Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mario Frustration: live video game commentary

Link to video

Warning very strong language!

I hesitated about whether to post this given the amount of profanity, but it's too good (and too relevant) to pass up.

FYI: The commentary was actually added later, although I think it still works as a kind of odd window into video game play: as a roller coaster experience of frustration, elation, and addiction.

Also, notice how much the player anthropomorphizes Mario by engaging in dialogue about their "team" effort. Sometimes he apologizes to Mario and other times he blames him. In this sense, certain faults are experienced as the player's while other faults represent the avatar's own failure to follow directions.

Super Mario Brothers seems to derive both frustration and pleasure from the inconsistent relationship between "input" and "output" of Mario's actions. In this sense, the process of figuring out what to do or where to go is much less challenging than the actual ability to accomplish these tasks through proper timing and coordination.

I think it's especially interesting how the commentary points out the attraction of witnessing novel ways to die. By forcing us to loop again and again over "the known" features of a game level, we become highly sensitive to small additions of novelty. This novelty itself becomes a kind of attraction—even when the spectacle in question is merely a new way of seeing one's avatar die.

I also like how the game ultimately ends not with the death of Mario but with the level of frustration reaching such a peak that the player gives up in disgust. This seems to connect to Irene's comments (last class) about how game play is not structured with the beginning-to-end linearity of mortal time lines.

Anyway, I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts.

PS: For an added bonus, scroll through the video in fast forward, and you'll be surprised how much the Mario world starts to look like a Martin Arnold film!


Blogger Ifan Wei said...

I think is a very clear example of the "trial and error" attitude people must take with some video games. Death is treated as a minor step back to a checkpoint and loss of progress. In face of all the criticism for video games that cause violence and aggression, video games have been commended for their ability to increase problem solving skills. Children learn to deal with the type of frustration that the commentary humorously portrays in this clip and approach a problem from different angles.

4/29/2007 11:44 PM  

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