I've known Wreck-It-Ralph for over thirty years now. I remember the first time we met; we'd just been plugged in for the first time. We were in a room filled with all other types of consoles. It was a game emporium owned by a very nice old man named Mr. Litwak. He plugged in our game, and was admiring the console with his hands on his hips.
I suppose that as gaming characters, we don't put a whole lot of thought into why we are here and how we got here. It's pretty straight forward. We' are created and put into a game with a purpose. My purpose was to fix things. This I knew immediately. Already installed into my memory were the other characters; a friendly group of people that lived in the penthouse with me. Then there was Ralph, who wrecked the things I subsequently fixed.
I'll never forget the first time we met. It was the morning after we'd been plugged into Mr. Litwak's arcade. Before the arcade opened and kids came to play, I got to officially meet Ralph. Even though we technically already knew each-other, it felt right to introduce myself anyways.
I found him standing on the penthouse steps, gazing up at the windows he'd soon he smashing. I walked right up to him, smiling. "Hello, friend," I said. "My name is Felix." I extended my hand.
Ralph looked around, as if wondering who had spoken, then glanced down at me. He seemed like a nice guy despite his enormous size, so I didn't feel too nervous. I just kept my hand extended, a smile on my face. My arm started to get a little tired.
"You're Fix-It-Felix?" he said. He didn't have a deep, intimidating voice like one might expect him to have. He sounded almost friendly, if a little wary.
I chuckled. "Junior. Fix-It-Felix is my father. Please, call me just Felix."
Ralph made a face. "Alright, Just Felix. I'm Ralph. Wreck-It-Ralph."
He finally extended his hand as if to shake mine, then hesitated when he saw my expression. It was built into the game memory that Ralph had big hands, but it was still a surprise to see a hand bigger than my entire body. Carefully he offered me his thumb and we shook.
"Pleasure to meet you," I smiled. And it really was. I was excited to be in the center of a brand new game. I hoped that the kids loved playing our game. Hopefully Ralph and I had a long future together in this gaming business. I wanted to be friends.
But Ralph looked at me with a strange look in his brown eyes. "So you're the good guy, huh?"
I cleared my throat uncertainly. "Well, yes."
He gazed up at the tall penthouse again. "And this is the building I have to wreck?"
"Yes. And then I fix it." I meant this as a joke, hoping to break the ice. Again, I just wanted to be friends. But Ralph didn't laugh. He just kept gazing up at the penthouse and all the people running around inside it.
"So that leaves me as the bad guy?"
I wasn't sure how to respond. I was young then and didn't realize how seriously Ralph would take our roles as good guy and bad guy. So I simply nodded, because after all it was true. He was the bad guy; it was the point of the game.
Ralph turned away from the penthouse and nodded. "Well it was nice meeting you, Mr. Fix-It-Felix Junior."
Our very first day of gaming was a thrill. I watched as Mr. Litwak flipped the sign on his door so that it read "open", and kids started trickling in. I waited patiently until eventually a kid with a quarter in his hand approached the new console, the victim of curiosity. He slid in our very first quarter and Ralph appeared.
"I'm gonna wreck it!" he declared in a roar, the thought bubble popping up above his head.
He then proceeded to attack the penthouse. His enormous fists smashed the windows and the doors. I watched from the sidelines, excitedly waiting for him to finish. As soon as he completed his wrecking, I stepped in.
"Fix it, Felix!" came the shrill voices of the Nicelanders.
So I went from window to window, with the help of the kid playing the game, and fixed every window. When everything was good as new, the Nicelanders placed a medal around my neck and somehow hoisted him Ralph despite his size. I watched as they threw him over the side of the building and he fell in a puddle of mud. I remember hurrying down to meet Ralph in the mud as soon as the game ended. He pushed himself out of the mud, brushing it off of his clothes with a look of disgust on his face.
"Good work, brother!" I exclaimed. "Did you see that boy's face? He loved us!"
To my surprise, Ralph did not share my delight. He agreed that the boy seemed to enjoy fixing the windows, congratulated me on our first game, and then walked off to wait for the next game. I stood there, feeling a little lost, but smiling all the same. I was young. I didn't know Ralph very well, and at the time I was blinded by the excitement of being in a game.
As time passed, Fix-It-Felix Junior became a popular game. I watched as Mr. Litwak's arcade slowly became more and more popular. Every time he introduced a new game, more kids would flock to the room. There was always a line for my game, though. The line only increased as time went on. I was always very proud of this, and made sure to keep fixing things just right so that kids would keep playing.
