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The Toadstool Exchange: An Examination of 5 Video Game Currencies

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Most of us will spend a great deal of real money on video games, wherein we can spend a great deal of fictional money—only for much cooler things that are more likely to explode. Here are five video game currencies, a general appraisal of their respective economic outlooks, and an indexed exchange rate for aggressive interstellar and inter-dimensional travelers.

1. Coin (Mario)

The Mushroom Kingdom’s established currency is the gold coin. Despite permanent siege conditions brought upon by the Koopas, and the frequency with which the ruling monarch is kidnapped, the purchasing power of the coin has remained astonishingly consistent. One hundred (100) coins have purchased exactly one (1) resurrection since at least 1985. Still, it’s clear that the realm of Toadstool has endured much hardship since the start of the war. Consider the abundance of bricks throughout the kingdom. They are clearly of very poor quality and extremely fragile. (The punch of a fully grown adult can generally shatter most bricks into dust.) More importantly, the bricks suggest numerous abandoned construction projects. Infrastructure upgrades are essential to maintaining any modern state. Under the reign of HRH Peach, Princess of the Mushroom Kingdom, few if any such projects have been witnessed.

While Her Majesty has been preoccupied with the ongoing conflict with Lord Bowser, King of the Koopas, her dominion has begun to crumble around her. Such hazards as open pipes, gaping crevices filled with lava, and dilapidated, reportedly haunted mansions present ongoing challenges not only for residents of the Mushroom Kingdom, but also its Italian foot soldiers.

2. Rupee (Zelda)

Like the Mushroom Kingdom, Hyrule is plagued with conflict, here in the form of a sorcerer desperate for an ancient relic owned by the ruling family. Unlike the Mushroom Kingdom, Hyrule’s dominant currency is a gem, as opposed to a precious metal. The turbulence of life in the kingdom appears not to have unnerved its citizens. This is perhaps because of the rustic nature of Hyrule—the people are simply too far removed from the situation to worry. At any rate, swords and armor are a part of everyday life. A people comfortable with fighting octoroks while plowing the fields are hearty enough to handle attempted burglaries against its monarchy.

From the earliest recorded history (i.e., the forging of the Master Sword during the so-called Skyward Sword saga) through the telling of the Legend of Zelda, one crafted item has remained largely unchanged: the small wooden shield. Time has neither diminished its utility nor limited its availability in general goods stores. This gives us some idea of the state of Hyrule’s economy. The cost of one (1) wooden shield has increased more than 200% over the years, rising from 50 to an astonishing 160 rupees. Because of such items as magic ocarinas, time is a relative construct in Hyrule, and it is impossible to determine the actual age of the kingdom. As such, standard models fail us. But clearly the purchasing power of the rupee has diminished over time. Notably, a decade after the final slaying of Ganon—whereupon Link set off on his final adventure—there is no evidence of shops or rupees at all, suggesting ultimately a catastrophic economic collapse. Considering the stress put on Hyrule by external forces since its founding, this is hardly surprising. (The Mushroom Kingdom would do well to learn from this tragedy.)

If, in fact, the rupee collapses entirely, it would not be without precedent. In Hungary following World War II, for example, the Pengo to Forint exchange reached four hundred octillion to one (400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 to 1).

3. Bottle Caps (Fallout)

Image credit: Etsy Shop Owner OXthell

Regardless of whether Hyrule suffered a devastating economic collapse, or the Mushroom Kingdom is ultimately conquered or destroyed by the Koopas, survivors can take some comfort that new currency and economies will rise. Post-war Europe is an obvious example (see: the Danzig gulden), but another notable case is the fallout-washed post-apocalyptic American wasteland. There, bottle caps became the successful, stable currency. Though crafts aren’t often negotiable currency but in the strictest of senses (i.e., bartering, but even then with little consistency—see: Craigslist), it’s not a wholly alien concept. In the early 20th century, one Congolese Katanga Cross would buy you six chickens. In West Africa in the 1880s, two Kissi pennies (six-inch, crafted iron rods) could buy a bunch of bananas; two thousand could score you a cow.

Under the circumstances of a thermonuclear apocalypse, bottle caps are as good a currency as any. They are plentiful but limited, geographically well-dispersed, culturally acceptable, difficult to counterfeit, and sufficiently durable. Just as gold is valuable because we’ve all decided to agree that gold is valuable, so too might a cap rush sweep the irradiated post-industrial-pre-industrial continent. When the first dweller of underground Vault 13 emerged in the mid-22nd century, 20 caps could buy one (1) Iguana-on-a-stick. A century later, travelers from Vault 101 would report that iguanas-on-a-stick cost a mere 5 caps. As no living iguana was ever actually seen in the wild during that era, there’s no evidence of a population increase. The price should more or less reflect the performance of the cap, which is pretty good considering the mutants, zombies, and slavers. And there is reason for optimism: President John Henry Eden has promised to devote his administration to rebuilding American infrastructure. And when John Henry Eden builds a country, he builds it to last.

