Disney characters are not as familiar to my kids as they were to me when I was their age. Perhaps it is because they have tablets, gaming consoles, and laptops. Their pop culture universe is dominated by Minecraft, Mario, Clash of Clans, and Pokemon. YouTube gamers are celebrities to them. While they (and I) enjoy those new Mickey Mouse shorts on the Disney Channel, we rarely set out to watch something because of the Disney brand.
I love Disneyland. Probably more than most. So much so that my NaNoWriMo novel took place within the gates if the Magic Kingdom. I have long dreamt of becoming a Walt Disney Imagineer; brainstorming, collaborating, and bringing to life grand new experiences for park guests. The idea of immersing myself in work that turned imagination into reality (even if it meant laying the brick myself!) always sounded… right.
However, I had an eerily similar thought last night. After setting down my copy of Console Wars by Blake J. Harris, I asked myself if I’d rather work for Disney or Nintendo?
Nintendo is full of characters I grew up, full of characters I love. Being born in 1985, the year the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was brought to North America, Mario, Mega Man (Capcom aside), and Link (rather, the name I chose) were the characters that ushered me into the world, and I them. These characters had no personality, just a mission and they need me to achieve it. They required immersion and connection.
Being raised in a world where the participatory nature of video games was quickly becoming the norm, I’m not sure how much observing a character or watching the moral to a story unfold actually affected me. I was obsessed the Aladdin’s Genie because he made me laugh, but until I really understood the nuances of storytelling and scope of reality (probably somewhere in mid-high school), I’m not sure I really identified with any Disney character. I just knew I wanted to be the good guy.
After spending the weekend enjoying Mario Kart 8 with my fiancée, I thought about how much joy the characters of the Mushroom Kingdom brought me; I thought about how excited I was for Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, or how I would jump at the opportunity to buy the next Luigi’s Mansion installment, or how I wish Nintendo would launch a Princess Peach and Daisy centric title.
Don’t get me wrong, working as a Walt Disney Imagineer or in Nintendo’s Treehouse sounds like more than any fan could ever ask for. But given an equal opportunity at both, I’m not sure which I would choose. I don’t think I’m the only one from my generation who sits on this fence.
In a connected society full of massive, customizable, open worlds and bite-sized mobile games, will post-millennials fantasize about either? If we live in a perpetually fantastic world, does reality become the new fantasy?