Montageman: A dude who writes

January 18, 2007

Heather & Paper Mario

Filed under: affect, videogames — montageman @ 4:39 am

I’ve been helping Heather make her way through Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door.  I’m helping by cheating basically – I look here & offer tips on how she can defeat her enemies and/or move through a particular tableaux.  I have not played this game, however, I am an expert – I know what the next move needs to be.  Like reading the spoilers to a film, game guides are spoilers for games.  But this is beside the point.

Each time an obstacle is reached or a point of distraction arises, there is inevitable cursing – “Fuck! That happens everytime!” or “Damnit! These things keep hitting me!”  I want to focus on the use of the word “me”.  Me is a simple word, but when used in this context it has a loaded meaning.  Nothing is actually hitting Heather, but her onscreen presence is being attacked.  The presence in this case is Mario – more specifically, Paper Mario, a 2-D rendering of the hero who was 3-D in his previous game.  The use of  2-D in this version is twofold: 1) to provide a 3rd game in the “Paper” series following Paper Mario for Nintendo 64 and  Super Mario RPG for Super Nintendo & 2) to put forth a notion of nostalgia.  Mario is nostalgic in and of himself, but the 2-D graphics in the Paper Mario series refers back to earlier games.  For gamers, the reference point of Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System is comforting – Mario is back! He’s returned to normal!

Back to Heather/Mario getting hit – the controller is the mediating device between Mario and Heather.  Both Mario and Heather are bodies.  Mario’s body mirrors Heather’s or vice versa.  In another of the Mario games, Super Smash Bros. Melee, the bodies are there to be smashed.  Yet, the damage suffered by Mario or Link or Donkey Kong is not mirrored by player.  The controller, then, is a distancing as well as a connecting device.  It is there to let us feel and not feel.

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