4. UAC Credit (Doom)

Weapons manufacturer Union Aerospace Corporation initially showed great promise as an economic savior to war-torn 22nd-century Earth. A working, stable system of teleportation would have physically connected humanity in much the same way that the Internet virtually connected us. All barriers to trade and social interaction would have been annihilated. Misuse of teleportation technology would have been deterred by a kind of mutually assured destruction (for example, send your army to my capital and I’ll send a nuclear bomb to yours). Likewise, UAC’s tremendous work in establishing self-sustaining colonies on Mars and various moons in the solar system seemed at first to diversify the human supply chain. Then its scientists accidentally opened a gate to hell and destroyed humanity and bunnies alike.

The sheer scale of UAC investments and enterprise, as well as the company’s reliability in volatile times, made it well suited to issuing its own currency, called the UAC Credit. This is not as unusual as it might sound. As matters of convenience, scrips (as private currencies are called) were once used extensively by companies whose activities were located in remote areas. Lumber and mining camps, for instance, would sometimes pay employees with private currency that could be redeemed at company-owned commissaries and exchanges. Similarly, even today, U.S. service members will be familiar with Pogs—small, printed cardboard disks used in combat zones in place of coinage (which is too heavy to transport overseas in meaningful supply). Pogs can be spent or exchanged on any U.S. military installation in the world.

5. Gold (World of Warcraft)

Immediately after the Fall of Stormwind, a strict feudal system seems to grip Azeroth, with lords and ladies providing everything his or her vassals might need. Whether this is an aberration is unclear, but the defeat of such an ancient civilization would clearly have dire economic consequences. Azeroth would soon see historic growth, however, brought upon by untapped and readily accessible veins of gold. Villages were constructed adjacent to gold mines, each of which produced up to 30,000 nuggets even under the less-than-ideal conditions of total warfare. The next two decades would parallel the California Gold Rush of 1848, which infused the global economy with renewed vigor. Twenty-five years after the Azeroth rush and the rebuilding of Stormwind City (later called New Stormwind), the economy reached equilibrium, backed by gold and protected by occasionally organized guilds and factions. The paucity of gold for new adventurers would suggest that the supply was either seized by hostile invaders during the First and Second Wars, or surreptitiously hoarded by the ruling class. As evidenced by the recently remodeled Stormwind Keep, to ask the question is to answer it.

The Toadstool Exchange

The tremendous number of portals, teleportation devices, spells, atomic anomalies, and magic flutes means that truly aggressive adventurers might find themselves in strange lands. For this reason, it might be useful to build a rudimentary exchange, so that a Koopa Troopa knows what to expect, at least monetarily, on Mars. Ideally, we could build an index from the price of an identical item in every world, and thus determine the purchase power parity of the various currencies. One famous example of this is the Big Mac Index, calculated annually by The Economist. (The Big Mac is well suited to such purposes because of its practical nature, and because of the cross-section of industries that go into its creation, from dairy farming to intermodal freight transport.)

Realistically, there’s no precise overlap in goods available for purchase in both Hyrule and Azeroth. However, there is one item of general equivalence found almost everywhere: the simple explosive. Using the least-expensive non-magical explosive available in general goods stores across the board, we can estimate the relative value of currencies. (Added in this index, but not discussed at length, are the Gil, used on Gaia, and the Simoleon, the currency of SimNation.)

In Seaside Town in the Mushroom Kingdom, one (1) Fire Bomb can be purchased for 200 coins (200MK).
*
A shop on the eastern coast in Hyrule sells one (1) bomb for 20 rupees (20HR).
*
One (1) Rough Copper Bomb can be purchased in Azeroth for 2 silver, 40 copper (0.024AG).
*
The going rate for one (1) grenade in the Sector 7 Slums of Midgar in Gaia is 80 Gils (80GG).
*
UAC vending machines on Mars sell three (3) rockets for 10 credits (3.33UC).
*
Shops in Pleasantview will sell one (1) Sky Scorcher rocket for 90 Simoleons (90SS). (N.B.: While not a weapon per se, like everything else in Pleasantview it’s likely to destroy property and/or kill someone upon usage.)
*
One (1) fragmentation grenade from Fort Independence in the Capital Wasteland sells for 25 bottle caps (25CW).
*
In the United States today, one (1) hand grenade costs the U.S. Army $27.64 (27.64US).**

Constructed:

200MK = 20HR = .024AG = 80GG = 3.33UC = 90SS = 25CW = 27.64US

Reduced, valuation based on the cap:

8MK = .8HR = .000096AG = 3.2GG = .1332UC = 3.6SS = 1CW = 1.1056

**(N.B.: As such grenades are purchased in bulk and not available for general purchase, this is a poor indicator of value, which would be much greater on the street. It’s staggering, however, to see how closely the price compares with the bottle cap. We can extrapolate from this that once the radioactive dust settles following total thermonuclear war, the tens of thousands of grenades presently in the property of the U.S. Army will flood the market and drive down prices. If this is correct (and it’s very difficult to say, obviously), we can also deduce that the government is therefore getting a pretty fair value.)

