News Article

Weirdness: New York Times Finally Issues a Correction for Describing the Mario Bros. as Janitors in 1988

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

The error was spotted in Hiroshi Yamauchi's obituary

Writers and journalists, no matter the prestige of their publication, make mistakes. Facts are incorrect or the wording may be wrong, and corrections are made. The New York Times, in an admirable sense of perspective and maintaining standards, has corrected an error from an article published 25 years ago.

It came to light as part of the paper's obituary for former Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi, who passed away in 18th September, which quoted the incorrect statement. The correction is below.

An obituary on Sept. 20 about Hiroshi Yamauchi, the longtime president of Nintendo, included a quotation from a 1988 New York Times article that inaccurately described the Nintendo video game Super Mario Bros. 2. The brothers Mario and Luigi, who appear in this and other Nintendo games, are plumbers, not janitors.

That original article is a fascinating read, as it reflects the impact that Nintendo had in the mid-late '80s, and the bafflement that it caused to uninitiated observers. As a sign of how perspectives have changed, the NES was very much considered a key part of the toy market targeting young children, with Nintendo's marketing strategies bringing major success.

When 13-year-old Peter Gambardella of Staten Island drifts off to sleep these days, he's not counting sheep but battling with Mini Bosses, Zoomers and Rippers, and perfecting his plan to destroy the dread Mother Brain.

Mike Wetch, a high school student in Tacoma, Wash., is savoring his second-round knockout against Mike Tyson (his friends know he's the only kid in Tacoma who's done it), and Paul Sposata in Manhattan is thinking of the top items on his Christmas list: games called Paper Boy, Xenophobe and Rampage.

These are the daydreams of young Americans, but they are based on hugely successful video games, called Nintendo, that are made in Japan. Some 10 million Nintendo ''home video entertainment systems'' have been sold in the United States in recent years and have sparked a firestorm of interest that toy industry experts - and millions of teachers and parents - say is America's latest toy craze and teen-age cultural phenomenon.

''It's a mania,'' said Rick Anguilla, editor of Toy and Business World, an industry trade journal. ''The kids of America are saying 'This is great, we've got to have one.' For boys in this country between the ages of 8 and 15, not having a Nintendo is like not having a baseball bat.''

The full article is certainly worth a read, and it's good to know that the record for the Mario Bros. has finally been set straight.


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User Comments (35)



artofmana said:

Cool! I love the section of the article you quoted. I wonder where the boy who knocked out Mike Tyson is today.



SanderEvers said:

Now I can never play a Mario game again, since I ALWAYS thought they were janitors. I hate plumbers so much.





Plutonian said:

I like that in 1988, Nintendo was just another word for video games made in Japan.



unrandomsam said:

So the NES was targeted at kid's but the difficulty was much more reasonable.

Let the player win seems to be the new model. Give them no incentive to get better at playing the game in order to progress. Give them the option to pay to make it even easier.



JaxonH said:

I know, right? I mean, don't get me wrong- no one likes a game TOO difficult to the point of frustration, but non-Nintendo games these days are definitely easier (not all- Splinter Cell Blacklist was a rounded experience for me on Rookie, I couldn't imagine playing that game on perfectionist).

Wonderful 101 is totally old school, the way games used to be, and most old school gamers like myself appreciate that. But you can always tell the young kids on Miiverse by their posts complaining about the basics. "Move joystick around and press A? What do I do, I can't get this!" I tell them, "draw a circle and press A, not hard bud" and then do a major facepalm every time. To me, I lose interest if I'm not being challenged enough; on the other side of that coin, I can lose interest when the challenge is too great also...



NintyMan said:

An odd mistake, but it is fascinating to read just how far video games have come and peoples' perceptions of them. I wonder what went through those adults minds when they saw little kids interacting with that blocky video game and hearing that strange, but very catchy computerized music. By the time I was born five years after the original article was written, the home console video game phenomenon was still somewhat new, but not quite at the explosive level it was when it first came on the scene.



WinterWarm said:

Given Mario and Luigi's franchise history, neither janitors or plumbers make any sense.

Nevertheless, it's speaks volumes they did this.



JaxonH said:

I was born in 1984, and was in kindergarten when Super Mario Bros 3 released in the US. I remember when it came out, EVERYONE was talking about it at school. Even in Sunday School at my church when I was growing up, I remember sitting in folding chairs and hearing the latest gossip whispered to me about so and so already beating the game, or "did you know about such and such secret in the game" lol... it was HUGE.



NintyMan said:

That sounds magical. Too bad that people's facisnation dwindles a bit after the shock. I was born in 1993 and Donkey Kong, Mario, and Pokemon dominated my young gaming life. Especially since I remember the late 90's better, I was involved in the Pokemon craze when everyone was talking about that. Unforutnately, I dropped Pokemon after the fad died down, but I'll make a nostalgic return to the series with Pokemon X. I was also a huge fan of Donkey Kong and Mario of course, and remember hearing a lot of buzz about that. I think I only remember a little of Zelda, which is a shame because I missed out on the Zelda series.

Nostalgia is a very powerful force.



JaxonH said:

Never too late to jump in with Zelda. Especially with Windwaker HD on the Wii U. I actually never played it yet even though I own it on Gamecube. I've been waiting to experience it with the gamepad in HD.

