You are Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Super Mario.
Okay, you are Bernie Madoff. You had nothing to do with creating Mario, and you can’t go to PAX because you are in prison.
Yes, you are Shigeru. Long ago you had a dream about a plumber who murders turtles. After years of hard work and dedication, you have finally turned that dream into a video game called Super Mario.
However, nobody will play your turtle-murder game if they don’t know it exists. The only way to make Super Mario a success is to promote it at the PAX game convention.
PAX is a big room full of video games. Gamers try the video games, and if they like a video game, then they buy the video game.
Making Super Mario stand out at PAX is absolutely necessary if you want it to be a financial success.
A video game is like a book but better because it has moving images and sound. A video game is also like a movie but worse, because while they both have moving images and sound, the video game forces you to work nonstop instead of being able to sit back and relax like you can during a movie.
A video game can be viewed as either a really good book or a really bad movie.
PAX is bustling with thousands of gamers that don’t know about Super Mario. If you explore the convention, maybe you’ll find a way to get the word out.
You leave the keynote address and return to the PAX lobby. You still need to find a way to show your beautiful Super Mario creation to the world. What would you like to do now?
You make your way to a massive hall where thousands are competing for supremacy in the breakout game of the year, Blizzard Entertainment’s Lords Of Cash.
“You are Shigeru,” says the tournament administrator. “Do you remember the rules of Lords Of Cash?”
“Lords Of Cash is an action/puzzle/cash-acquisition game designed to test the limits of your reflexes and memory. In Lords Of Cash there are three worlds. The object is to advance through the three worlds, collecting as much cash as possible.”
“Nice. Lords Of Cash is kind of like that, but better.”
“That’s great. Do you want to play Lords Of Cash now?”
You boot up the system and begin playing Lords Of Cash.
You are in World 1.
You are in World 1.
You are in World 2 of Lords Of Cash.
You are in World 2 of Lords Of Cash.
You are now in World 3 of Lords Of Cash.
Bowser has appeared.
You jump. Bowser gets closer and closer until his mouth takes up the entire screen.
The screen flashes “GAME OVER.”
You have died in Lords Of Cash.
You deposit a bunch of cash in the machine.
“Impressive game!” says the tournament administrator. “You are a true lord of cash! Did you like the game?”
“Yes, that’s supposed to happen. It’s impossible to get any other result.”
“That sounds bad. Go away from me.”
Okay, good choice. PAX is famous for bringing beautiful video game legends from all over the world to complain about things on a big stage. This year’s keynote speaker is the evil scientist Dr. Robotnik from classic games like Sonic The Hedgehog, and Dr. Robotnik’s Virtual Swimming Lessons For Windows 95.
Dr. Robotnik’s Virtual Swimming Lessons For Windows 95 was Sega’s attempt to make interactive software that taught customers how to swim using the computer. Customers would place their Windows 95 desktop computer at the side of a swimming pool and plug it into an outlet using a long extension cord. When players turned on the game, Dr. Robotnik would emerge shirtless from the ocean and start shouting swimming instructions from the screen while players struggled to stay afloat in the pool. Unfortunately, due to limited technology at the time, Dr. Robotnik’s voice was very hard to understand, and it sounded like the only piece of swimming advice he was shouting was “Lick your fins!” This is terrible swimming advice, bordering on nonsense, and as a result, thousands of people drowned in the pool while trying to learn to swim while Dr. Robotnik shouted “Lick your fins!” at them from their computer screens. The game was discontinued. For some reason, the game was published by Major League Baseball, whose only response to the controversy was, “Listen, everybody drowns, and sometimes it’s Dr. Robotnik’s fault. Thank you for watching baseball.”
You walk into the lecture hall where Dr. Robotnik is going to be giving his keynote address. A voice comes over the loudspeaker and says, “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage the founder of PAX, Steve Jobs!”
Everyone in the audience rises to their feet and starts applauding Steve Jobs, the beloved creator of PAX.
The audience continues to applaud as Steve Jobs walks on stage, carrying a brand-new Macintosh computer.
