long about what type of moral lesson he should draw from this. Female safety and the sanctity of construction sites, or animal rights and the evils of tiny cages? Was I not listening to enough Kenny Chesney music? Or was I just destined to be confused forever?

Then Donkey Kong 3 came out, and I had my answer.

See, DK3 cleared up the epic story perfectly. In Donkey Kong 3, Mario the carpenter was no longer anywhere to be found (presumably, he was off in the sewers with his twin brother Luigi, a humiliating demotion for the once proud carpenter, no doubt caused by his primate fixation and the fact that, well, to be honest, he was a pretty poor carpenter, evidenced by the way he never actually built anything).  Instead, some other heroic character was taking his place, armed not with high-jumpy boots or hammers, but instead with a can of bug spray. And the only way he could defeat Donkey Kong this time... and I promise I'm not making this up... was to spray the giant monkey's butt repeatedly, until Donkey Kong ran away.

It was some time around this point in my youth that I realized my life never would make much sense.

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