Every Copy is Personalized
"Every copy of Super Mario 64 is personalized because Super Mario 64 is only relevant, only significant, only real in our mind’s eye when it is personalized."
Hello, mollusk. Did you heard the gospel? I am here to tell you that, indeed, L is real 2401. Eternal star. Every copy is personalized.
The year 2020 has been on a consistent nosedive into a deep, dark void, more and more nightmarish with the passing of each sullen month. But people who give their opinions regarding current issues on the internet are stupid! Let's not go there. (the upcoming episode of the Put It on My Bill show will, unfortunately, feature my stupid self talking about the aforementioned opinions, so stay tuned, get excited, and buy a gun so that you can come kill me if you disagree!)
Instead, let's you and I talk about Super Mario 64.
I'll preface this by saying that I never actually do research or anything before I write articles. I'm not a journalist, least of all a games journalist. If I ever came close to that, I'd hope that you, my dearest of friends, would inform me. Then, with that newfound knowledge, I'd quickly dive off of the nearest overpass and find out whether my childhood pastor was right about all those interesting things he would talk about. Because I'm not doing intense research about this topic, you'll likely miss out on some finer historical details. Which is okay! If you didn't come to this website to become more ignorant and uninformed, why did you come here? J-just kidding.
In the past couple of months, the mystique surrounding Super Mario 64 has become more and more of a hot button to losers like me who, instead of using this global pandemic as an opportunity to do good in my community, refine my craft, or try to create more content, have been lying on their couches eating pecan sandies and consuming other, better people's content on YouTube. Why, you may ask, is this previously obscure, little-known video game suddenly popular? It's actually pretty cool.
Super Mario 64, obviously, was the first major three-dimensional platformer. It, like previous flagship Mario games before it, completely changed the landscape of how video games were made forever when it was released in 1996. It is probably the most iconic and influential video game released in the last 25 years. It has had a personal hand in the childhoods of countless people, spanning across borders and generations. From the levels, to the music, to the little gameplay quirks, there is nothing about this game that isn't memorable and recognizable to anyone who's played it.
All these years later, there have been three phenomenons that have kept this fossil of a game alive and breathing. A holy trinity. The first is speedrunning, as without a doubt Super Mario 64 is the most popular game in the speedrunning community. The second is the collective nostalgia of old fans of the game. People who grew up with it, talked about it, shared experiences with friends. Those who still remember it today. Now, I'm not much for speedrunning. It's damn fun to watch, but a little too intense and serious for a lazy, smooth-brained mitochondria like myself. What I AM into, as anyone who reads these articles is sure to have picked up on, and become tired of, is shared nostalgia relating to collective, generational memories.
The third, most intriguing and longest-lasting byproduct of Super Mario 64 is the urban myths and mystery surrounding both specified occurrences and details within the game and its world, and the nature of the video game itself.
My most favoritest thing in all of my most favoritest things (excuse the complex language) is when something exists in a video game that is unexplained, context-free, and ill-fitting to the point that it elicits fear from the human mind. There is an occurrence that, in every light, with every possible excuse used, does not belong and goes nowhere. Often times these can be spooky in more explicit and concrete ways, not only strange and perplexing, but generally speaking the more mysterious and unnerving instances stand out as plain scarier than any actual attempt at horror. To be disturbed is more uncomfortable and long-lasting than it is to be startled.
Because of how nuanced this is, it's hard to find good examples of this. Stuff like the infamous billboard in the Nintendo 64 racing game, California Speed, which would've gone completely unnoticed and blended in perfectly with the backdrop of the game, if it weren't for the jarring lack of graphics on the billboard, instead featuring the unnerving and completely inappropriate message, in plain text and messy type;
"SoMETIMES. God TaKes MOMMIES. aNd PuPPIES AWAY… And SoMETIMES… Just SoMETIMES… I do."
One game, however, that has always provided a generous collection of unnerving, mysterious and irrelevant content is Super Mario 64. Maybe not as overt as the above example, but hey, we like subtlety here at Put It on My Bill. With this, we can get back on track and talk about the topic of this article. Only 850 words in. Expertly structured and paced, as always, Bill!
