Overanalyzing Donkey Kong
Review By: Jeff

I'm going to talk out of my ass for this article. Join me, won't you? One of the many things people like to do in their spare time is analyze the content from their favorite forms of media. Picking apart each and every detail, no matter how small and insignificant, in search of a hidden meaning or message placed by the creators. However, some people take this to an extreme and tend to over-analyze things making them out to be something that they were never intended to.

For example, take the movie Pulp Fiction and the glowing briefcase sought after by the Sam Jackson and John Travolta characters. Most people just shrug it off as being something weird just for the hell of it while others came to the conclusion that its contents was the soul of their boss who sent them to retrieve it. Whether or not you choose to believe that theory is up to you but it serves as a setup for what I'm getting at. So after many countless hours of playing, I've come to the conclusion that the classic arcade game, Donkey Kong, symbolizes Life and the many events and obstacles that go with it.

"YOU'RE CRAZY, IDIOT, KNOCK THAT SHIT OFF!" is the kind of response I'd expect for bringing this up but hear me out. I intend to demonstrate just how easy it is for someone to over-analyze something as simple as a video game and come up with a profound meaning. Let's start this train wreck to Mediocreton by looking at the characters and items and which parts they play in life.

Donkey Kong: Life itself is usually described as being large and overwhelming, completely random and often unfair. The things it throws at you can be good, bad or a mixture of both depending on how the individual perceives their experience. So who better to fill in the role of Life than a giant barrel-tossing Gorilla.

Mario: You play the role of Mario (or Jumpman if you prefer) and it's your goal to achieve a long and happy life.

Pauline: The damsel in distress marks the end of one level and beginning of another. Just like in life there comes a time when you have to say goodbye to the things/places/people of your past and move on.

Springboards, Barrels, Pies and Fire Creatures: These represent the obstacles and hardships that life constantly throws at you. While some may have a very difficult time getting through these rough spots, others will easily pass them by with little or no trouble.

Hammer: These are the breaks in life, those brief moments when everything plays in your favor and nothing can stand in your way. Enjoy them while you can.

Pauline's Possessions: Items of value. Whether it's family, friends, experiences or just an object of significance these are the things that make life worth living.

As you can see by using little to no effort, I've assigned each character with a purpose based on the very thing I'm trying to prove. Now let's talk about the levels and how they relate to the stages of Life.

Ramps (Birth - Age 20): Being young is an uphill battle which is easy at first but the further you climb the more difficult things become as demonstrated by Level 1 in both layout and execution. You've got lots of choices on how you can reach the top complete with dead-ends which, just like in life, lead nowhere but back and your first set of obstacles give you a good idea of what's ahead.

Pie Factory: (Age 21 - Age 40): You're a young adult now and as such you'll find yourself in the real world. The conveyor belts symbolize looking back on the carefree days of youth and looking forward to things to come while the collapsing ladders represent opportunities there for the taking if the timing is right.

Elevators: (Age 41 - Age 60): Welcome to middle age, you've survived the trials of youth and are now working for retirement. Seeing the younger crowd can make you realize just how old you are, which can lead to trying to go back and recapture some fragment of your youth only to accept the inevitable and embrace the good and bad times you've witnessed as symbolized by the elevators.

Girders: (Age 61 - Death): Well, you made it the last leg of your journey and there's nothing left to do but tie up the loose ends which appear as the rivets in the girders. Once your affairs are in order, the big ape will fall and thus brings the end of Mario's long and fruitful life.

See how easy it was to take a game about a fat plumber trying to rescue his girlfriend from a giant monkey and come up with some insane idea that it's a metaphor for Life. If you've learned anything from this, I hope its, "DON'T LISTEN TO PEOPLE WHO READ TOO MUCH INTO THINGS" they're all fucking crazy. On a related note, I think next time I'll talk about how Q*Bert is actually commentary on the anti-social behavior of inner-city youths in the 1980's. Or not.


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