Mario Is Not a Plumber!

September 6, 2017

…and other myths, legends, and rumors you probably believe about video games.

Mario from Super Mario Bros. is a plumber.

Mario is probably the most famous video game character of all time. Even the casual video game fan—or non-gamer—could identify what Mario does for a living when he isn’t saving the princess or racing go-karts. He’s a plumber. Well, according to Nintendo, the company that created Mario and has released dozens of games starring the character—it’s not true. Or at least it’s not anymore. According to the character’s bio on Nintendo’s Japanese-language website, Mario is “all around sporty” and “he does everything cool. As a matter of fact, he also seems to have worked as a plumber a long time ago.” So he isn’t even a plumber anymore—it’s presented as an afterthought.

Pong was the first video game.

Long before we had technologically advanced home consoles like the Xbox or PlayStation plugged into our TVs, gamers had to get their fix at video arcades. Those popped up in the late ‘70s, showcasing Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and the one that started it all, Pong. The incredibly simple game—a white line on each side of the screen hit a white dot back and forth, a two-dimensional simulation of table tennis, debuted in the mid-‘70s. It was the first popular video game—but it wasn’t the first ever video game. The first real electronic game was another video tennis program called Tennis for Two, created at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York in 1958 to demonstrate the potential of computers. There were many more pre-Pong video games, too, such as Spacewar, created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1962). The first coin-operated arcade game was Computer Space (1971), while the first home gaming console was the Magnavox Odyssey, which hit stores in 1972. It offered a game called Table TennisPong before Pong.

Blowing into an NES cartridge made it work better.

In between the coin-operated arcade games of yesteryear and the disc-based games of today came the era in video game history dominated by the Nintendo Entertainment System. Once in a while, games would run slow or glitch out, but there was a popular, well-known solution: Remove the cartridge from the system and blow on the open slot on the game where the connector pins sat. A quick burst of air removed accumulated dust, the game was re-inserted, and play resumed. As it turns out, blowing in cartridges really did work…until it didn’t anymore. Experts say that the microscopic amounts of moisture in a breath would align the pins on the cartridge with those in the system, making the game function. But over time, built-up moisture could cause games to permanently malfunction.

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