the artistry and psychology of gaming


4-3 (Super Mario Bros.)

4-3 (Super Mario Bros.)

The Mushroom Kingdom is quite a lovely place, as its popularity might suggest.  It is the site of the whimsical adventures of many travelers, and genesis of many an adventurer.  It’s a challenging, but friendly place to explore, making it a prime location for novices to develop their basic skills.  Aside from the funny hats of its citizens and a few edible fungi that can affect one’s physiological makeup, though, have you ever seen a single thing that makes “Mushroom Kindgom” seem like an apt name?  I have seen such a place, and I’d like to share it with you.

During my first journey, I encountered tall shafts with thick foliage at their zeniths, which acted as platforms above a deep chasm.  These tree-like platforms provided a very dangerous, but unexpected approach to the many castles in the kingdom, so they were often used by adventures who wished to avoid detection.  There is a section of the kingdom, however, that has platforms like these, but much less leafy.  Instead of the usual verdant variety, they appeared in this area as gigantic mushrooms.  This was easily one of the most enchanting parts of my first journey.

The approach to the fourth castle began with the simple fortress of reddish brick and similarly-colored road that ended abruptly by means of a chasm.  Proceeding beneath the shining sun – clouds smiling down at me – I encountered my first giant mushroom.  The thick, peach colored shafts supported large, orange caps with red spots upon them.  I was stunned; it was such a lovely color combination, and the shapes within it made them all the more beautiful.  I leapt upon one to find it to be pleasantly soft, yet surprisingly stable.  I’d had a hard time believing a mushroom to be as sturdy as a tree, but it didn’t sway in the slightest.  Now able to thoroughly enjoy my romp through the area with my newfound security, I continued on ardently.

The coins that littered the entire kingdom seemed to have a lovely placement here, complementing the beauty of the mushroom caps quite well as they shone in the sunlight.  After a short while, I was in the section of the approach that left me unable to see either side of the chasm; I was in the thick of a floating forest of mushrooms.  Momentarily, I’d forgotten how dangerous this place was.  Unlike the trees, the mushrooms had a tendency to be spaced out quite a lot more, both horizontally and vertically.  Rather than the layered canopies of the leafy areas I’d seen previously, I found places where making a jump seemed almost impossible, sometimes forcing me to leap farther than I could see in order to reach the next viable platform: a literal leap of faith.  It had then occurred to me, as it does now, why so few adventurers mention this place: most are so busy trying to survive that they don’t realize how special it truly is.  It wasn’t long before I reached the most precarious obstacle of all.

Orange girders float through the Mushroom Kingdom almost everywhere.  I’ve seen them floating slightly above the ground, underground, underwater, and even here in the sky; they’re extremely common, as weird as it may seem.  It is decidedly less common, however, to see them in the form in which I saw them here: a pulley system with a girder on either end.  Two pulleys caused this contraption to float in perfect balance, at least until I stood upon it.  Whichever I touched gained downward momentum, causing the other to ascend toward the pulley.   I had to carefully balance these devices in order to use both sides; letting one descend too far would cause the other to be unreachable, but not letting it descend far enough would render the other side useless.  Imagine my surprise when I remained a bit too long on one of them, causing both girders to snap the line and plumett to the ground!  I was very fortunate that it had been straddling a mushroom to which I could jump, though it made my progress decidedly more difficult without this stepping stone to aid me.

I pushed onward, across chains of pulley systems, flying girders, and a few giant mushrooms.  Progress became a very difficult game of balance and careful planning: something to which I was not yet accustomed.  Not only was this one of my earliest adventures, but this was also a place where quick reflexes had been the only requirement thus far.  Hastily adding quick thinking to my skillset, I eventually made it to the end.  Something about the castle really struck me as special when I’d finally reached it.  Perhaps it was the orange flagpole with its red ornament; perhaps it was the lovely, yet simple architecture of the edifice itself; or perhaps I was just glad to be on solid ground again after such a harrowing experience.  Whatever the case, the mentally taxing part of this particular quest was just beginning, but that’s another story entirely.

Many times, adventurers share their experiences with popular places to explore.  It is our common experiences that unite us as adventurers, which, in turn, lead us to share ones that are new to each other.  It does seem, however, that certain parts of even commonly shared adventures are forgotten in favor of others.  While it stands to reason that the more mundane parts of an adventure might be forgotten in favor of far more extraordinary ones, it often seems to be the inverse that is true.  The reason behind this seems simple: it is the experience familiar to us that we remember because our brain has less trouble processing it.  However, as I often say, there is some merit to doing things the hard way; it is the uniqueness that makes an experience worth remembering, and not how inherently easy it is to remember.  So, make your brain work a little; you’ll be thankful for it later.

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