the artistry and psychology of gaming


Blargg’s Boiler (Yoshi’s Story)

Blargg’s Boiler (Yoshi’s Story)

The funniest thing about worlds is that they can pop up anywhere.  They exist in the traditional form of planets, but there are so many more possible manifestations.  I’ve seen microcosms and macrocosms alike; worlds unto themselves.  I’ve seen worlds exist solely within the dreams of others. Sometimes, a world even pops up inside of something as atypical as a children’s storybook.

I don’t suppose that it should be that big of a surprise; storybooks have layers that most fail to notice.  When you were a child, I’m sure that you read books, comprehending the story; that’s the surface, and the illustrations are made to portray that, but have you ever looked into the background and wondered what lies beyond?  I keep talking about how the mind is the final frontier, and this is exactly what I mean; an illustration is nothing but what you see, but if you’re paying close attention, your mind will create another world unto its own.  When reading a book entitled Yoshi’s Story to my niece, I did such a thing, and decided to share it with her.  I will share our experience with you.

On Page Two – in which the yoshis explore a cavern – there is a large, red, pop-up blob named Blargg, who lived in a magma-filled lair known as Blargg’s Boiler.  While it was a mere puddle at the bottom of the page, I saw beyond what was crafted in the book, creating a beautiful cavern filled with magma.  I’d worried that the idea of a liquid hot enough to reduce anyone’s bones to mere ash would frighten her – as I had a childhood fear of volcanoes – but she was intrigued by it; the red-to-orange glow of the molten rock illuminated the various features of the cave.  There was a pervading, vivid shade of blue that was quite stunning, and formed a nice gradient into dark red.  Stalactites and bones, including dinosaur skulls, were cast in this color and, in keeping with the overall aesthetic of the book – which used real-world textures such as newspaper, leather couch cushions, and cardboard boxes to make its backgrounds – were made of carved wood with its rings clearly visible.  The foreground was comprised of big granite blocks and rib bones, both cast in a pale yellow.  Some of the ribs were attached by vertebrae, which acted like a bridge.

The young girl became fascinated as I spoke.  I began to see burning blobs of lava with ghastly faces leaping from the deadly river below.  Little masked men in colorful robes fluttered around with propellers on their backs.  There was even an appearance by Blargg, himself; a large blob of mottled magma with a big mouth full of teeth and a long tongue, as well as two slug-like eyes atop his head and spindly arms outstretched to the ceiling.  It was then that a wondrous thing happened: she began envisioning her own world within mine.  She told me of a round, pink creature with arms, legs, a face, and a blue circle with the number one in white upon its belly, named Miss Warp.  There were three others, as well: a blue one with a number two, a yellow one with a number three, and a green one with a number four.  She also told me that there were brown urns with a black and yellow argyle band around their middles by the even-numbered Miss Warps, which allow travel between the different parts of Blargg’s Boiler.

Excitedly, we began working together to shape a full world.  In the second half, there were giant wooden spheres that rolled in the lava; a skilled adventurer could roll them like logs to get across the magma.  Rolling far enough, one would reach a bevy of floating platforms with zigzag patterns; blue on the top and white underneath.  Just as they began, though, there was a dark blue pipe leading straight up.  Traveling through the pipe leads one to the surface.  Outside, you emerge from a red pipe into rolling plain made of felt and stitching, where the skies are always blue.  A few fluffy trees dot the landscape that goes on for a short time before terminating at a squishy-looking patchwork wall with another one of the teleporting urns before it, which leads just past the zigzag platforms back in the boiler, just a short distance from the other teleporting urn leading back to the point of entry.

Exploring the mind is a curious thing; just by seeing a small section of a picture, it can craft entire worlds of their own, bringing an infinite depth to a flat image.  More beautiful still is the way that two minds can interact to create something wholly unique to both minds in question.  The world that the two of us created together was aesthetically inconsistent – perhaps jarringly so at times – but it was nothing that either of us could have created alone, and it creates a sense of diversity that perhaps even a natural world could never conceive.  After a time, the two minds work together; they get to know and understand each other, and the new creations begin to blend together, creating not my world or hers, but our world.  This creative process not only gives birth to new worlds and denizens that dwell within, but also a deep understanding between the two who created it, and what could be more beautiful than that?

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