Recently on social media, an image has been making the rounds. "Iceberg images" has been a meme for quite a few years now, usually having been used to describe the depths that can lie below the surfaces of things like music genres, hobbies, or in this case, conspiracy theories. Here, we have an iceberg for Super Mario 64 conspiracies, mysteries and, generally speaking, spooky spookies. This now infamous iceberg image lists an increasingly obscure and undefined series of mysteries and occurrences in and relating to Super Mario 64, all of which are super-intriguing to me. There's a very well produced and informative video by Mish Koz on YouTube that explains most of the details mentioned. I watch it religiously. I'll link it at the end of this article. Eventually, when we reach the bottom of the iceberg, we are presented with a cold, cold reality - every copy of Super Mario 64 is personalized.
Every copy of Super Mario 64 is personalized. And with that phrase, with this image, floodgates opened up for people. People who wanted to share their own disturbed perception of a childhood classic. People with viewpoints and opinions. People creative enough to try and explore different aspects of horror possible with this game. There's a hell of a rabbit hole you can go down just by searching that cursed phrase on YouTube or Google. The 07/29/1995 beta build. The Wario apparition, the Bowser room. Whole playlists, compilations. It's one of those little phenomenons that make you proud to be using the internet. To be a silent part of a community. Watching people revive 2010-era formulaic creepypasta, but retroactively upgraded through everyone's own growth and reimagining of what horror means to them and how far they can take it.
Every copy of Super Mario 64 is personalized. Why is that? Why does this game, of all games, contain so much of the inconceivable brand of horror I described earlier? Why is it this icon in our collective mind? As one of the most popular video games of all time, it has this strange binding quality to it, this ability to warp itself around individual perception. Because it's been perceived by so many, processed differently each time, and because, as a video game, it is such a basic, malleable and undefined premise, Super Mario 64 exists outside of itself. Super Mario 64 is personalized. Every copy.
Am I making sense?
A comment on the aforementioned video from a user named FangTheWerewolf put it in a great light;
"I’ve been saying it for years- this game doesn’t feel like it should exist. It feels like some cursed bootleg romhack from some third world country with no links to who created it"
I had added on to this comment in a reply, and this is what led me to writing an article about it;
"It’s early enough into the 3D age that it seems almost uncanny, like a test of technical capability. It’s accessible enough to everyone and has basically no story or premise at all aside from the introductory letter from peach and the general premise of bowser taking over the castle and you have to defeat him.
It never feels like that though because you never actually see any signs of the castle being taken over! All of the staff (toads) are still there and seemingly passive and docile about it all. The only difference is a lack of Peach. Everything significant that happens in the game happens in-the-castle but not in-the-castle.
You never encounter any people, hardly any signs of friendly life when you go into paintings, they’re these lonely, quiet little spaces that you occupy for a short time, doing a lot of something, collecting or moving things or whatever. But it feels like a lot of nothing. You get a star but you don’t feel like you accomplished anything. And you do this for hours and hours.
Really this game’s only true significance is as a collective shared experience. There is no story, there is no narrative or message or meaning. It’s not even a particularly better game than any other platformers of the time. The reason it still holds meaningful space in our minds is the existence of this game as some kind of cultural value for us or our generation. As something to speed run, or make romhacks of, or make memes of or references to.
Every copy of Super Mario 64 is personalized because Super Mario 64 is only relevant, only significant, only real in our mind’s eye when it is personalized."
This is a game that perfects the art of unexplainable horror. Discomfort stemming from a lack of context. Super Mario 64 does this by its very principle. Nothing seems concrete and real, it all just seems to exist two-dimensionally. Ironic, as it is again the first major three-dimensional video game. Everything in this game is perceived but not actualized.
Shit, man, it's one in the morning and I'm getting deep. I have work in seven hours. I only hope that I make even a shred of sense, and am not just coming off as some mentally ill man whose possession of a keyboard is a danger to the functioning society around him. Which, for all intents and purposes, I am.
I hope that in this article, I was able to speak to some feelings you may have experienced, but not been able to fully understand... regarding a game that no one's been able to understand, but everyone has experienced. I wanted to talk about this because, since this whole reemergence of Super Mario 64 as something potentially horrific, I haven't been able to find any closure in my own thoughts. But hey! Isn't that just classic Put It on My Bill?
In the coming days, I will be sharing a small follow-up article relating to the very recent and perplexing worldwide news that L is, indeed, real 2401. Until then, I thank you, mollusk, very very much for reading my article. I love you. Be safe. So long, Gay Bowser.