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Category: Games

Five Card Mario

Five Card Mario

John Green did a thoughtful Anthropocene Reviewed segment about the comparison of Mario Kart to life, musing over whether it’s more akin to “poker than chess,” and how that relates to “real life”—that is to say, the non-gaming part of existence. It set me thinking about not only the aptness of his parallel, but of what we both want and need from our games. The two things might be not both be compatible or possible.

One-Off

One-Off

I finished Mandagon yesterday. It’s a short game, supposedly an hour or so, but according to Steam, I played for six. I liked poking around its little universe. I’m not sure it adheres to its stated philosophy, that you “discover what it means to make a true sacrifice,” I mean, you can’t die and are represented by a sort of squared off totem head so the stakes don’t seem high. But it was an affecting world to immerse in for a while.

It occurs to me, I did sacrifice my time, which is—in an existential sense—all I really have. Life can easily be viewed as a series of choices made over how to spend our almost completely unknowable cosmic bank balance of time.

Some artworks are meant to be experienced as such singular universes. Nothing about them existed before, nothing will follow. Series seem to be the norm, currently. So much of the media we consume is either hopeful about getting a sequel or two, followed by a prequel, perhaps, or it’s a TV show and the series is built-in. Music is less like this, but even so, listeners and fans tend to view a band’s work as a continuum, not necessarily as just a set of influences and ideas isolated as a moment in time and alone.

Those works come with their own kind of magic. Worlds are built for one image, one collection of songs, one story, as one object, almost. There’s no resurrection, just one life to live. It’s a special kind of beauty, one easily overlooked in times of furious expansion.

Always a Whole New World

Always a Whole New World

I used to play a lot of Minecraft. Or, rather, I played it for extended periods when I fired it up. I played vanilla (for the uninitiated, “vanilla” means the unmodified, straight-out-of-the-download-folder version), with texture packs, mod packs, and custom DIY mods I threw together. One of the first things I did when I got an iPad was download the mobile version and play a half-hour of it.

And really that’s all I needed.

The first day and night cycle in Minecraft is compelling in the same way as a blank canvas or page. Everything is new, you have a whole world to explore and build. If you want. Or not. You can do absolutely nothing, just wander around, watch the sun arc over you, splash in the water, head south.

As you walk, break things, add bits here and there, the world is changed, new possibilities and vistas are created as you move to the edges of what you’ve seen and what you’ve made.

Even if I never go very far beyond that first day. the hidden and limitless possibilities ingrained in a fresh world—a fresh game—are intoxicating. The cool thing is that it’s always there, waiting.

You can always start again.