It’s a sad day, as the world learned the inspiration for Mario‘s name, Mario Segale, has died at the age of 84. A successful real estate developer, Mario’s namesake was surrounded by loved ones in Washington before passing.
A chance encounter
Back in 1981, Nintendo of America was bringing Donkey Kong to the west. Originally, the hero of the game was named Jumpman and the damsel in distress was called Lady. The Big N wanted NOA to think up better names for the characters. Segale was renting a warehouse in Washington to Nintendo of America at the time. Therefore, the company decided to name Jumpman after their landlord. In addition, Lady changed to Pauline based on the wife of an NOA employee.
Segale knew he was the inspiration for Nintendo’s most famous character. However, he tried to distance himself from his connection to the mustachioed hero. In 1993, when the Seattle Times asked Segale how he felt about the plumber who kills turtles and sentient mushrooms, he said, “You might say I’m still waiting for my royalty checks.” Indeed, even Segale’s obituary tries to skirt the association, reading:
While he was the inspiration for the name of Nintendo’s ‘Super Mario’ from when they were tenants in his business park in the 1970’s, he always ducked the notoriety and wanted to be known instead for what he accomplished in his life.
While Segale’s name helped form the most famous video game character of all time, I get why he wanted to shy away from the relation. The man ran his businesses well and achieved prosperity due to his own hard work and perseverance. To only be remembered as the inspiration for a video game hero is not what he would have wanted.
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