A Parent’s Perspective
This past Sunday was the 20th anniversary of Yoshi’s Island’s North American release. To mark the occasion, William Hughes dropped by with a For Our Consideration op-ed that took a tongue-in-cheek look at how the abusive relationship between Mario and his dino pal extended even to Yoshi’s star turn. Down in the comments, a few readers took this relationship a step further with a more serious analysis, positing Yoshi’s Island and Super Mario World form a two-part analogy for parenthood. Here’s DrFlimFlam:
I understand that Mario’s cry is unpleasant, but if you’ve ever had a kid of your own you know what that Pavlovian response is all about, and not just academically. You FEEL it. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island is about playing Super Mario as a parent figure, about keeping a dependent baby safe and rushing to save it when your own mistakes put that baby in danger. The game’s end of level score feature is all about perfection and protection, scoring you on your ability to find all secrets while keeping Baby Mario firmly in the saddle.
The Super Mario World games start with the adventures of the titular hero and become the chronicle of those who carried and protected him when he couldn’t protect himself. When Mario would ride and absent-mindedly lose countless Yoshi as an adult, he would never fully comprehend the sacrifices and effort they made to get him to this point. At least, not until he himself took on the role of caretaker, which he clearly has no interest in. After all, where’s the fun in that?
I really see these two releases as games with Yoshi as a parent. In Super Mario World, the game is played from the perspective of the child, while in Yoshi’s Island, the game is played from the perspective of the parent.
Mario uses Yoshi in SMW for his own personal gains, like a child, never considering Yoshi’s feelings or desires. He knows Yoshi will be there for him again soon, either later in this level or the next, ready to blindly sacrifice himself again, if necessary, for the good of Mario. Children don’t know any better; they are selfish and ignorant of the needs of the parents, but that is the nature of child psychology. Children need that motivation to survive, because they are not strong enough to take care of themselves, let alone others in that way, plus it takes considerable cognitive and emotional development to comprehend the abstract construct of pure selflessness. Children beg of their parents for all of the toys, money, junk food, and attention they can get because they don’t understand what is sacrificed to spend it on them, and they know their parents will still provide for them even if they use them.
In SMW2, Yoshi is like a new parent; tasked with carrying this helpless infant through a dangerous world no different than a mother or father must do through grocery stores, airports, or in a car hurtling down the highway in order to fulfill all of their life’s other obligations that don’t stand still because you have a baby. The baby can only communicate through crying, as its mushy little brain is still building and organizing the synapses capable of communication. Keeping a baby comfortable and happy while also living requires considerable sacrifice: 2 a.m. feedings; working a full-time job with little sleep; hundreds of dollars of expensive equipment that will be obsolete in a matter of months; clothes that must be perpetually changed, cleaned, and upgraded; and resisting the urge to emotionally break down when they won’t stop crying for some reason you can’t for the life of you figure out, all while getting unapproving looks and murmurs from strangers around you for being a “bad” parent.
I could never be a parent. One of the ways I knew my wife was meant for me was when I found out she couldn’t have children, as my life on the road is too busy, and I’m too selfish, to handle that level of responsibility. My friends (and even my wife) say I’d make a really good dad, but I’m happy just being an occasional Uncle.
This article could have glorified the sacrifice Yoshi must make to be a guardian and caretaker, rather than demean his role in being a slave. As the player, we have been given a singular task: to survive and either save the Princess as Mario or return the child to its rightful home as Yoshi. Everything else is simply means to an end, and the sacrifices to make that happen are part of someone’s noble duty in the path of that success.