I became very good friends with the rest of the people inside my game, and eventually I was brave enough to venture outside for the first time and meet characters from other games. The first time I entered game central station, I was in awe. It was a spectacle. Thousands of characters, all milling around and going to and fro. It was hard to believe that this world had been below my feet this entire time. I met all kinds of characters, and made friends with some of them.
Every morning before Mr. Litwak opened the doors, I would wait for the first gamer. My hammer would be nice and polished, buckled into my belt for another day of hard work. I'd watch as the quarter was entered and a face would appear on the screen in the sky. Ralph would come out and declare his signature line.
"I'm gonna wreck it!"
As the years went by, I started admiring Ralph's work. He was very good at what he did. Every day he'd be there, fists clenched and ready to wreck things.
When the game was young, I tried to get to know Ralph better. After each game I always went down to the mud to congratulate him. In the morning before Mr. Litwak opened I'd find Ralph in his growing pile of bricks so I could wish him good morning. He was always quiet and polite, which seemed almost out of character, but he always rebuffed my advances.
Eventually he made it known that he just didn't want to be anyone's friend. He showed up to play his part as the wreck-it-guy, but when it was lights out he never joined us in the penthouse for parties. He never really talked to me outside of our interactions during the game. At first I thought it was just him being shy, but then I started to understand why he never wanted to be around any of us.
None of the Nicelanders liked Ralph, not one little bit. They simply assumed he was always the mean character he seemed to be. I'm not proud of it, but I never tried to stop them from thinking otherwise. At first it just felt natural because after all it was built into all of us to fear Ralph since he was so enormous and destructive, with a slight anger management issue. We knew him as a person, not just as a character, and yet we were still afraid of him. I think this fear led to dislike, and as the years wore on and we became more accustomed with our roles, the game simply became us versus Ralph.
I distinctly recall the very first time I felt sorry for Ralph. We were nearing our fifteenth year anniversary, and the arcade was closed because Mr. Litwak had a nasty cold. We rarely had a day off of work, and so we were all thrilled. There was a party being thrown down in one of the Star Wars games, and we were all invited. As I helped the Nicelanders board the train, there came sudden gasps of fear. "It's Ralph!" they said in hushed voices.
I turned around, and smiled. "Good morning, Ralph."
He lumbered towards us, coming to a stop before the train that he dwarfed. I was pretty sure that I wasn't imagining some of the Nicelanders trembling as they looked up at him. Ralph smiled, but it looked more like a grimace.
"Where you guys all headed?" he asked. Even though I'd known Ralph for years now, it was still hard getting used to that voice. Innocent and curious, sort of like a kid. Friendly, too, in his own unique way. I think I was the only one who listened to him long enough to hear the friendliness in his voice, though.
"Mr. Vader is throwing a party over in Star Wars, since we get a day off," I explained, when no one else volunteered. They were all scared into silence.
Ralph's big brown eyes flicked from the Nicelanders to me. "Oh, he is? That sounds like a lot of fun. All of you were invited?"
I nodded. "Yes, everyone in the arcade was invited." I didn't have to look behind me to see the Nicelanders shaking their heads at me, because they could already tell what I was going to do. I took a deep breath and said, "That means you were invited too, Ralph. Want to come along?"
Ralph's eyes widened slightly, making my smile falter. I was always an upbeat person, but in that moment I felt a little sad. I'd forgotten that Ralph was never invited to things. "Can I?" he asked hopefully, smiling a little.
"Of course! Hop on, brother."
The train was jostled a bit as Ralph sat down. Nicelanders all looked disgruntled, and kept tossing me looks. I was sure that things would all be fine as soon as we got to the party, though.
"Thanks for inviting me, Felix," Ralph said to me as we drove through the cables. "I've never been to a party before. I've heard they're lots of fun, though."
I smiled up at him. Maybe today was my chance to finally become friends with Ralph, to get to know him a little better. Maybe I could even show everyone that he wasn't really a villain.
But as we entered Mr. Vader's game, the security check halted Ralph. He was squinting at a clipboard in his hand. "Hold on, mister. Name?"
The security check shook his head after combing through his list. "Sorry, Mr. Ralph, but you're not on the guest list. I'm afraid you weren't invited. I can't let you in."
Ralph stared down at him. He began to frown, and I immediately recognized the angry look he got before he started smashing things. I jumped forward, hoping to smooth things over. "Uh, Mr. Security Check, would you mind double checking? Mr. Vader said he invited everybody."
The security check read through the list. My heart dropped to the soles of my shoes when he shook his head. "I'm sorry, Mr. Felix, but his name's not on the list. He can't come in."
