Monday, September 13, 2010

The 25th Anniversary of Super Mario Bros and Our Changing Medium

So it’s the 25th Anniversary of Super Mario Bros, I suppose, and congratulations are in order. Nintendo’s flagship series has done so much for popularizing our favorite medium that it is scary. It has been one of the few early franchises to successfully transfer to 3D, each installment up until recently has featured some new form of innovation that has influenced future gaming as a whole (flight suits and world maps to mounts and subjective gravity), and it has introduced swarms of children to “hardcore” gaming.

Ironically some people have gone to referring to the Super Mario franchise as “casual” which is about as sensible as calling Mega Man or Sonic casual. Certainly it isn’t a run-and-gun FPS with blurry grey backdrops and overwhelming testosterone, but it does require more skill to play than many games within much of the “hardcore” elite’s spectrum. But it is child-friend and fills our hearts with warmth and wonder and that can sometimes be unacceptable. Pah! That “give-you-the-fuzzies” asthetic has contributed to some of our most wonderful gaming experiences (Katamari Damacy and Ratchet & Clank, I’m looking at you).

To give this day of celebration a political purpose I propose from this day on we cease referring to two large genres as “casual” and “hardcore” because frankly the line is being blurred and it sound horribly condescending. I remember not too long ago Destructoid editors were trying to play through Frontierville and found it surprisingly difficult…and that is a considered a casual game. We often consider games like Bookworm or Bejeweled to be casual games but when someone makes them into RPGs like Puzzle Quest or Bookworm Adventures they become fair play for a “hardcore” audience.

And what literate calls himself a “hardcore” reader just because he prefers Joyce to Harris? Or what film enthusiast is “hardcore” when he chooses Antonioni over Emmerich. Each person has their own passions, and what we often consider as high art at the time is viewed by future generations as garbage. Modernists reacted against Victorians. Post-Modernists reacted against Modernists. I feel like it may be wise to react against “hardcore” because the title is detrimental to our medium.

Super Mario Bros is an amazing series of games that have bridged a gap between audiences. It is beloved by nostalgic older groups who have left most video games in their childhood, young kids just learning to wave their wii-motes, families having shared experiences playing together, teens and the elderly, artists in love with creativity and the surreal, men, women, and every race of people. One could consider it casual solely based on the incredible ability it has had to reach a wide audience and because Mario has become one of the most recognizable characters in contemporary culture. These are massive achievements for video games.

So happy birthday Super Mario Bros; you’ve helped create and establish perhaps the greatest art-form and entertainment the world has ever known. Here’s to twenty-five more fantastic years of video game history.

Keep saving that princess, bro…

No comments:

Post a Comment