I am writing this because I feel I owe it to the public, as I never claim to be something I am not. After fourteen years, I hereby relinquish the title of “Ultimate,” at least in so far as it is to be taken by its literal meaning. Albeit I still could be considered “Ultimate” in some ways, I truly hope there are others who love Mario more than I do. The years have changed me, for reasons I will explain below.
In middle and high school, I lived and breathed Mario constantly. For me Mario was the greatest good, the personification of joy and innocence itself. As high school became college, I began to withdraw my ostentatious display of affection and attention toward Mario, simply because I think it drew the wrong kind of company and attention (a lot of the nerdy kids wanted to hang out with me, but I am not nerdy so much as I am passionate in the scholarly sense). It was during college that my collection reached incredible levels of success on a worldwide basis: All Mario games, books and soundtracks were collected, including absolute rarities, and I even acquired promos, rare merch and one-of-a-kind materials. It finally rivaled and even put to shame renowned international collectors like Nightram and Kikai. At that point, people started paying serious attention to me, even Nintendo Co. Ltd. itself (they sent me a signed card from Miyamoto and Tezuka), and I began getting contacts from around the world.
However, the more that people wanted me to share my collection with them, the more withdrawn I became. Something just didn’t seem right to me; I never collected Mario for fame or to “show off” but simply to surround myself and prove to myself how much I adored Mario. I think over the years my displays of intense admiration for Mario had come across to some as a form of self-aggrandizement, which I had never intended. My only goal was to aggrandize Mario.
As the years progressed, I fell in love, had relationships, learned four languages, traveled abroad to Italy and Japan, worked for the government, starred in plays, wrote theses, published articles, debuted a comic strip, started a website, and graduated with my degrees. As I then gazed at my massive Mario collection, now towering over me, as I had owned virtually everything Mario I could possibly want (which was everything). And then I began to realize something: My collection was owning ME. An incessant labor of love, I had made major sacrifices to accrue a collection of this magnitude. I found myself in heavy credit card debt, paying rent for an apartment I didn’t want to live in, working at a job I hated. I had sacrificed almost everything for Mario, and while I was happy to do so in the past, there was something that occurred that changed all of that. At the beginning of this year, I acquired my Mario holy grail, the one item I vowed I would collect NO MATTER WHAT before I set out to complete my mammoth collection fourteen years ago. That item was a complete VHS copy of Peach-hime Kyushutsu Dai-Sakusen. And after over a decade of daily searching, I had finally acquired it. TWICE.
That’s right, I acquired this tape loose, and a few months later, I bought another tape sealed, the only known extant sealed copy of the 1986 Peach-hime Kyushutsu Dai-sakusen in the entire world, Mario’s first film.
After I accomplished this pivotal feat, something shifted within me. It dawned on me the level of responsibility I had to this franchise and to myself. I had collected so much Mario at this point that I had become a curator for a closet/room museum. I owned Mario things that no one else had in the world, and completed entire international book, film, soundtrack, and game collections. I truly had become the Ultimate. And not only that, I had become lonely; as the poignant saying goes, it’s lonely being at the top. No fans could understand me, and I didn’t understand other Mario fans, who were either casuals, DeviantArt perverts, or obsessed with trivia/game mechanics, showing no admiration for the actual plumber himself. I then asked myself why I collected Mario in the first place, since I had completed virtually all that I had set out to do. The accomplishment, while impressive, felt hollow. I have always loved Mario because of who he is and what he represents, not because of what he can do for me. Mario would continue to exist regardless and I could glorify him without owning countless swathes of his merchandise. Owning the Dai-Sakusen VHS tape made me realize how much MORE I appreciate parts of my collection than others, and the sheer extent that my collection was weighing me down. So I then made an excruciatingly painful decision, which I never would have even remotely considered a few years ago: I decided to sell off most of my collection.
(This is only about a third of it)
Selling Mario felt like selling pieces of myself. I began with the big box items and caringly moved through piles, packaging merchandise as I had simply acquired too much and it took up too much space. Yes, it felt good to display the collection to myself and others, but at this point I was less impressed in what I wasn’t doing than I was impressed in what I had done. I had to make a sacrifice, because sacrifices will happen whether we like it or not. I aimed to pare my collection down by 2/3 of what it was, and will try to see if I can get it down to 1/4 total. The rarest and most irreplaceable items I will still keep, as well as all the movies and games and soundtracks (and most of the books), but I could no longer keep all this Mario to myself as it was weighing me down physically, spiritually, financially, emotionally. It wasn’t even so much Mario either, it was just owning so much of one thing. I began going through all my things and selling them, Mario included.
What helped me was to consider that we are stewards of what we own; nothing can we own forever. I had bought my Mario items and had no regrets, deriving enjoyment out of owning them, but it was time to bring them to someone else who would appreciate them hopefully more than I presently am able. Selling objects dear to me felt weird, but I look at it not as getting rid of them, but as transferring them with great care to other homes, sharing what I have collected with others.
Overall, this has been quite a painful process. But it has also been very rewarding. I am a very ambitious person and the collector mentality, regardless of what the collection is, no longer coincides with my life goals. I collected everything Mario and have over 2000 video games to boot. I am proud of what I have accomplished. I am also proud of what I have been able to let go. But the process has also been humbling, as it’s made me realize that maybe I wasn’t as right as I thought I was, that maybe I should have realized that those massive collectors aren’t acting out of common sense, at least as far as I can understand it. While I feel incredibly strongly about Mario and video game preservation, there is only so much you can amass before it starts to cling to your feet. By owning gigantic collections, one creates more and more ties and potential losses, more worries, more liabilities.
This has been an amazing learning process and I don’t rue the countless thousands of hours I have spent collecting, contemplating, and engaging with Mario. They comprise very fond memories of my life. And showing the community my love for Mario, proving how deep my enamor goes and how much he deserves to be enamored, has been fulfilling and fulfilled, even though there was never any need for it. I will remain an extremely selective Mario collector of the ultimate rarities and will bury his games with me in my casket, but I no longer will be purchasing other Mario items that I have no overt immediate use for.
Why do I write this? Because I believe in coming clean, in not professing to be something I am not, which I have not done up to this point. But if the “Ultimate” is gauged by how much of something one owns, then I hang my hat and am “Ultimate” no longer. Mario lives on in my heart and soul. Forthwith there will be far less of him living in my home. It’s time I get back in touch with what made me love Mario in the first place, rather than prove to myself and others what has always been the case regardless, and that is that I love Mario more than anything else there is. Mario for life.
Thank you so much for to playing my game! @(:o}D