Dr Oliver Sox’s new book, “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Goombah” is full of strange characters from the world of video games. The book seeks to illuminate the internal struggles of those characters who at times seem 2-dimensional, but offer great insight into their psychology, their wants and dreams.
Why does Kazooie find so much comfort in the backpack of her dear friend Banjo? Is it because the backpack is really just an extension of her mother’s womb?
Does Samus Aran suffer from Imposter Syndrome, a syndrome which manifests itself in her recurring nightmare where, just before she dies, she loses her armour and is exposed in her underwear for all of Zebes to see?
Is Duke Nukem in love with his mother?
The mind is a dungeon full of secrets and monsters, and at times, treasure as Dr Sox reveals in “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Goombah”.
Here are a few short excerpts.
Mario runs into my office. He’s running so fast, it’s as though he could fly at any moment. He is panicked, scared.
“I feel like Sisyphus.” He tells me, “My job is never done. I save the princess and win the day, and then I go back to the start to do it all again, a little bit harder with slightly different enemies. It never ends.”
I try to tell him, “Mario, did you ever think, it’s not the princess that needs saving? It’s the Mario?”
He looks at me as he strokes his thick plumbers moustache.
I tell him that his attempts to save the princess are an externalisation of his own struggles within himself, his lack of place in life. He is a human in a mushroom kingdom. He is not happy with himself and feels the need to constantly prove himself. He throws parties for his friends, but nowhere is there cake and chats, only competitions to see who is the strongest, who is the best.
I tell him, ‘acceptance from others always follows acceptance of the self.’
He looks away at this point. He knows it to be true.
Sometimes when things get too tough for Mario, rather than facing his problems, he has a flute that he uses to skip over these issues. A way of not dealing with the problem at hand, the flute is a drug; an escape.
I tell him not to use it, that he can get by without it, that it is through these hardships that he will grow.
I hope sometimes, he listens.
Donkey Kong stands in front of a pile of 6000 bananas. He does not eat any. He just looks at them with pride. Mr Kong, suffers from the hoarders disease. He knows that he cannot eat all the bananas before they become mushy. He knows this, but deep in his psyche he is compelled to have them all the same.
As he puts on his monkey tie, he knows this. As he gets on the tram kart, he knows this. As he arrives at Cranky’s Cabin for work, he knows this. And yet, when he returns home and the bananas are gone, he is furious, he is itching, cannot find peace. Anxiety wells up within him and he has difficulty breathing. However, he lacks the composure to loosen his monkey tie.
I remember asking him what it was about bananas specifically that was so important to him, why he collected them. Why not non-perishables? Why not collect Kremling artefacts? He doesn’t know and feels insulted that I ask.
The banana is yellow gold to this partially dressed primate.
He tells me about the giant bee that stole his bananas. I start to ask, ‘why would a bee want six thousand bananas he cannot eat?’ but stop myself. Why would a monkey?
The matters of the mind are seldom logical.
I simply tell him to go home and get some rest, to call the police, but I know that he will go after that bee, and he will drag his nephew Diddy into it.
It’s tragic. The little Diddy respects his uncle so much, he will do whatever he is told. Lying wait in a barrel. Waiting, just waiting, sometimes underwater; the poor boy. Monkey see, monkey do. He loves Donkey Kong with the entirety of his innocent heart.
There is still hope for Diddy.
Pacman feels trapped, like he’s stuck in the metaphorical maze in his own head. An endless labyrinth that he cannot escape from, despite his desire to be free.
In Pacman’s maze the minotaur is his inertia and he must defeat it to be free.
Dr Oliver Sox’s book is available from all good bookstores, as well as from the car boot of some really nice automobiles.