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entertainment
5 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 2
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Netflix

Stranger Things seemed to come out of nowhere to become one of television's standout new series in 2016. Netflix's sometimes scary, sometimes funny, and always exciting homage to '80s pop culture was a binge-worthy phenomenon when it debuted in July 2016. Of course, the streaming giant wasn't going to wait long to bring more Stranger Things to audiences, and a second season was announced a little over a month after its debut—and Netflix just announced that we'll be getting it a few days earlier than expected. Here are five key things we know about the show's sophomore season, which kicks off on October 27.

1. WE'LL BE GETTING EVEN MORE EPISODES.

The first season of Stranger Things consisted of eight hour-long episodes, which proved to be a solid length for the story Matt and Ross Duffer wanted to tell. While season two won't increase in length dramatically, we will be getting at least one extra hour when the show returns in 2017 with nine episodes. Not much is known about any of these episodes, but we do know the titles:

"Madmax"
"The Boy Who Came Back To Life"
"The Pumpkin Patch"
"The Palace"
"The Storm"
"The Pollywog"
"The Secret Cabin"
"The Brain"
"The Lost Brother"

There's a lot of speculation about what each title means and, as usual with Stranger Things, there's probably a reason for each one.

2. THE KIDS ARE RETURNING (INCLUDING ELEVEN).

Stranger Things fans should gear up for plenty of new developments in season two, but that doesn't mean your favorite characters aren't returning. A November 4 photo sent out by the show's Twitter account revealed most of the kids from the first season will be back in 2017, including the enigmatic Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown (the #elevenisback hashtag used by series regular Finn Wolfhard should really drive the point home):

3. THE SHOW'S 1984 SETTING WILL LEAD TO A DARKER TONE.

A year will have passed between the first and second seasons of the show, allowing the Duffer brothers to catch up with a familiar cast of characters that has matured since we last saw them. With the story taking place in 1984, the brothers are looking at the pop culture zeitgeist at the time for inspiration—most notably the darker tone of blockbusters like Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

"I actually really love Temple of Doom, I love that it gets a little darker and weirder from Raiders, I like that it feels very different than Raiders did," Matt Duffer told IGN. "Even though it was probably slammed at the time—obviously now people look back on it fondly, but it messed up a lot of kids, and I love that about that film—that it really traumatized some children. Not saying that we want to traumatize children, just that we want to get a little darker and weirder."

4. IT'S NOT SO MUCH A CONTINUATION AS IT IS A SEQUEL.

When you watch something like The Americans season two, it's almost impossible to catch on unless you've seen the previous episodes. Stranger Things season two will differ from the modern TV approach by being more of a sequel than a continuation of the first year. That means a more self-contained plot that doesn't leave viewers hanging at the end of nine episodes.

"There are lingering questions, but the idea with Season 2 is there's a new tension and the goal is can the characters resolve that tension by the end," Ross Duffer told IGN. "So it's going to be its own sort of complete little movie, very much in the way that Season 1 is."

Don't worry about the two seasons of Stranger Things being too similar or too different from the original, though, because when speaking with Entertainment Weekly about the influences on the show, Matt Duffer said, "I guess a lot of this is James Cameron. But he’s brilliant. And I think one of the reasons his sequels are as successful as they are is he makes them feel very different without losing what we loved about the original. So I think we kinda looked to him and what he does and tried to capture a little bit of the magic of his work.”

5. THE PREMIERE WILL TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF HAWKINS.

Everything about the new Stranger Things episodes will be kept secret until they finally debut later this year, but we do know one thing about the premiere: It won't take place entirely in the familiar town of Hawkins, Indiana. “We will venture a little bit outside of Hawkins,” Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly. “I will say the opening scene [of the premiere] does not take place in Hawkins.”

So, should we take "a little bit outside" as literally as it sounds? You certainly can, but in that same interview, the brothers also said they're both eager to explore the Upside Down, the alternate dimension from the first season. Whether the season kicks off just a few miles away, or a few worlds away, you'll get your answer when Stranger Things's second season debuts next month.

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Food
The Gooey History of the Fluffernutter Sandwich

Open any pantry in New England and chances are you’ll find at least one jar of Marshmallow Fluff. Not just any old marshmallow crème, but Fluff; the one manufactured by Durkee-Mower of Lynn, Massachusetts since 1920, and the preferred brand of the northeast. With its familiar red lid and classic blue label, it's long been a favorite guilty pleasure and a kitchen staple beloved throughout the region.

