the artistry and psychology of gaming

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Battlefield (Super Mario Bros. Rebirth)

Battlefield (Super Mario Bros. Rebirth)

I believe that the number of dreams I’ve had of the Mushroom Kingdom is second only to the number of dreams that I’ve had of the futuristic world of robots. It is hard to say which I like better, but the dreams of the Mushroom Kingdom are usually far more surreal. I suppose that might be because the Mushroom Kingdom is such a bizarre realm, but it is certainly not for me to attempt to understand dreams, especially mine. This particular dream was a bit different from many of the others, however. While most dreams use the source of their inspiration as a mere shell to provide a new experience, this one seemed almost as familiar as the memory itself.

I’ve already told you of the first part of this dream, known simlpy as Mushroom Kingdom.  Today, I’d like to talk about the second part: The Battlefield.  While it might sound like a boring stretch of scorched earth, The Battlefield is very unique and lovely.  Most of the area is a massive complex built upon a large body of water; a floating fortress, almost like a militarized version of the ancient city, Tenochtitlan.  How the builders managed to float such a heavy structure is unknown, but dreams don’t always make sense, do they?

I first came out of a large castle made of reddish-brown brick to see that the stone road beneath me and the extremely high fortress walls were made of the same material.  With my inability to perceive depth, I had a bit of difficulty getting around; there were many ledges upon which I could stand, but they were also made of the same material, camouflaging them to me.  As I pushed on, makeshift staircases to nowhere built of massive blocks stood in my way; I had to scale them, and then leap back to the ground from the top.  I also encountered a number of tall black cannons as I progressed.  The periwinkle skies above were occasionally visible through holes in the wall – as well as when I was launched from the odd springboard here and there – and it all came together to make a pleasant day.  I stopped at a small fortress – a metafortress, as it were – to rest, and when I was ready, I headed into a pipe, which led underground.

The brick walls persisted, even down here, though the dim light colored them a dark cyan.  Just beyond the first tall cannon was when I realized that this fortress was aquatic; a deep pool of water entered my view.  Above the next pool was a bridge suspended between two tall cannons.  I continued to run along a seemingly endless brick wall, taking note at the complex obstacles in my way.  I passed a great many bridges, as well as small vertical labyrinths of brick and stone.  Perhaps the most elaborate of these mazes was suspended over a large pool of water, flying in the face of the basic laws of gravity.  This stretch terminated when I reached a very thick brick wall, which went straight up to the surface.  Luckily, there was a pipe barely protruding from it, so I hopped in and rested at the next small fortress above ground.

It was almost immediately clear why the thick wall was there: to keep back the massive amount of water, which I could now plainly see above ground.  I couldn’t tell if this section had flooded or if it had always been filled with water, but there were small chunks of wall just sitting upon the surface.  In addition, there were bridges suspended between nothing; they merely hung in the air.  After a time, I reached a stone road with hills and bushes in the distance, and wondered where the water had gone; things were starting to make less and less sense as I went.  Regardless, the greenery provided a nice burst of diversity to the synthetic landscape.  Things began to blend together after that; hills and bushes came closer and closer to the water, and I simply could not figure out what kind of biome this was.  At the end, I found another castle that made the least sense of all; water covered two of its three ground-level doors, but despite being considerably higher than the road, the water simply stopped where it was, almost as if there were some sort of invisible wall holding it back.

Entering the castle, I was not very surprised at all to see that its interior was filled with water.  The green stone inside came both in simple squares making up the ceiling and floor, and in ornate blocks that served either as walls or floating platforms.  I swam through the castle, and it wasn’t long before I encountered two unexplainable oddities.  The pink coral floating there was solid enough that I could stand on it, and yet, it was the lesser of the two oddities.  The greater was a trio of paw-shaped balls of pure flame leaping from the abyss below; I’d seen them many times before in the Mushroom Kingdom, but these apparently cared very little that fire cannot exist underwater.  Just past that were a number of blue blocks affixed to the ceiling, some of which had long chains of fire that rotated in a full circle; evidently, this water was just as flammable as the air that we breathe.  The blocks that had no chains of fire were quite pleasant to look at, but even the fire itself created a nice palette with the blue and green.  As I swam forth, even more bursts of fire – these able to travel through solid objects – came my way.  I dodged them the best I could, and at the end, I encountered a black segmented bridge with a glowing axe behind it.  I swam past both and wound up in a chamber that featured a pipe that appeared to be pink or magenta, but had some coloration identical to the blue water; my visual senses couldn’t really grasp its true form.  I left this castle and continued my journey.

Water can come seemingly from nowhere, which I suppose might make sense, since it is the source of life as we know it.  In order for any civilization to thrive, it needs a reliable source of water, though sometimes, locating it can be tricky.  Perhaps it’s hidden underground, it may need to be extracted from local plant life, or it may even be somewhere you’d never think to look.  Perhaps even more interesting is that, as a liquid, it takes the shape of its container.  That in and of itself may seem obvious, but the container may have properties that are difficult to understand, which may cause it to behave in a way that is confusing to us.  It just goes to show that when we understand the rules, notions such as ‘magic’ completely disappear.  While this provides a greater understanding of how our world works, it robs it of any sense of wonder, which is why maturation often brings disillusionment, and is why adventurers are driven to new worlds.  However you continue to seek that source of wonder in your life, be certain that you do continue to do so, because that is the difference between living and just surviving.

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