This week also saw the return of Let’s Playlist, our feature full of collaborative video game music playlists built by Gameological staff and readers. The latest edition was all about methods of gaming transport and their moving themes. We’ve dug through your suggestions and added 22 more tracks, bringing the whole playlist to a total of 32 songs. The whole thing is embedded above, or you can click on these blue words right here and head to YouTube to parse the complete list. Withoutfurther ado, here are your reader-suggested additions:
· Helium balloon: Bonus round theme, Balloon Fight—Bull Pucky
· Barrel: “Let’s Go Down the Wine River,” Super Mario RPG—Merlin The Tuna
· Barrel-plane: “Funky’s Flights,” Donkey Kong Country—Mr. Saturn
· Hoverboard: “Neon Night Riders,” Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time—GhaleonQ
· DeSoto Adventurer: “Highway Surfing,” Sam & Max Hit The Road—Astro Beacon E
· Gummi spaceship: “Blast Away,” Kingdom Hearts—Suckerfish
· Ferrari: “Magical Sound Shower,” Outrun 2006—Captain Inernet
· Chocobo: Chocobo theme, Final Fantasy series—Beema
· Sailboat: “Dream Of The Shore Near Another World,” Chrono Cross—DrFlimFlam
· Talking sailboat: “Ocean,” The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker—CS Clark
· Hoverbike: “Turbo Tunnel,” Battletoads—Unexpected Dave
· Elevator: Elevator Music, Mass Effect—Angry Raisins
· Airship: “Delphinus,” Skies Of Arcadia—Evan G
· Minecart: “Gold Mine,” Pajama Sam In “No Need To Hide When It’s Dark Outside”—thesmokeylife
· Flying carpet: Flying carpet theme, Ultima VII: The Black Gate—RL Dookiefuck
· Whimsical hovercraft: “Bean Bean Pork Bean,” Mother 3—Tinkerer
· Giant flying robot: “Into Space,” The Wonderful 101—jakeoti
· Rocketship: “Today’s Results,” Pikmin 3—TwoPointBro
· Whatver the hell Flammie is: “Flight Into The Unknown,” Secret Of Mana—Sean Adams
· Weaponized dragon: “Flight,” Panzer Dragoon—Hambone Renfro
· Jet-propelled robo-birds: “Aviators,” Tales Of Symphonia—SirExal
· Train: “Overworld Adventure,” The Legend Of Zelda: Spirit Tracks—kylebuis
Nowhere To Run To, Baby
Elsewhere, our Special Topics In Gameology series on commerce in games continued with Anthony John Agnello’s look at how Resident Evil 4 made money, one of life’s single greatest stressors, into the only relief in an unrelenting game. Wolfman Jew elaborated on that lack of safety:
What I love about this game is that despite your comically large arsenal, you never really are or feel safe. It’s really smart at giving the player adrenaline bursts and the ability to kick metric tons of ass while never letting them forget how dangerous or horrifying the world is. Like right at the end of the island section, the last pre-final-boss enemies are tough, slow, scary mini-bosses in cramped and nasty environments. It expertly props you up and knocks you down, while never (at least on normal difficulty setting) being entirely impossible or undoable. It even secretly adapts its difficulty to make playing more dynamic.
It’s brilliant not just because it’s amazing level design, but because it spits in the face of conventional wisdom—for both Resident Evil and all horror games. It shows how the sluggish controls and obnoxious methods of playing, while not inherently bad, are not necessarily or exclusively conducive to good horror games, and that shaking things up (including the overarching plot, which was mostly cut out) is valuable. Replacing the slow, overdone zombies with semi-intelligent baddies that were both familiar and alien wasn’t just a neat way to create a new type of enemy, it’s kind of the game’s ethos in a nutshell.
And as ShrikeTheAvatar points out, the game’s early adoption of a now maligned feature ensured that not even cinematic scenes gave the player respite:
Quick-time events have become extremely boring and overused, but I’m pretty sure RE4 was the first time I ever encountered them. The cinematics lull you into a false sense of security—a temporary respite from chainsaw man and his friends—and then out of nowhere you’re dying a horrible death because you didn’t press a button in time. This is one of the few games where I think the inclusion of QTEs was genius.
In a moment of sublime comment-handle-avatar synergy, WELCOME_THRILLHO gave us an incredible revelation to chew on:
The Merchant and Leon are both voiced by the same guy, which is why I believe that the Merchant is just a fragment of Leon’s subconscious made manifest after being injected with las plagas. THINK ABOUT IT!
That does it for this week, Gameologerinos. As always, thank you for reading and commenting. We’ll see you all next week!