Fans have long wondered whether Mario's last name is indeed Mario, but they've never had reason to doubt his occupation. As sure as the sky is blue, grass is green and Princess Peach is in another castle, Mario is a plumber. End of discussion.
Except it's not, because, as many were dismayed to learn this week, Mario is no longer a plumber. Worse, he apparently hasn't been for quite a while. Nintendo's official character profile states, "As a matter of fact, he also seems to have worked as a plumber a long time ago," as if it were the fractured memory of a fever dream populated by walking mushrooms, carnivorous plants and living bombs, or something half-remembered, like a grammar rule learned in elementary school. The reaction on social media was predictably swift, with initial disbelief giving way to jokes, presumably because we so often mask our grief with humor.
However, once we push past the cracks about the gig economy and using magic mushrooms on the job, we see two generations of gamers (both casual and serious) whose world abruptly tilted on its axis. Up is down, down is up, and ... Mario is no longer a plumber. It's reminiscent of the revelation last year that DuckTales and Darkwing Duck are set in different universes, despite sharing some characters: Suddenly that fictional world, and a little part of our real one, doesn't make as much sense anymore. But why do such discoveries rattle us so much?
We can argue about whether Mario is the most famous video game character of all time, but he'd seem to have the edge on the likes of Pac-Man, Lara Croft and Link. There's no debate, however, that his franchise is the most successful by far, selling nearly 530 million units since the release of Mario Bros. in 1983. Advances in technology aside, Mario has remained relatively unchanged in the 36 years since his debut in Donkey Kong, if we overlook that he was originally named Jumpman... and had a different vocation entirely.