Nintendo, I was wrong and you were right. Now give me some more tutorials.
It’s absurd how much knowledge we amass from our hobbies. A critic like Roger Ebert might know more about movies than I ever will. I know some soccer players who know far more maneuvers than I care to know (I suppose I forget anything above my “knowledge of things soccer” limit of 2 items). My sister can fill books with stuff about Hanna Montana. But the point of this article is not quantity. This is about that so-called obvious piece of knowledge you acquired in the primordials of your attempt at a hobby: what ‘editing’ means for a movie; how do we play the C chord; what are hops; how to paint inside the lines; what does that red mushroom do. These are the stuff we take for granted. We then laugh when our parents just can’t understand how they can use “the office email” outside their offices, how my grandma save a blank MS Word document at her desktop and called it “white paper” (true story) or what was Iwata smoking when he thought about making a DVD Tutorial for Super Mario Galaxy 2.
I laughed too, Nintendo. I felt like you were patronizing everybody’s cognitive abilities. But now I am sorry. Very sorry. You might be just incredibly correct about launching a tutorial for Mario and I was only being a jerk. In fact, if I asked you for a tutorial for the original Mario game, would you make it? I desperately need one. Someone joked that the Tutorial DVD was a masterstroke of impracticality, since the disc won’t work on the Wii itself. Don’t listen to that idiot! I will have that DVD playing simultaneously while the game is being played on the Wii either at my laptop or at the same TV the Wii is connected to (and then I’ll simply press the ‘input’ button on the remote control).
My birthday was on the 5th (thank you) and one of the stuff I got was the New Super Mario Bros Wii, for the Wii, from my aunt. The fact I got a good gift from her after years of getting shirts that look more like dresses and the same type of wallet three years in a row is by itself already amazing. What was more amazing was that my mother was convinced to play the game together with my sister and me. However, the most amazing happenstance of all was how all my notions of “obvious” knowledge everyone should know (like breathing) were torn viciously apart.
I first noticed I might be in trouble when Luigi (my mom) started to jump upwards instead to jumping across a gap. She had trouble coordinating pressing left and ‘jump’ (I don’t bother what bottom it is because, well who makes a console and name their buttons “1” and “2” in the first place?) at the same time.
Luigi, of course, died with the first Goomba. I explained that was an enemy and you needed to jump on its head to kill defeat it. She then proceeded to avoid the Goombas but not the Koopa Troopas because “they seemed so nice”. No mom, except for Mario, Luigi and the Toads, everybody else are enemies. The fact they dance with the game’s soundtrack is irrelevant. She then acts logically and dies while trying to jump on the first Piranha Plant she saw. By now, my sister was telling her to stay inside her bubble at all times, to which I said that she wouldn’t able to learn otherwise (mom did enjoy the way Luigi keeps looking at the people outside the bubble when he is inside one, though).
Ultimately, interaction among inexperienced (my mom) and experienced (everybody else) players might be the biggest obstacle to make nongamers who didn’t have the patience to learn all this trial and error knowledge by their own. My patience has a limit after all – and yet this interaction sometimes is the only reason nongamers are trying to play in the first place. Here’s a good example of irritability escalation: what happened when I tried to make mom get a Fire Flower.
“Ok, mom. I got 2 fire flowers. One is for you… no! That’s not it! That’s part of the background! The other flower, the one that wasn’t there 1 second ago. What? How weren’t you paying attention? Here! Get this flower I’m pointing at! No, mom. That’s Mario, I’m Mario. Yes, I USED to be red but my colors changed because I got a power-up. Well, how would you know you got the power-up if your character don’t change colors? You are the green guy. Yes, that one.”
She still have trouble whenever the damned Fire Flowers appears. She doesn’t fully understand how to swim or what to do when she falls into sinking sand. Her idea of continuously pressing the “jump” button is almost rhythmical rather then feverish. I wonder if she will want to play long enough to learn how to wall jump or slide while ducking, which is a very weird concept when you stop to think about it.
Mom had a moment of triumph though – which is my family means you forget all the previous screw up and start rubbing your victory on your son’s face. The propeller hat made her day: instead of actually, you know, playing the stage we were in, she began shaking her Wiimote non-stop and going forward! I couldn’t keep up by foot and had to get into the bubble. She beat the stage in this fashion. Then she found a vertically scrolling castle and died. Another favorite thing she loves doing is to bounce on Mario’s head. The sound, the animation of Mario’s head shrinking under the impact of Luigi’s boots and that clicky feeling when she times she jump just right releases the purest sense of joy out of her. Mario, however, is not amused.
Nintendo, I’m tired and I’m so very sorry. From now on, I’ll smash to a pulp everyone who complains about games having training wheels for too long and not being “hard like they used to”. Please send me a Mario Bros tutorial DVD, a gaming coach or take my mom to a videogame camp – please save me from the torture of playing again with my propeller-happy mother. But be quick! She just came back from Yoga and wants to beat that desert stage…