The year is 1993, and a five-year-old boy comes across a grey, plastic cartridge. With his only hand, he picks it up off the top of a tower of others, and by doing so he causes the tower to come crashing down, hitting the wooden floor. Unphased by the sound of a thousand plastic waves echoing off the floor, the boy stares at the art on the cover and sees a man who looks like his father flying against a yellow background. He then ever so gently slides the cartridge into a large box and presses the power button, not once, or twice, but a few times and gazes upon the raising of a digital curtain and the placement of Super Mario Bros. 3 falling into place at the screen’s center.
This boy is me and from that moment on video games have been a part of my life and the focus of what I wanted to do with my life. During its early stages, I envisioned myself working in the video game industry in some capacity, but there were some issues. My drawing skills were that of a tracer (a major sin as the great Kevin Smith pointed out in Chasing Amy), and my math skills, well let’s just say they had the same effect as a blue turtle shell in Mario Kart.
Just when I thought I was about to finish the race that was the school year in the lead, they would come out of nowhere and blindside me, causing me to fall back in the pack and miss out on the trophy that was Summer vacation a couple of times. So how did I get into the industry despite my lacking of required skills? In 2014, I had started a podcast with my friend James who I worked with at a cluster of radio stations in Virginia Beach, VA. We called it Down and Nerdy, a weekly podcast where we discussed everything in nerd and geek culture, including video games.
Some of the people we interviewed included Ray Chase who voiced Noctis in Final Fantasy XV, Victoria Atkin who played Evie Frye in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, and the voice of Sonic the Hedgehog himself Roger Craig Smith, among others. But it was an interview with Charles Martinet in 2016 that changed my life forever. One night James and I are at the radio station together as we both worked nights, (my shift always ended when he began his). Our listenership was up enough to where getting press credentials for out of state conventions became more of a reality, but money was tight, so the convention had to be near Virginia.
As I was editing that week’s show in another studio, James was in his looking at guest lists to help narrow down our decision. There was a window between our studios so we could see each other, and when I looked up I saw he had a huge grin on his face and he waved me into his studio and uttered these words. “You know that dream interview you have been wanting all of your life? Look at the screen and see who is coming to Awesome Con in D.C. this year”. He then got up to allow me to see his computer screen, and he purposely positioned the list to where I had to scroll through it to see who he was talking about.
Then I saw him, the man whose character launched my love for video games all those years ago was going to be a few hours away. But before I could jump for joy, we still had to apply to get credentials and the chance for denial was still there. Weeks had gone by, and we still hadn’t heard back from the convention, then I received a text from James. “I got in!” he wrote and ten minutes after receiving his text, I received an email saying I had been approved for a press credential. “YES!,” I screamed in my one bedroom apartment as I ran around it while pumping my fist in victory, I then dropped to my knees and cried heavily.
Even if I could not interview Martinet, I now had access to personally tell him face-to-face how much he and his work had meant to me. Either way, my dream was coming true. When we arrived at Awesome Con, we utilized most of the first day to scout guest locations and map out other areas of the convention center where panels would be taking place. While walking the floor James turned to me and said “Do you want to see if we can get some interviews now?” and after I replied “Yes” he looked at me as my “big brother” and said, “Let’s go find Mario”.
That is what I love about James (who still hosts the show since I left it and moved to Los Angeles), like me he views our relationship as more brotherly instead of friendly. It is what made doing the show together for three and a half years and 175 episodes so memorable. As we are trying to figure out where Martinet is, we begin to hear music from the Super Mario Bros. series playing.
Peeking through people like the late Steve Irwin peeking through leaves, we saw a white-haired man dancing to the music behind his booth which was covered in Mario art and items containing other characters he has voiced. Though he was joyful, I was freaking out and nervous on the inside, my body was shaking, as I was mere feet from him. Waiting to see if he was available for an interview was like being at the top of a roller coaster. If the answer was no it would have been like the car breaking down but still being able to see everything, or in this case, give him my thanks for everything he has done for me from a gaming and professional standpoint.
I was filled with so many thoughts and emotions, I had James make the inquiry. “Mr. Martinet, I’m James and this is my broadcast partner Nick and we are the hosts of the Down and Nerdy podcast. We were wondering if you had time for a quick interview?”. Martinet, still smiling looked at a woman next to him to see what his schedule was like and looked back up at us, waved his arms in a welcoming motion and said, “Of course!”.
It was then at that booth in the middle of a convention center in the nation’s capital where my then 22-year wait ended and I smiled the biggest smile ever. But what made our over two-minute conversation the most memorable was how it started. After James introduced him and without any coaxing into the character, Martinet immediately greeted us and our listeners as Mario. He then pointed to James and I and as Mario, he said, “You guys you’re number one”. I then began to feel the tears and the feeling of accomplishment wash over me, as my first words to him in the interview were “I’m about to cry” and before the tears could flow, I directly went into my first question which followed Martinet’s memorable greeting.
When the interview ended, I told Martinet just how much both he and Mario meant to me and how it began my venture into video games and had created my want to cover them professionally. Meeting and interviewing Charles Martinet changed my life because it cemented where I belonged, both as a person and as a professional. Our conversation immediately made me realize I was in the right profession and on the right track.
The five-year-old boy with one arm who came across a grey plastic cartridge with art on the cover that resembled his father flying against a yellow background is now a 29-year-old video game journalist. One who has a 24×36 poster of the same artwork hanging on his wall over his desk as he writes this article for a Nintendo-related news site. Thank you, Charles Martinet, for everything you have given both myself and fans around the world. Thank you for saying yes and changing my life forever. If you want to hear James and I’s 2016 interview with Martinet, it is available below, all you have to do is hit play.