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Nostalgia and Reproduction CTCS 505 commentary

by Katherine Wagner

The existence of this video is less about interactivity and more about nostalgia. In fact I think it is curious to take a text that is highly interactive and reduce it to a text that is very limited in its interactivity. The reason this video is appealing is not because of it's interactive potential, but because it speaks to a generation who are able to say that they were part of a generation that put Mario on the map.


I am thinking here about Benjamin's argument that the more a piece is reproduced the more it loses its aura and specialness. In this case these filmmakers are riding on the coattails of the aura inherent to this video game that was special to so many people during childhood. Without the a Mario aura this video is meaningless. I am not entirely sure this video works to distinguish the aura and nostalgia surrounding Mario, but their reproduction certainly does not add anything to the text.


By making this video they are acknowledging that they were part of the movement, or that they are true consumers of the Mario text. They are promoting themselves as authentic and loyal to the Mario brand. This video was originally posted as an example of activism in media, however I see it as a failure of activism. They are simply promoting a brand. Their “activism” comes from their ability to be good and loyal consumers. There is nothing remixed or new added to this brand to make a larger statement or argument. This is not activism, but commercialism.

Where's the Control?

by Ryne Hodkowski

I pretty much agree with Katie on all of her points, but would nonetheless like to expand upon some of her claims, and add some of my own. 

 

I agree that this youtube/interactive game fails.  For one, the entire game itself is very limited; the entire collection of YouTube clips or clips on the website is around twelve.   Secondly, as Katie mentioned, the game relies on a sense of nostalgia to attract players.  Being one of the millions who played Mario growing up, and feeling nostalgic, I constantly questioned the writing.  Having spent hundreds of dollars purchasing games to partake in the repetitive process of saving the princess, I found it strange to have the first option be “find another girl.”  If it were meant to be ironic/humorous, it wasn’t.  I got over this eventually, as I started to understand the game more and more, but I never found myself engrossed in playing or laughing hysterically.  There were a few funny moments, but they did not work for a reason, (more on this later).

 

Most importantly though, and the reason I feel any interactive YouTube/online game fails, is that it simply does not offer the same level of interactivity as other mediums.  We spoke for great lengths about the importance and desire to be in control during this semester.  Even when we play Super Mario Brothers, we somehow take on the character of Mario, just like we take on the persona of Link, Master Chief, Gordon Freeman, etc.  I, personally, never feel totally in control of the actor playing Mario in the SMB Interactive game.  One of the funnier moments to me is when Mario took the poisonous mushroom, and Luigi then tried to save him by giving him a 1-Up Mushroom.  As funny as this, we still had no control over it.  I did not think that the “give up” option meant commit suicide.  When playing this game, we are only clicking a mouse button every two minutes, instead of the frantic pace we have to push buttons when playing any video game.  More opportunities for interactivity would certainly help.  For example, have the option “Drink out of the bottle,” or “try Again,” and then, “Take the Poisonous mushroom.”  Having only a few options, with so much time in-between limits the interactivity and enjoyment.

 

As I said though, this is a problem in all online interactive YouTube games; whether it be “The Birthday Party,” “The Time Machine,” or “Super Mario Bros. Interactive.”  While better writing in other games may make it somewhat more enjoyable than SMB Interactive, I can never fully assume the persona of the characters involved. 

 

There is also a certain “lack of risk.”  That is, if the option I choose does not work out, I will simply hit the back button on my browser, and choose another option.  Even if the original choice is favorable, I am presumably going to watch all the other options to see all the different combinations and material.  Even video games, which are ultimately trivial, offer some sort of risk.  If you are faced with a decision, you have to tread lightly.  If you choose the wrong one, you can die.  This causes a level of frustration, and a waste of time.  Even these minor inconveniences are more than what the interactive games on YouTube offer.  I knew that the “give up” option in Super Mario Bros. Interactive would certainly lead to a Game Over.  Ironically, because of this, I chose it first.  My plan of attack was to get every “wrong” option out of the way first, and then view the winning path.  I admit I was thrown for a twist at the end of Super Mario Bros. Interactive, but the game, along with the other interactive games, do not offer a large enough challenge or enough twists to satisfy gamers.

 

In short, the way to correct these interactive games would be to offer more opportunities for interactivity.  This would allow us to better identify with the main character, and could possibly overcome bad writing, and even bad cinematography, acting, shooting, etc.  An example of this would be “The X-Files Game” that was released for PC in the late 1990s.  In a lot of ways it is nothing different than Super Mario Bros Interactive.  It relies of nostalgia/familiarity with an already popular brand.  The story is nothing to write home about, the acting is fair, and most of the plot and images are stolen straight from the series.  The game is not even played from the first person perspective, but rather we take on the persona of a field agent assigned to find Mulder and Scully.  Despite all this, the game works better than these online interactive games.  Why?  It is because we are given more chances and opportunities to be in control of something.  We are allowed to move around in a fashion similar to Myst.  When interacting with characters, we are given a list of things to say/do, and we do not immediately know what each option will result in.  More importantly, this occurs HUNDREDS of times, as opposed to just twelve. 

 

Online interactive games can have Aaron Sorkin write the plot, with Spielberg directing, and DiCaprio starring, but they will not be enjoyable to play until the options expand, giving the players more control. 

 

 

-Ryne Hodkowski 

Super Mario: An Interactive Adventure Game!

Play just like any Super Mario Game except on YouTube! Can you help Mario save the Princess? Good luck!

from Super Mario: An Interactive Adventure Game! (2010)
Creator: DrCoolSex
Posted by Survey of Interactive Media
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