This gooey, spreadable, marshmallow-infused confection is used in countless recipes and found in a variety of baked goods—from whoopie pies and Rice Krispies Treats to chocolate fudge and beyond. And in the beyond lies perhaps the most treasured concoction of all: the Fluffernutter sandwich—a classic New England treat made with white bread, peanut butter, and, you guessed it, Fluff. No jelly required. Or wanted.

There are several claims to the origin of the sandwich. The first begins with Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere—or, not Paul exactly, but his great-great-great-grandchildren Emma and Amory Curtis of Melrose, Massachusetts. Both siblings were highly intelligent and forward-thinkers, and Amory was even accepted into MIT. But when the family couldn’t afford to send him, he founded a Boston-based company in the 1890s that specialized in soda fountain equipment.

He sold the business in 1901 and used the proceeds to buy the entire east side of Crystal Street in Melrose. Soon after he built a house and, in his basement, he created a marshmallow spread known as Snowflake Marshmallow Crème (later called SMAC), which actually predated Fluff. By the early 1910s, the Curtis Marshmallow Factory was established and Snowflake became the first commercially successful shelf-stable marshmallow crème.

Although other companies were manufacturing similar products, it was Emma who set the Curtis brand apart from the rest. She had a knack for marketing and thought up many different ways to popularize their marshmallow crème, including the creation of one-of-a-kind recipes, like sandwiches that featured nuts and marshmallow crème. She shared her culinary gems in a weekly newspaper column and radio show. By 1915, Snowflake was selling nationwide.

During World War I, when Americans were urged to sacrifice meat one day a week, Emma published a recipe for a peanut butter and marshmallow crème sandwich. She named her creation the "Liberty Sandwich," as a person could still obtain his or her daily nutrients while simultaneously supporting the wartime cause. Some have pointed to Emma’s 1918 published recipe as the earliest known example of a Fluffernutter, but the earliest recipe mental_floss can find comes from three years prior. In 1915, the confectioners trade journal Candy and Ice Cream published a list of lunch offerings that candy shops could advertise beyond hot soup. One of them was the "Mallonut Sandwich," which involved peanut butter and "marshmallow whip or mallo topping," spread on lightly toasted whole wheat bread.

Another origin story comes from Somerville, Massachusetts, home to entrepreneur Archibald Query. Query began making his own version of marshmallow crème and selling it door-to-door in 1917. Due to sugar shortages during World War I, his business began to fail. Query quickly sold the rights to his recipe to candy makers H. Allen Durkee and Fred Mower in 1920. The cost? A modest $500 for what would go on to become the Marshmallow Fluff empire.

Although the business partners promoted the sandwich treat early in the company’s history, the delicious snack wasn’t officially called the Fluffernutter until the 1960s, when Durkee-Mower hired a PR firm to help them market the sandwich, which resulted in a particularly catchy jingle explaining the recipe.

So who owns the bragging rights? While some anonymous candy shop owner was likely the first to actually put the two together, Emma Curtis created the early precursors and brought the concept to a national audience, and Durkee-Mower added the now-ubiquitous crème and catchy name. And the Fluffernutter has never lost its popularity.

In 2006, the Massachusetts state legislature spent a full week deliberating over whether or not the Fluffernutter should be named the official state sandwich. On one side, some argued that marshmallow crème and peanut butter added to the epidemic of childhood obesity. The history-bound fanatics that stood against them contended that the Fluffernutter was a proud culinary legacy. One state representative even proclaimed, "I’m going to fight to the death for Fluff." True dedication, but the bill has been stalled for more than a decade despite several revivals and subsequent petitions from loyal fans.

But Fluff lovers needn’t despair. There’s a National Fluffernutter Day (October 8) for hardcore fans, and the town of Somerville, Massachusetts still celebrates its Fluff pride with an annual What the Fluff? festival.

"Everyone feels like Fluff is part of their childhood," said self-proclaimed Fluff expert and the festival's executive director, Mimi Graney, in an interview with Boston Magazine. "Whether born in the 1940s or '50s, or '60s, or later—everyone feels nostalgic for Fluff. I think New Englanders in general have a particular fondness for it."

Today, the Fluffernutter sandwich is as much of a part of New England cuisine as baked beans or blueberry pie. While some people live and die by the traditional combination, the sandwich now comes in all shapes and sizes, with the addition of salty and savory toppings as a favorite twist. Wheat bread is as popular as white, and many like to grill their sandwiches for a touch of bistro flair. But don't ask a New Englander to swap out their favorite brand of marshmallow crème. That’s just asking too Fluffing much.

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