In Super Mario Bros., why does Mario start out with three lives? No, I’m not talking about how it’s less burden on the player if they mess up or how the player can just start over if they die. Looking at the question from Mario’s perspective, why does he have three lives? There’s clearly only one Mario and if he dies, he is dead; so there must be some factor giving him extra chances. Since there is only one Mario, the only conclusion we can draw is that he is not dead when he dies (sometimes) but how is that possible? What if Mario only imagined he failed to rescue the princess, what if he only dreamed he died? Mario could easily be intoxicated throughout the game. After all, he consumes green mushrooms (which can make him high), he collects gold coins (which can cause gold poisoning, giving him a headache that could cause him to hallucinate), and jumps on many enemies heads (the thought of escaping death 8 times or more in a row would cause so much adrenaline to rush to someone’s brain, it could send anyone into a tizzy). So maybe he is intoxicated when he dies, how can we prove this and how does this help Mario escape death? Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Schrödinger’s cat.
Imagine if you will, a cat. This cat is in a box along with a Geiger counter that contains radioactive substance that is so small that over the course of an hour, one atom may or may not decay. If an atom does decay, the counter tube of the counter will discharge and release a hammer that will break a flask of hydrocyanic acid which will kill the cat. So the question is, after waiting an hour, is the cat dead or alive? Since there is no way to tell if the cat is dead or alive unless the box is opened, until the box is opened, the cat is said to be BOTH alive and dead at the same time until one possibility is proven false. This creates two parallel universes, one where the cat is alive and one where the cat is dead.
So how does this apply to Mario? Earlier, I talked about how Mario could be intoxicated throughout the game so if we apply the theory of Schrödinger’s cat to him, we can say Mario is and is not intoxicated. The only question now is “what is the deciding factor that proves that he is intoxicated or not”, the answer is his death. If Mario completes a level, he moves on to the next one and did not imagine anything. If he fails, he will appear standing at a previous point of the level. It is at this previous point that Mario had fallen into a trance of becoming intoxicated and imagined himself running forward and dying. He lives through his success and dies in his imagination. Only when the player runs out of extra lives does everything become real for Mario and death become permanent. But even if the player loses his last life, they can simply restart the game… and create even more parallel universes for Mario to live and imagine. Mario is nothing more than a cat in a closed box. Only the player chooses when to open it and see what is inside.
(See also: morphic resonance)