None of Nicelanders argued. They began filing in, since their names were on the list. I could hear the upbeat music thudding from outside, but I didn't budge. Ralph and I were holding up a line. A few characters rudely pointed this out.
"Go ahead, Felix," Ralph said with a sigh. "It's okay."
I looked up at Ralph. "I'm sure Mr. Vader made a mistake, Ralph. I'll go talk to him, he-"
Ralph interrupted me. "Don't bother, Felix. That's very nice of you, but I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up. Nobody invites a bad guy to their parties."
Nobody invites a bad guy to their parties.
After that day, I realized something. Ralph only saw himself as the bad guy, and nothing more. He saw the others treating him like the bad guy and the players treating him like the bad guy, and guessed that they had to be right.
It wasn't fair, though. I'd known Ralph for years now, and though he'd avoided becoming friends with me, I still knew he was a good guy. I saw how we had all settled into our roles- me as the hero, Ralph as the villain, and the Nicelanders as the bystanders-in-distress. When it was lights out and Mr. Litwak locked up, they still treated Ralph like the bad guy.
It was no longer just a job to me, and these weren't just roles we played. Sure I was the one who came in and fixed Ralph's mess, but that didn't mean I was the good guy. I was just doing my duty. Ralph's duty was to wreck things, and that didn't mean he was the bad guy. It wasn't about the roles we played, it was about making kids happy.
It took me a long time to wrap my mind around this idea. By the time I wanted to make a difference, it was already too late. We were nearing our thirtieth year anniversary. Mr. Litwak's arcade had turned into a well-known place to hang out and play games. Kids came all the time, new games were introduced regularly, and Mr. Litwak had never been happier. Neither had we, in fact. My game was still being played, even after thirty years. After maturing and watching all kinds of games be introduced and then taken away, I truly appreciated still being inside Mr. Litwak's arcade. I loved my job and the kids that came to play my game.
The only thing that still bothered me was Ralph. My chance to become his friend seemed long gone now, and so we'd settled into the comfortable role of familiar strangers. It felt wrong because we'd known each-other so very long, but we had become our roles. Ralph was an outsider, and seemed to have accepted this. He now lived in the pile of bricks that had grown into a mountain. Several times I almost asked if he wanted to move into the penthouse, but he'd always turn away before I got the chance. It was frustrating. I wanted to know him better, to understand the bad guy of my game, but he never let me try.
Then everything changed on our thirty year anniversary. Ralph went turbo, and chaos erupted in Fix-It-Felix Junior. I had no choice but to fix yet another thing Ralph had wrecked. I was afraid to game jump like Ralph was, but without him there was no game. Ralph was very important to the game- and to us. I felt ashamed to realize that it had taken me this long to see that.
It took me a long time to finally find him. I was shot at in a bug-infested world, nearly drowned in quik-sand, and met a gal from the Hero's Duty game who sent my cheeks aglow, but at last I found myself face-to-face with Wreck-it-Ralph. I was crouched in my cell, angrily wondering why I fixed everything I touched, when the stone wall was blown aside and there he was.
"Ralph!" I cried. I was so overjoyed to see his familiar mug in such a strange candy-coated world, that I immediately launched forward and gave him a hug. I'd never hugged him before, but all sense of awkwardness was driven from my mind in my relief that I'd finally found him. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was reminded that it was because of Ralph that we'd all gotten into this mess, so I hopped backwards and declared a silent treatment on his behalf.
"Listen, Felix, I know I really messed things up big time, but I need you to fix this race cart."
I stubbornly refused to look at him.
"I know you're mad, but hear me out. There's this little girl who needs to race today, and it's my fault this thing is broken. She has to race today."
Something in Ralph's voice surprised me. Slowly I turned to him, reevaluating. There was definitely something different about Ralph that I hadn't noticed at first. His eyes weren't bunched up underneath a perpetual frown, and his mouth was free of its normal growl.
But what really intrigued me was his voice. He was truly in need of help.
"If you do this for me, Felix, I promise to never try and be a good guy again," he said desperately.
I smiled, and pulled out my hammer. The cart was a little shabby looking, but from the way Ralph carried it you'd think it was made of gold. As I pieced together the broken parts of cookie and sweets, I saw written in icing, Vanellope and Ralph.
"Who's Vanellope?" I asked curiously as I finished up the cart.
Ralph was turned away from me, rubbing his hands. "Oh, um, a friend. She's locked down here, too. When you're finished fixing we have to go find her."
This surprised me most of all. In my thirty years of knowing Ralph, I'd never known him to make friends. As I met Ralph's anxious brown eyes, I wondered exactly what kind of a journey he'd been on this past night and how much he'd changed.