Steve Jobs: “Hello! I’m Jobs. You know, it’s incredible to see such an amazing turnout at this year’s PAX. When I first created PAX two years ago, I had one simple goal: create the ultimate gaming convention where people can come together to get yelled at by their favorite video game characters. This year, the man we’ve chosen to yell at all of you is truly incredible. His speech is called, ‘Take My Address Off Of Google Maps.’ Please welcome to the stage Dr. Robotnik!”
Dr. Robotnik walks onto the stage. He and Steve Jobs share a passionate kiss on the mouth. Steve Jobs whispers the words “iPod 3” into Dr. Robotnik’s ear as he leaves the stage. Dr. Robotnik steps up to the microphone.
Dr. Robotnik: “Hello, PAX. Listen, take my home address off of Google Maps. People keep typing, ‘Dr. Robotnik’s Apartment’ into Google Maps and it tells them where I live and they find me and they make my life miserable. I don’t have time to deal with these people.”
Dr. Robotnik: “Here is my problem: As you know, in the Sonic The Hedgehog games, my evil plot often involved taking animals and turning them into robots. Now people Google where I live, and they bring their animals to me and ask me to turn them into various appliances. They say, ‘I need you to turn this hyena into a vacuum cleaner because my son burned down and I need to vacuum his ashes off of the floor.’ Or they’ll say, ‘I need you to turn this camel into a gun so that I can shoot a different camel.’ Or they’ll say, ‘I need you to turn this fox into a VCR so I can watch a VHS compilation of famous shipwrecks.’ This happens to me every day. I simply cannot stand it.”
Dr. Robotnik: “One day I heard a knock on my door and there was a lady standing there with a gorilla in handcuffs and she said, ‘Listen to me, you round lunatic, I found your apartment on Google Maps. I need you to turn this gorilla into a toaster. My husband recently died and left me his big duffle bag full of bread, and I do not have any way to make it into toast.’ And so I took the gorilla into my garage and did my science to turn him into a toaster, and it took me all day and the gorilla called me names in sign language like ‘Big Mr. Hell’ and ‘Fat Mr. Huge Problem’ while I replaced his organs with machinery. It was awful. So please change Google Maps so that when you search for ‘Dr. Robotnik’s Apartment’ it directs you to the nearest cemetery so that everybody thinks I am dead. Thank you for listening to my PAX speech about video games. Goodbye.”
Dr. Robotnik leaves the stage to a standing ovation. The keynote address has come to an end.
Since you reserved your booth at the last minute, the only space they had left for you was in the bathroom.
Unfortunately, the bathroom is completely empty, and there is nobody here to tell about Super Mario. Nobody at PAX ever uses the toilet, because that would mean less time to look at video games. Unless you can lure people into the bathroom, you won’t be able to promote Mario here.
Good idea. If the toilet starts spewing water and ruining PAX, people will come to fix it. How do you want to clog the toilet?
The toilet is designed to flush toilet paper. It slurps down all the paper without a problem. You’ll have to try something else.
You stick your head into the toilet and flush, successfully clogging it and also successfully drowning yourself.
When people come to fix the toilet they find your corpse jammed in the bowl, which makes them really wish there was a game where you can get sucked down sewer pipes. That game is Super Mario, but unfortunately you’re dead so you can’t tell them about it.
“Hello, I’m at PAX to promote my virtual-reality game,” says a game developer. “VR is a great new way of staring at things. Would you like to stare at things?”
“The simulation can create any object you ask for,” says the game dev as he hands you a pair of VR goggles. “Just say something, and it’ll appear before you in virtual reality so you can stare at it.”
What do you want to stare at?
“Thanks for trying out my VR game! I have been watching pornography this whole time. Want to stare at something else?”
An ice sculpture of Master Chief, the main soldier from the Halo game series, is set up in one of the aisles at PAX.
An ice carver overhears you. “Excuse me, did you say that my ice sculpture of Master Chief does not look like Master Chief? What’s wrong with it?”
The ice carver curses. “Damn it, now I have to start all over. Can you do me a favor and throw out this sculpture of Short Master Chief? It’s worthless garbage.”
You pick up the ice sculpture of Short Master Chief. As you walk away with it, the ice carver calls out a warning to you. “And make sure you throw it in a garbage can! Don’t try to flush an ice sculpture down the toilet, or it’ll clog it and make a huge flood! I learned that the hard way!”
