I was playing Mario Kart 8 online the other day when I came to a startling discovery.
I don’t like when other people play as Toad.
You see, Toad is my Mario Kart buddy. He and I, we tight. We’ve been through some crazy tracks together, taken our fair share of red, blue, and to a lesser extent, green shells. We’ve clawed our way to the front of the pack, we’ve faced certain loss only to speed ahead, we’ve cursed our low speed and sung the praises of our acceleration.
We’ve been through a lot together.
From my first Mario Kart game (Super Circuit, if you must know, and you may judge me accordingly), Toad and I have stuck it out. Sure, I’ve dabbled with the Princesses, and even tried some other male characters that weren’t fungi, but I always found myself going back to the little shroom that could. It’s a kind of bizarre emotional connection, one that happens in games when you select your characters. I’ve grown attached to Toad, and don’t like when other people use him. He’s mine, after all.
I find that this happens in other games too. In fighting games, I gravitate to certain kinds of characters, and then become kind of defensive about them. My first fighting game, Power Stone, was played obsessively by me and my little brother. We ended up dividing the cast of 10 (at the time, quite large) in half, and my characters have stuck with me since. We still go back to that game now and then, and when we do, I pick the same characters.
Sometimes, we joke and he picks a character I generally play, and vice versa. While I don’t get really angry about this, it does feel like he’s stepping across a kind of boundary. It’s not like I have any particular claim to these characters, any more than anyone else, that is, but I’ve spent so much time with them that they feel like my own. I beat Arcade Mode with them, we stuck together as we fought the CPU and earned our endings. We go through that together. They may be just code, polygons, and game data, but dammit, we went through a lot together.
Growing up playing split-screen with my little brother (and sometimes with friends (they weren’t big gamers and I used to always win, resulting in little fun for anyone)), this kind of territorialness became an unspoken acceptance between the two of us. I’d stick with my characters, he’d stick with his. We tend to have different play styles, which works all the better. I like the slick and speedy, he likes the heavier and slow. We never really cross the boundaries.
But now, with online gaming, those boundaries no longer exist. Anyone can play as Toad, and there’s nothing that can be done about it. Toad isn’t solely the favorite character of me, and others should be able to enjoy the character as well. After all, it’s not like I created him.
But damn, we’ve been through a lot together. Dashing around Rainbow Road, avoiding fireballs in Bowser’s Castle, shooting out of a Cannon in DK Mountain, getting lost in Yoshi Valley, cursing the blue shell for the hundredth time. I’ve grown attached to the little mushroom guy. And a part of me hates the idea that someone else can play as him.
I’m not the only one who gets this way, am I?