If you own a 3DS, you can never go wrong with Ocarina of Time 3D. But personally, I'm really anticipating A Link Between Worlds, since I never played a top-down Zelda more than 15 minutes. A Link To The Past is such an acclaimed game- I really think this new sequel will be great for those who want to experience what was so great about A Link To The Past without having to endure such dated graphics.



NintyMan said:

I've played Zelda in the past four or five years. I started with Ocarina of Time, but didn't finish it until I got Ocarina of Time 3D. I played half of A Link to the Past and bits and pieces of Link's Awakening and Zelda II. I'll play The Wind Waker and the original Zelda soon.

I also largely missed out on Kirby back in the day too except for Kirby 64, but Smash Bros. Brawl got me interested in the series again and I've played through most of the games for that now except for a few spin-offs and Dream Land 2.

So, yes, Donkey Kong, Mario, and Pokemon dominated my household back then.



Zombie_Barioth said:

A lot of young kids simply don't have the patience or the self control for dealing with something that frustrates them. I think its due to them not having any incentive to, if something is "too hard" they'll just move on to something else. A lot of us didn't have that luxury. They learned different sensibilities than us.

Same boat as me then, I grew up playing them but still missed the craze. I think its quite amazing the likes of Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, ect are still alive and strong after all these years. Not many games stick around that long let alone remain so popular.



Senario said:

@JaxonH I miss games with a challenge that arent frustratingly difficult. I do enjoy getting better over time and it is a shame "gamers" sometimes just want games that essentially can play themselves. Give me more games like Monster hunter!



CanisWolfred said:

@Zombie_Barioth You're younger than me, and I was the same way as those kids you're describing. I played a game until I died and then I went back to playing with my toys. Honestly, if games hadn't gotten easier, I never would've gotten into them. That said, once I got into them and I was able to improve my tolerances, I was able to get into much harder games. I'm glad that games these days at least often offer the option for harder modes, since then people looking for a challenge can get into those modes, while the rest of us don't have to miss out on a fun experience.



Big_Boy_Chubs said:

Back in the 80's, when i first saw this, i was outraged. I simply exploded with anger marched right down to the NY times and really let the guy who wrote this have it. I am releived that this massive mistake has finally been fixed.



TheGZeus said:

" not having a baseball bat."
...Who owns a baseball bat nowadays? Well, aside from thugs and people on regularly-playing teams.
No kid who isn't on a team owns one. Heck, my family had one when I was a kid in the '80s and '90s, and it got used to break things into smaller pieces so they'd fit in the trash.



TheGZeus said:

@JaxonH I always feel a need to dispel the myth that Zelda is perfect for everyone.
I don't enjoy 3D Zelda games. I got lost/bored in OoT3D for hooours and when I got to the rupee-diving I stopped, thought about it, and realised I'd completely forgotten what I was doing, and why (specifically. I knew saving the kingdom/Zelda was somehow involved, of course, but she's alive and at home, so...) and that I didn't care to find out. I didn't like any of the characters enough to care if they were saved from anything, and realised I hadn't run into any new enemies since Tektites. Also, the controls are woogly and dated, but that's another story. Oh, and Navi can naff off.
I don't value the experience that 3D Zelda and clones offer, and I'm not alone. Friend of mine who had it back when it was new agrees that while it was amazing to be able to just wander around some world, it's also not something you should build a game on. I can wander around the actual world. I have a friggin' driver's licence!
There have been games that do what the Zelda franchise has tried to do since OoT, and done it better... and they just bore me. "Great game. Anyone want it for free? I'm not gonna use it." Whereas I would have thrown OoT3D in the garbage if gamestop hadn't been offering 1.5x their usual price.

I'm NOT saying post-OoT Zelda games are bad, just that I can't get into games like that. I get bored.



GamerZack87 said:

We've certainly come a long way as gamers. Nowadays many Nintendo fans are eagerly awaiting the release of games on Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, such as three announced Zelda titles, two new entries in the Super Smash Bros. series, about 500 new Mario games due by Q4 2013, and of course Pokémon X and Pokémon Y.



Joygame51 said:

LOL no biggie I'm sure Janitors everywhere are let down ..but what the heck...However plumbers, now they are just busting there overalls with pride .... (SMERK!) I am nether and I love the games



Morph said:

Always found it strange that over in the us of a consoles can be generically refered to by their manufacturers names, , like ive just been playing the nintendo, or I just picked up the new sony.



Captain_Gonru said:

@Morph It isn't just consoles. Adhesive bandages are "Band-Aids", soda is "Coke", and reclining chairs are "Laz-E-Boy"s. I think it has something to do with the amount of advertising we've subjected ourselves to. Brand names become synonymous with the product itself.



Zombie_Barioth said:

Thats what I was talking about. Yea, of course we quite playing and did something else when we got bored or frustrated, but we still worked through it eventually.

I don't know about you but for myself and a lot of other kids games where something you either saved for yourself or got for Christmas, birthdays, ect. We didn't have things like F2P or mobile games to choose from, it was either the arcade, what you have, or go without. We couldn't just find an easier game so in a way we were forced to tolerate it and perservere.

Not that I'm saying either way is better or worse, just that its all about to how you grew up. I'm glad there are games to suit every taste. People complain about "movie games" and stuff but if its not for you then its simply not for you.



kurtasbestos said:

I like this part:

"they are based on hugely successful video games, called Nintendo, that are made in Japan"


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