You are lugging an ice sculpture of Short Master Chief with you around PAX. Perhaps it can help you promote Super Mario somehow, if you can figure out a way to use it.
Short Master Chief is quickly turning into a puddle. You should probably take it to your booth before it melts.
If it does melt, you’ll have to get another one.
You drag a rapidly melting ice sculpture of Short Master Chief into the toilet stall that is the Super Mario booth.
You admire Short Master Chief in the bathroom for several minutes until it melts away into a puddle of water. It’s probably a good thing you didn’t flush the ice sculpture down the toilet. That would have clogged it and caused a massive flood, and nobody at PAX would have been happy about that.
Short Master Chief clogs the toilet. Water rapidly fills the bowl, floods the bathroom, then surges across PAX in a huge wave of wet, technically-clean-but-still-gross toilet water.
You hear unhappy screams from thousands of wet PAX attendees. You hear people yelling things like “PAX is ruined!,” “I am too wet to play games!,” and “Send the plumbers!”
“Hello, we are plumbers,” says a large crowd of plumbers, speaking in unison. “We are here to fix the toilet and save PAX from flooding.”
“We’ll get this toilet fixed in a jiffy,” say the plumbers. “Too bad we don’t have free time to try out games at PAX because we’re so busy plumbing.”
The plumbers unclog the toilet and it stops pouring out water. The flooding gradually recedes and you hear celebratory cheers from happy gamers outside the bathroom shouting things like “I am dry now!,” “PAX is saved!,” and “Hooray for plumbers!”
Their job complete, the plumbers immediately leave PAX in search of more toilets to fix. You missed your chance to promote Super Mario to them.
You hop on a plane back home to Japan, where you shut down your company, Nintendo. Everything was riding on the success of Super Mario, and without marketing at PAX, the game sells zero copies and you go bankrupt. Your creditors seize every last copy of Super Mario and shred them up into paste to feed to hogs.
However, you don’t regret losing your career or having your beloved game destroyed. When you faced the ethical choice of whether to save Super Mario or PAX, you did the right thing and put innocent game convention attendees first.
Although you failed to promote Super Mario at PAX, you can sleep easy at night with an unburdened conscience. That is a far greater prize than the fleeting success of any video game.
The plumbers eagerly line up to play your demo of Super Mario. “We are thrilled to play as a plumber who murders turtles. In real life, people complain when plumbers murder a turtle. Super Mario is a dream come true! We will tell every plumber we know about Super Mario!”
Congratulations, you have promoted Super Mario at PAX and made it a breakout hit amongst plumbers! The game convention remains flooded and ruined! You win!
One booth at PAX is promoting a game series called “ClickVentures,” whatever the hell that is. You decide to stop by and scope out your competition.
Steve Wozniak greets you as you enter the booth. “Hello, welcome to the ClickVenture Experience at PAX,” says the co-founder of Apple computers.
“I’m afraid not,” Wozniak says apologetically. “I was hoping to get my latest ClickVenture done in time for PAX, but it’s still incomplete and unplayable. You can look at what I have so far if you want, but it’s just a peek of the software I use to make these incredible games.”
“Apple doesn’t make games. Not anymore,” says Wozniak. “Steve Jobs and I parted ways, and we divided the company’s businesses between us. He got the computers, iPhones, and iPads, and I got the ClickVentures.”
Wozniak leans in conspiratorially. “What a sucker! I got 100 percent of ClickVentures just for trading away 50 percent of Apple. Now Steve Jobs is stuck selling telephones in a store while I got the lucrative part of the company: slide-based interactive fiction you can play for free on the internet.”
“No, but you can press buttons to look at photographs,” boasts Wozniak. “Depending on which buttons you press, you can look at different photographs. I didn’t even mention the best part: There’s text you can read beneath the photos. If you love games where you can press buttons in order to look at pictures and read, you’re going to love ClickVentures.”
You’re starting to feel pretty bad for Steve Wozniak. You thought Super Mario faced some challenges at becoming successful, but this ClickVenture thing doesn’t even have animation or sound effects.
“Thanks,” says Steve Wozniak as he grins with dumb pride. “Ad-supported browser games where you read text beneath a static photo are the future, and I’m certain my ClickVentures will take off at PAX.”