“Trust me, I’ve done ‘shrooms before”
In the Mushroom Kingdom, toadstools are king. Many inhabitants are genetically modified mushrooms capable of walking, talking, and even sassing Luigi. They are the base ingredient to many of Super Mario’s super powers, and each game in the Mario series sees new, undiscovered species of epic shroomery delight.
But we’re here to talk about one fungi in particular: the Amanita Muscaria mushroom – ya know, this little guy?
For decades, people have known that it is absolutely crucial to acquire a mushroom before digesting the flower of fire or feather of cape. Such delicacies are only potentiated by a heavy dose of Fly Agaric, but perhaps the psychedelic nature of the power-up mushroom has a different property that affects not only Mario, but the player and any bystanders within the vicinity, watching Mario trek through the Mushroom Kingdom.
Could it be, that instead of making Mario grow bigger, Nintendo has messed with us, yet again, and actually just subtly transformed the world around Mariointo a slightly smaller space?
And before you disavow such a view, attributing the lack of transformative effects to Mario’s surrounding world, or the fact that Mario appears physically larger than that of his previous state, just remember: they’re making YOU trip too.
As a small child, I played enough Mario to know what happens when you eat mushrooms. Fast-forward 20 years or so, and I came to the realization that the aforementioned effects weren’t a good representation of what a mushroom trip feels like.
Instead, they were a sort of visual representation of how I would look from a 3rd-person perspective. There I was, sitting in my bedroom, watching not myself grow, but rather, the room shrink. At that moment, it became clear to me: Mario was never growing, his world was shrinking!
The following 6 hours would provide me enlightenment to all of the great mysteries of life and Nintendo. I brought back with me, a veritable banquet of insight into such enigmas as who I am, what my purpose is, and why Link’s name rarely appears in the title of his own games.
At one point, I had an out of body experience in which I watched my own 8-bit self trudge through the murky waters of the Mushroom Kingdom’s sewers to save my own Princess Peach (which sadly, in the end, actually turned out to be a mango with a wig and lipstick on it – don’t ask).
As for why we don’t notice the world changing around Mario when he eats the mushroom, it’s quite simple.
While we see beautiful blue skies or dark empty tunnels, Nintendo is actually flashing many thousands of colors and images into our minds to disguise the terraformation taking place every time Mario dines. Nevermind the technical limitations of the day; Nintendo ripped a page right out of the Polybius conspiracy playbook, and went straight for mind-control… and it worked!
Jolly good show, Nintendo.