As it turned out, Vanellope was a little girl. She was shackled up when Ralph and I rescued her, which seemed awfully mean because she was just a kid. I watched in amazement as Ralph broke her chains and she jumped into his big arms. I was almost afraid that he'd accidentally crush her, but he held with her a gentleness I had no idea he possessed.
"Vanellope, meet Fit-it-Felix Jr. Felix, meet Vanellope."
I shook the little girl's hand, smiling in amazement. "Pleasure to meet you, miss."
"Yeah it's a pleasure and all Mr. Felix but we gotta get out of here, Stinkbrain!"
At first I thought she was calling me stinkbrain, when Ralph responded to her. "The kid's right. Come on, Felix, let's get to the race track!"
I wasn't completely sure what was going on, but the one thing I did know was that if one of the Nicelanders called Ralph a stinkbrain, he'd pummel them into the ground. But this little kid could call him all kinds of names, and he just laughed. It seemed that after thirty years, there was still a side to Ralph I'd never gotten to see before.
After the race began and King Candy revealed himself to be Turbo, candy-colored bugs started exploding from the ground. My dynamite gal, Calhoun, tried to keep order by helping all of the Sugar Rush characters out of the game. Ralph and Vanellope were standing by the entrance for some reason when Calhoun and I joined them with the bugs at our heels.
"What's going on?" I asked, scared when I saw that no matter how much Ralph pulled, the little girl couldn't go through the entrance.
"She's a glitch," Calhoun realized. "She'll die with the game."
I watched as Ralph collapsed, his shoulders hanging in defeat. I couldn't hear them over the rage of the bugs, but I saw Vanellope touch Ralph's enormous hand and say something to him. I had never seen Ralph look like this before, and I wished that I could fix this. But for the first time in my life, I'd found something I truly could not fix with my hammer.
Calhoun mentioned a light beam, which abruptly sent Ralph up and running. I had no idea what he was doing, but the bugs were approaching and I had to do something.
"Ralph!" Vanellope screamed. I went over to her and gently took her hand.
"He'll come back," I told her, keeping my voice calm despite the explosion of gunfire from Calhoun's gun. "I know him. He's going to fix this."
Vanellope stared up at me. "I thought you were the one that fixed things?"
I smiled, but for the first time it felt sad. "It's his turn now."
I kept her behind me as Calhoun shot at the bugs, keeping my hammer in my hand just in case. I'd never been in a war before, but I had to be strong to protect this kid. I felt that after all of the years I'd known Ralph, I owed it to him to protect the one thing he cared about.
Something over in the mountains began exploding. I could see a bizarre-looking bug flying around with something in his arms. My heart dropped when I realized it was Ralph. He was fighting, but it looked like no use. I wasn't the only one who saw him suddenly falling through the air.
"Ralph!" This time I couldn't hold Vanellope back as she ran away from me, glitching through the army of bugs.
"Vanellope!" I called after her, but it was no use. I couldn't see her any longer. I kept my hammer, preparing to throw it into the face of these bugs. Calhoun was beside me, tossing her gun in disgust once she was out of bullets. I wanted to believe that we'd make it out okay, but suddenly I wondered if I would die today. Calhoun and I could have easily slipped away, but there was no way I was leaving Ralph and Vanellope. I turned to Calhoun, and she nodded.
"It was an honor knowing you, Fix-It," she told me as the bugs closed the distance between us. I closed my eyes, bracing for death.
Right in the nick of time, there came an explosion of light. Calhoun and I watched as all of the bugs stopped, their faces inches from ours, turning to face the beam of light shooting out of the mountain. I cheered as the candy bugs spread their wings and rose towards the light, where they were destroyed. I knew that Ralph had saved us.
"Well one thing's for sure," I said as we watched the last of the bugs destroyed by the beam of light. "I am never eating candy ever again." Calhoun laughed and picked me up by my collar, kissing me.
When we joined Ralph and Vanellope down by the smashed finishing line, we found Ralph gently helping Vanellope into her race cart. When he saw me, he turned to me and said, "Hey, buddy, would you mind fixing the finish line?"
I could hardly believed my ears. Ralph had just called me his buddy. Never in my life had I thought he'd say something like that. I was all too happy to comply, whipping out my hammer with flourish and fixing the finishing line until it was good as new.
"You ready?" Ralph asked her quietly.
"As ready as I'll ever be," Vanellope grinned.
With a push, the cart rolled across the checkered finish line. Vanellope was pulled out of her cart and around us the darkness was being replaced by light as Sugar Land was restored to its former glory. All of the Sugar Land citizens crowded around, amazed as Vanellope landed in a poofy princess dress.
