Monday, June 7, 2010

Mario Part III: It's All in the Details

Welcome back! Today let's dive right into the next installment of "All I Need to Know About Healing I Learned From Mario".

Part III: It's All in t
he Details

In Part II, I talked about location from a world perspective, but today we're going to zoom in and see what M
ario can share about his immediate surroundings.

In compliance with Theorem #1 (game art is good information), the environment offers clues as to what to avoid and what we can expect.
Games try to challenge us in different aspects of play. Mario might have to be light on his feet, solve a puzzle, outwit a foe, or even just kill quickly before he meets his own doom.

Entertainments of
all kinds are advancing in graphics but Theorem #1 still holds true. There are hints everywhere in the world - right in front of us - if we know what to look for. The names of the enemies we fight, the clothes they wear, and the patterns of the tiles on the floor are all information waiting to be used. Things we can interact with are often different colors than the background or have some indicator that they are there. If there's a lever near the door, odds are, it's there for a reason.

It's Raiding 101: Don't stand in the fire. "Fire" stands for all sorts of things, and identifying dangers before you approach them is key to survival. Mario's got to have a plan, and adapt it on the fly as new obstacles present themselves. There are
places you don't want to find yourself, and conversely there are places that can be 'safe' (at least for now).

Often, fights are designed wi
th special gimmicks or tricks. Bowser's bratty children all have special vulnerabilities that must be exploited if you want to escape the dungeon. Fights often have a special style of execution: some that require lots of activity (the spam we love to hate) don't have too much movement, while others that require lots of running around will give us breathing room to do so. The mechanics of a fight vary by encounter, but there are general rulesets of a game that, once learned, will help you learn later encounters more quickly and give you a better idea of what to expect as you progress in the game.

Not even Mario can teach you the meta-rules of a game, they aren't found in manuals, guides, or even on blogs. They are entirely within your own experiences, and can be changed (and supplemented) by expansion or even by tier of play. I could share mine with you, but it would be presumptuous on my part to assume that my understanding of a game world is the only one. I can only stress the importance of building your own game experience and learning from it.

In essence, I'm suggesting that
if you want to learn to do something, you go out, do it, and make a few mistakes. Mario may not succeed the first time, but there's green mushrooms (or corpse runs) to get back in there and attempt it again: a new strategy or a resolution to try harder. The most important thing is to learn something from the failure. Anything constructive can be clusterfucked. If failure isn't a possibility, is there any meaning in the success?

In Mario's world, mistakes are fatal but often obvious. He hits a Goomba and loses his mushroom power up. He hits a Koopa Troopa and it's game over. In MMO-style adventures, the consequences for actions and mistakes are often more subtle. The types of bungles in more complex games can be hard to pinpoint 'where it went wrong'. Healers, by nature, are grouped with others, which means more potential for error (and stranger offenses). Understanding the maxims of the game will help identify the cause and effect relationship between buttons pressed and results achieved.

So if Iggy kicks your butt the first time around, get
in there and do it again. Try a new plan, tighten up your strategy, or come prepared with an extra feather. But please: don't stop learning, and don't stop trying. The game is over when you do.

Next up is Part IV: I Get By (with a little help from my friends)

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