Chapter 4: Enter Captain Nintendo
|Chapter 1: The Most Coveted Job in the World|
|Chapter 2: A Change in Responsibilities|
|Chapter 3: Every Captain Must Have His Mother Brain|
|Chapter 4: Enter Captain Nintendo|
|Chapter 5: Captain Nintendo Lives|
|Chapter 6: The Captain Goes Hollywood|
|Chapter 7: The Real Power Behind Captain Nintendo|
|Chapter 8: New Worlds to Conquer and a New Superpower!|
|Chapter 9: The Last Adventure|
As I have mentioned, within a few days of my hire, I had heard that Nintendo was open to the idea of a new spokescharacter to add a state-of-the-art pizazz to their other mascots—something along the lines of a superhero. I polled my co-workers for information about the company (history, attitudes, goals, desired image, etc.). And I set about creating this character. At night. On my own time. On my own computer.
Some of what follows is not necessarily that important to the events of autumn 1988, but I relate it here to give you an idea of personal context and I think there is a certain interesting irony that it gives those events.
I was able to read at near 2nd grade level when I entered kindergarten having learned to read (when I was just 3 or 4) on the Superman comics that I could con my parents into buying for me. I read Batman and a few others of the time, but Superman was always my favorite. Next to my dad, Superman was my first role model. Like millions of kids, I wanted to be a superhero when I grew up. I just couldn’t imagine anything cooler than having some super power that no one else had and using it to do good for humankind at large. Or save a life. That was the ultimate service a superhero could perform. I just couldn’t imagine anything cooler. Honestly, I still can’t.
But I knew that the only way to acquire such superpowers was to be born on another planet or to be in an accident that involves radioactivity (because, as everybody knows, being in an accident with radioactivity will stimulate some dormant metagene in you that will give you abnormal abilities–and not cause your body to decay as the silly government scientists think). Well, despite claims from my mother, I pretty much knew that the distant planet option was “not in the stars” for me (pardon the pun). That left the accident with radioactivity. And I couldn’t wait.
I waited my whole life for that momentous event, but it never came. So I grew up like the rest of the normal society with no discernable superpowers. Indeed, the closest thing I had to a superpower was the ability to put words on paper that could inform, entertain, and/or move people. Not even remotely as cool as flying or X-ray vision or sticking to walls or a spider sense. It wasn’t even as cool as invisibility or even turning green and kicking the bejeezes out stuff. But, later on, I realized that if I couldn’t emulate the superhero part of Superman, I was at least unintentionally emulating his nine-to-five identity. And I was to learn just how powerful putting words to paper could be.
Having an authoritative understanding of how superheros are created and operate and live their lives, creating a superhero character for Nintendo was a task that was seemingly ideal for me. Unconsciously or subconsciously, I could make him the superhero that I always wanted to be.
Still, there are important considerations to creating a spokescharacter superhero as opposed to your common garden-variety superhero. The spokescharacter superhero has to be a reflection of the company and its product. He has to convey the image and attitude that the company wants to project. He has to blend with and enhance, if not formulate, product branding. There were others at the company who’d voiced some casual ideas about the kind of character they’d create, but there was waaay more to creating a company spokescharacter superhero than just making up fun adventure stories and no one had ever formalized any of their concepts.
Within three weeks of first pouncing on the notion of creating this character, I had him. What you eventually saw on Saturday morning television was somewhat removed from my original vision. I’ll try to relate the evolution of the process. Or de-evolution depending upon your perspective.
Originally, the character was involved in an accident (Okay, I saw no reason to completely re-invent the wheel. However, there was not a trace of radioactivity to be found anywhere.). I chose to use magic, mystery, and technology to create Captain Nintendo’s powers. The source of his powers came from special microchips that came from an island steeped in voodoo and magic. Not just any microchips, mind you, but biometric microchips that were in part made up of living biogenetic tissue. (This idea of living tissue as technology was used later on Star Trek: Voyager as many of the ship’s systems operate using bioneural gel packs which organize, store, and transfer information much like a humanoid nervous system. You Star Trek geeks reading this please explain it to your less-informed neighbors. We’ll wait… Thanks.)
