Welcome back to "All I Need to Know About Healing I Learned from Mario"! Part II: Brave New World
Pop Quiz: Where's Mario?
A. Vanilla Dome
B. Vanilla Secret 1
C. Climbing dangerous heights on a vine
Answer: (Sorry, it's a trick question) All of the above.
Much like in real life, our characters have many ways to convey their position in the game. Mario can't be in two places at once, but he can describe his location with different focuses: in a specific zone, in a region, or on a continent. There's a lot of exploring to be done in a game, and being aware of where you are in the world goes a long ways towards traveling efficiently and not putting yourself in extra danger. After all, time wasted wandering around lost is time spent not playing, and dead Mario doesn't get to finish the level or dungeon.
Learning the cartography of the game can be a crash course in and of itself, but it's vital to success. It's strongly in keeping with starting out in the starting area as I posted in Part I: Mario needs to travel step by step in the right direction to reach his destination. Video games are strongly tuned for degrees of power, so there are correct 'places to be'. They can be expressed in different ways between obvious markers like levels (and the abilities available to you when you reach it) or subtle delineations of gear and items. When the going gets tough Mario needs to assess the situation: is he in the wrong place, using the wrong ability, or teaming up with the wrong guy? (More on that later).
In MMO's, it can be very difficult to know where you're 'supposed' to be. Mario isn't punished quite as severely as a quester for wandering into a spot he's not ready for, but we can still apply his plumber prudence to other game worlds. Using the clues we can glean from the environment, characters, and players around us, we can put ourselves in the area right for our level of power and experience. It's more fun when the challenge is meant for you now, not last week or a month from now.
Learning to travel efficiently often gets easier as we advance in the game. Mario doesn't get the Warp Whistle or passage to Star Road at the beginning; likewise, we get riding mounts and more accessible travel routes as we experience the world. Every game has its own set of rules for travel and navigating the world, and learning those rules will help you get where you're going faster and in one piece.
Also a part of that ruleset is the different types of places found in a game. There are areas of safety to stock up on snacks or rest up, open plains of wandering creatures that may want to eat us, and caverns of dangerous villains where we dare not tread without companions. Returning to Theorem #1 (Game art can shows lots of stuff), I can look at my environment and make decisions about my surroundings before I step too far.
Would you take a nap here? I thought not.
Next Up, Part III: It's All in the Details