Last week’s lesson, which can be found here, revolved around how Journey teaches us the value of the path and not the destination particularly because there is no real final destination. I was considering this further and realized that Journey requires the player to experience the, for lack of a better term, journey because of its lack of clear instructions or goals, but a game that better drives the point of valuing experience has been around for much longer: Mario Bros.
That’s right! This post is about the lovable, slightly stereotypical, Italian plumbers that virtually every gamer has played. Just to be clear, this post will focus on the pre-N64 era games. If I have to explain what an N64 is, you should probably not be on a computer by yourself so go ask a parent or older sibling. Anyhow, the focus will be on the 2D side scrolling adventures of the titular characters since the basic play system altered with the introduction of three dimensional landscapes. Everyone clear? Cool, let’s get started.
The Mario Games have a pretty basic premise; you are Mario and you have to make it to the end of the level before time runs out without getting killed. Along the way you will face dangerous obstacles and enemies like turtles, mushrooms, pits, spiked blocks, etc. These things will kill you. How? Who knows? The game operates under video game logic so just go with it. After several “worlds” of this weird hallucinogen induced adventure, you have the chance to rescue a princess, for some reason and thus end your journey. However, the one rule that did not change was that you could not go back.
Seriously, you see where the screen cuts off on the left side? That is the point of no return. The screen moves with you as you continue along and will not let you return to whence you came from. This doesn’t seem too bad in the long run since you have to get to the end of the level before time runs out anyhow, but this also means you might have missed out on some power ups just to get to the end faster. No Mario game best enabled this than Super Mario Bros. 3 with this:
That is the world traversing Warp Whistle. With it you could transport to a another world/level bypassing dangers and obstacles. It made your path easier to get through and thus easier to complete/finish the game. However, this also means you skip over parts of the game to finish the game you are enjoying and playing faster. I never understood the insane logic of doing something like that, but that is neither here nor there.
Yes, using this in game devices enabled you to rescue the princess faster, but it also avoided the adventure and some rather enjoyable aspects of the universe you were playing in.
See that? That is the freaking Tanooki Suit. With it you can soar the skies, use your tail to destroy your enemies, and turn to stone. (Again video game logic) There is also a Frog Suit that allowed you to be a God of the Sea without fear of losing breath or energy from the depths of the oceans. These were a few of the magical abilities you could obtain if only you had not blown on the whistle and jumped over them. Was it easy to get these things? No. Were they worth it? Absolutely!
Thus today’s lesson: You have to always keep moving forward (or to the left in this case) and can’t ever really go back after a certain point, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy the game for all its worth and try your best to get every possible moment from the path you are taking.
Thus ends the lesson. See you for next week’s session.