Having been manufactured on an island known for its magic-influenced culture, there was speculation that the chips may have had some magical properties as well. Which would explain why, when the chips fused with the body of the game technician, he gained abilities and was completely unharmed, instead of being scarred for life or dead. Just go with me here. Remember, I was aiming this at 8 to 14 year-olds. When creating superheroes, you are allowed to bend the laws of physics a little. Not too much, but a little. Hey, at least, if he put on glasses, you’d still know who he was. (Sorry, Clark, but that was the one part of the mythos with which I always had a problem.) But there are just some things you ask your audience to just accept. It is called the suspension of disbelief. You just have to be careful not to ask too much of your audience or your story will be deemed weak. And rightfully so. But there was definite method to my madness.
The whole point of the character was that he would be a reflection of the company. Therefore, it made sense to give him powers that would allow him to interact with video game characters. It was important, however, that he originally be born of the real world. This allows the reader/viewer a conduit through which to relate to the video game characters, i.e. how would he, the reader/viewer, interact if he came in contact with these other characters. Hence, the purpose for the fusing of man and video game microchips. From there, it is just a natural step to “actualizing” video game characters (bringing them to 3-dimensional life from out of the television set) or entering their domain. The whole point of that is to allow the company to promote any video game by having Captain Nintendo have an adventure with the star of that video game. The consumer is introduced to this new video game via an adventure with the Captain. And, as every marketing guru will tell you, the more familiar people are with a product, the more apt they are to purchase it. That is what advertising is all about. Captain Nintendo was made to order.
In addition to his powers, his weaknesses were also identical to a game cartridge, i.e. succumbs to extreme temperatures and an allergy to dust—the very things that will hurt your game cartridge). This gave the Captain immediate product identification and at the same time educated the consumer in how to protect and preserve his purchase.
Every hero must have a villain. This was a little tricky. It must be someone who is a match for the hero, but someone that he is capable of beating. At the same time, I don’t want their struggle to get in the way of the purpose, which was promoting the game du jour. It should be an entity with almost the same powers as the Captain, but who interacts and even controls the bad guys from the video games. And then, I hit on a bit of genius. Hey, from a marketing standpoint, it was. Sheer genius. The villain would be an actualized Mother Brain from a Metroid game that was caught in the explosion and fused with a few of the magic bioneural microchips. The giant cerebral cortex of Mother Brain could easily control the villains of other video games. Mother Brain’s programming is that of complete relentless domination so the battle will be neverending. The battles of Mother Brain and the Captain then became a device through which the heros and villains of the game du jour could take center stage and be introduced to the consumer. Beyond this, game tips could smoothly be introduced within the context of the story allowing the consumer greater enjoyment than simply telling him to go here and jump while pushing the B button.
So I wrote the origin story. And a nine-page marketing campaign proposal. It wasn’t about a boy and his freakin’ dog who get sucked into their television. It was about a regular Joe who just happened to work as a game technician at Nintendo. And like the rest of this whole concept, there was a definite purposeful reason as to why I made him a regular Joe that worked as a game technician at Nintendo. Read the early issues that contain the two-part origin story. Listen, I knew this wasn’t War and Peace or Tom Sawyer, but from a marketing perspective, this WAS It’s a Wonderful Life and every Saturday morning was Christmas. There were layers and dimensions to this marketing that worked together and fed each other. I wasn’t trying to win Pulitzers. I was trying to sell video games. And I did. A whole lot of them.
Captain Nintendo – Nov/Dec 1988 Nintendo Power (Issue #3)
Captain Nintendo – Jan/Feb 1989 Nintendo Power (Issue #4)