Vanellope, it turned out, was a princess. She didn't seem to care much for that title, though, as she declared an official presidency for Sugar Land. While she sorted out the politics, I went over to Ralph. He was watching the kid with a small smile on his face. I'd never really seen him smile before. Hesitantly I cleared my throat, and Ralph looked around before glancing down at me. I was reminded of the first time we'd ever met, how he was an enormous stranger and I had no idea what kind of future we had together.
"Ralph, I- I was wrong about you. You're not a bad guy at all. You're a hero."
Ralph smiled. He kneeled down so that he was a little closer to my height. "That means a lot to me, Felix. Thanks."
I smiled back at him, and extended my hand. "It's been a pleasure knowing you, partner."
The very first time we shook hands, Ralph offered me his thumb. But now he offered me his entire hand, and shook as carefully as possible. "You too... partner." When he let go of my hand, I felt excited at the prospect of a friendship between Ralph and I. For thirty years I'd wanted to know him better, and after our adventures today I knew him not as a bad guy, but as a hero.
"We have to leave soon, Ralph. Are you- are you going to come back to the game with me?"
Ralph chuckled. "Of course I am, Felix. But- do we have to leave now?"
"The arcade opens soon, I'm afraid."
I wondered why he looked sad until he looked over at Vanellope, who was talking to her subjects. I realized that he was going to have to say goodbye. He called Vanellope over, and as they started talking I felt as if I was intruding on an intimate moment. I scooted away towards Calhoun.
He kneeled down to say something to her, and Vanellope immediately jumped into his arms. She buried her face into his chest. While Calhoun prepared the ship, I watched in complete amazement. For thirty years, I had known Ralph. He was a lonely person who did not make friends and above all, didn't care about anyone else but himself. I used to think that it was just his code, but now I realized that it was because no one had ever cared about him before.
Vanellope tearfully said something to Ralph as he held her carefully, as if handling delicate china. I decided that there was something special about that kid. She was the only person I'd ever known who could call Ralph names and tease him and annoy the living daylights out of him, and he still looked at her with that soft smile in his eyes. I'd never seen him look at someone like that before, and have yet to see him look at another person like that.
"Call to that loverboy, Felix. It's time to go," Calhoun said to me.
I was reluctant to interrupt their private moment, but we had to go. "Ralph! You coming, brother?"
We left, and returned to our games just before Litwak's Family Fun Center & Arcade opened. Mr. Litwak was overjoyed to peel away the "out of order" paper and find Ralph smashing windows just like always. I always thought that Mr. Litwak knew about the magic in his arcade room, and as he smiled at me and Ralph like we were old friends, I knew he believed. The kids would come and play and have no idea about the incredible adventure that had happened overnight, but Mr. Litwak knew.
Ralph and I have been partners in our game for well over thirty years now. He seems to enjoy being the bad guy now, and I've made sure the Nicelanders live up to their name around him.
In the end, Ralph is so much more than I first thought he was. When we first met, we were strangers. He was big and intimidating and I was small and high-pitched. I was selfish and didn't try to understand Ralph, instead waiting for him to understand me. After that unforgettable anniversary, I've vowed to be a better man for Ralph's sake.
Late at night, when the arcade is closed, Ralph and I always sneak off to Tapper's so we can catch up. For the most part, he sticks around all night as we talk about our exhausting but enjoyable days, and sometimes we even talk about our thirtieth anniversary. But then there's some nights when Ralph has to leave early, muttering some excuse.
When I go back to my game and sit on the roof to gaze up at the stars, I chuckle when I see Ralph and Vanellope racing over in Sugar Land. I think that every time she calls Ralph her hero, he'll believe it a little more until one day, he realizes he really is the good guy.
And who knows. Maybe one day I'll be the best man at his wedding.
Wreck it Ralph is easily the greatest kid movie that's come along in awhile, and I went to see it for the second time yesterday. As I left the theater I knew I had to write this. And I'm definitely going back to see it a third time.
The second time around, I got to pay attention to other things, like Felix. He's an interesting medium between Ralph and the Nicelanders, and I got the feeling that it took awhile for Felix to think differently and appreciate Ralph for what he does for the game. I like to think he was a little self-centered when the game first began, but by now he's a really good guy.
I also wondered what Felix must think of Vanellope and Ralph. After all, for thirty years the only side to Ralph he's seen is the destructive side. To suddenly find Ralph risking so much for a little girl must have been a bit of a shock.
And I listened to Owl City's "When Can I See You Again" while writing this. It's officially stuck in my head.