Let’s take a trip down memory lane. It’s 1988, and you’re sitting around the television set with your cousins, who are as excited as you are that you’ve got a Nintendo entertainment system.
You pop in your brand-new cartridge of the Super Mario Bros. video game, and off you are to a far-away land of magic mushrooms, evil turtles, interconnecting sewers, and the princess that got away.
For children, the appeal of the game is simple: like any imaginative world you can immerse yourself into, you can be the hero, save the girl, and send the villain to a fiery grave. But for those of you who grew up with a physical impairment, seeing yourself as Mario or Luigi running over tubes and swimming underwater was likely much harder to imagine. It presented a world as realistic as the one you were already likely in: unaccessible and hard to navigate.
It is this need of promoting an accessible and inclusive environment that galvanized three Israeli friends to envision a Super Mario Bros. universe that caters to people with physical disabilities.
Not So Super Mario, created by Liron Atia, Roi Meyshar and Gadi Wilcherski of viral video developers Tachles (Yiddish-derived Israeli slang for ‘saying things literally’), depicts Mario as you’ve come to love him, before he breaks his legs attempting a long jump. The next scene finds him in a wheelchair, but unable to do any of the tricks that he could do before, leading his brother, Luigi, to set up wheelchair ramps and similar aids to help Mario master the level, whether he’s using a wheelchair or crutches.
“It’s not the 80s anymore,” the video, which boasts over 300,000 views at time of publication, reads near its conclusion. “Enable access for EVERYONE. NOW.”
“Because I’ve been on a wheelchair for the last eleven years, this video is a bit more personal than others that we’ve developed,” Atia tells The CJN. “We wanted to deliver a message that physical disabilities can happen to ANYONE, even Mario.”
Atia also recently took part in a three-day “make-a-thon” called Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM), a global initiative to solve problems for people with disabilities.
“We wanted to raise awareness that this is not a sexy issue but an important one, and reach people who have never thought about accessibility before. Our ultimate goal was for people to watch the video in order to start a conversation about it. Our next goal is to make people do something about it, and not just talk.”
Normally, Atia says, Tachles creates non-commercial viral videos. Not So Super Mario took precedence, however, because of the vital importance of this issue. “Everybody in Tachles works for free,” Atia says, “to try and make a better world via sarcastic videos.”
Looks like they’re doing a decent job so far.