Hi. Today I got the results of my first year exams/portfolio work through the post. Goldsmiths don’t appear to want to actually give you a concrete mark, so I deduced that I got a 2.1, which in truth I’m pretty happy with. I was slightly disappointed with the 2.2 I got in the short story module but then again I was pleased with the 1st I got in creative writing. I guess my tutor liked the pretty horrendous story about a Glaswegian summer that I wrote about two days before the portfolio hand in.
Goldsmiths is a pretty media friendly university and yesterdays edition of the G2 featured a four page article on some students who’d just completed their MA in fine arts. Goldsmiths is, obviously, famous for it’s art degree (Damien Hirst, Young British Artists, Freeze, blah blah blah) and it’s one of the things I like about being at the college. Though I rarely look at the work ‘our’ students produce, I quite like knowing that some of it at least will be pretty great. Plus, no WORLD FAMOUS art degree, no Ben Pimlott building.
Ok, this blog isn’t really an advert for London’s trendy Goldsmiths College. Instead I think I want to talk about Super Mario World on the SNES and why very few games made since can match it’s sheer majesty. The 2D plat former is my favourite type of video game. Forget about your hyper realistic representations of WW2, intense strategy games, first person shooters set in murky, labyrinthine bunkers or whatever. Give me a coin-collection, princess-rescuing plat former any day. And preferably one made by Nintendo. I never got on with Sonic, mainly because I never owned a Sega console. I got my SNES for Christmas when I was 5 and joy of joys, it came bundled with Super Mario World, making it the first video game I ever played. This undoubtedly has something to do with why I hold the game in such esteem. From what I can remember, the game came with all the levels already completed. My brother, who would have been 3, managed to delete them all. I’ve never forgiven him for it. I got through as much of the game as I could but eventually other games came into my possession and Mario, Luigi and Yoshi disappeared out of view to be replaced by Kevin Keegan, Captain Falcon and Link. My SNES bit the dust when I was 8 and had moved onto the N64, so it was only mildly crushing when another of my brothers managed to push the console off a table.
Fast forward a few years and I’m playing Super Mario World on my Gameboy Advance and falling in love with it all over again. The learning curve is completely spot on. When I die over and over again, usually on one of the slightly annoying levels where the walls close in on you, I don’t blame the game; it’s my own fault. Playing levels over and over is actually enjoyable. It’s one of those games that actually feels fun to play as opposed to a slog to get from one end of a level to another.
This leads me onto to likes of Grand Theft Auto, which one could argue is the antithesis of the type of game I’ve just mentioned. It’s constantly praised, and rightly so, for it’s non-linear structure, for it’s freedom. But no GTA game actually offers the player any ‘real’ freedom. Locations are locked until you complete certain missions. Initially, a new GTA game does feel as immersive as the reviewers say. I can happily spend hours pottering about, listening to the radio, seeing what’s possible within the context of the game. But, for me at least, unless you can be bothered to trawl through the missions (most of which are awful variations on: drive to location, shoot people, drive somewhere else. Repeat ad nauseaum) the game loses its appeal after a while. I become frustrated with the lack of consequences. Say you manage to set up a situation wherein you cause several cars to explode, you would assume that there would be some lasting repercussions, right? Well, you drive round the corner, come back in 30 seconds and everything’s back to normal. This annoys me no end. But, I guess, it shows how far video games have come. When I’m playing SMW I’m not worried that if I jump on that goomba, then go backwards a bit, he’ll reappear. I;’ll just stamp on his head again.
I’ve lost my narrative thread now, so I’ll wrap this up: 2D plat formers are the most fun you can have with two hands. FACT.
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