Thursday, March 3, 2011
There are certain events in our lives that we will always remember. First, we will remember where we were when 9/11 happened. Second, we will remember the first time we all witnessed Michael Myers rampage the poor villagers of Haddonfield, Illinois. For me, I vividly remember 1990. It was the year Super Mario Brothers 3 was released. I remember the first time I hit a floating metal question mark that kicked out a floating leaf. I ate that thing and turned into a raccoon that could fly with it's tail.
I loved this game growing up. It captured every bit of my attention, imagination, and took a high level of skill to complete. Most of all, I had so much fun playing it. Each world is so vivid and imaginative. It literally feels like I am in a dream. There are two worlds in particular that hold a special place in my heart. I remember my cousins and I bringing our vintage NES on vacation and having so much fun playing the water world (world 3). How amazing was it to turn into a frog, swim with your little frog legs out, but only to get eaten by a ginormous fish? The second world that is truly unforgettable is World 4. In this world, you are microsized and trying to traverse your way through a big world. What a visceral experience. How crazy was it to turn into a flying bear that could also shapeshift into a stone statue? Well, it was crazy awesome.
I was reflecting on this game the other day and I couldn't help but apply the works of Sigmund Freud to this game. The obvious freudian references are the plentiful sexual and death instinct references that are inherent in game play. First, eating a very phallic mushroom makes you bigger, stronger, and more resilient. One could argue that, sub-consciously, Mario has a centralized fixation on his junk. Through this fixation, his ego processes sexual experience as a way to gain power. Placing a larger amount of psychic energy into this function would also elevate social status, thus prompting limited disagreement with the social gatekeeper that is the superego with the conscious level ego functions. Moreover, the ID gains immediate gratification through rewards from killing creatures, gathering money, and sexual experiences (in Mario's case, these experience are not with a partner but independent). The in play behavior would demonstrate that self-gratification will elicit and improve on the long term goal of sexual relations with the princess, thereby improving personality and further development.
Second, the presence of death is very prominent in this game. Freud called this desire "Thanos" or the death instinct. In this game, there is little consequence for death. In fact, the user will attempt risky game play with little regards to the life and death of Mario/Luigi. As such, game play is designed to trigger our desire to sub-consciously think about death, thus driving an internal pleasure mechanism within our emotional processing/cognitive structures while not reducing our libido (psychic energy). Moreover, killing creatures and destroying objects earns the user rewards that ultimately increase the likelihood of sexual gratification with the princess. A common mistake is to refer to libido as sexual energy/stamina. However, libido actually refers to ones' psychic energy in balancing the Id, Ego, and Superego.
Finally, I couldn't help but notice a special item called a "P-Wing". This item, when consumed, allows you to fly through a level getting you closer and much more rapidly to your goal of sexual gratification with the princess. Here is the obvious, this P-Wing looks like a male phallic symbol and putting a "P" on it removes all doubt. Consuming the P-Wing also gives Mario a permanent "P" that is placed on his chest throughout the level. This could be synonymous with the "Scarlet Letter" thus creating a source of internal struggle between desire (ID) and the superego (our self in relation to larger society).
Some classic video games are truly amazing for so many reasons. Freud can be applied to anything and can never be proven wrong, so take what I say with a grain of salt. However, just know that what we interact with can influence us in ways we may not understand. For me, Super Mario Brothers 3 was an experience in which I could interact with objects in a dream world. For you, well, maybe you just like two sexy Rex Manning (Empire Records reference) plumbers in green and red.