the artistry and psychology of gaming


World 1-4 (Super Mario Bros. All Star Levels)

World 1-4 (Super Mario Bros. All Star Levels)

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.

Today’s dream is one of the most unusual that I have ever had of the Mushroom Kingdom, as well as one of the shortest. This dream began fairly innocuously as a blending of my first trip to the Mushroom Kingdom, the Subcon, and Dinosaur Land. In the dream’s only region, the first stretch was almost identical to the first area of the Subcon, aside from the plaid patterns from Dinosaur Land and a few other subtleties. After that, things became unique for the next two areas, still keeping elements from all three worlds. The final area, the castle, was where any semblance of reality just broke down into something unrecognizable.

It started out like a typical castle; the bricks were dark red, rather than gray, and the lava looked more like a red waterfall, but it was still a castle. I moved along, encountering a pipe, which resembled the ones from Subcon, only doubled in size, and with gray patterns. I saw something slip into the lava, so I waited upon a platform before moving on, in order to avoid being struck when it reemerged. I was expecting some manner of Podoboo, which is a flame creature that lives in lava in the Mushroom Kingdom. Imagine my surprise to see a Monty Mole, a species of large mole that lives in Dinosaur Land, leaping from the deadly stew below. Carefully making my way further into the castle, I entered a pipe that took me to the next area.

I was a little surprised to find myself underwater, though in the eighth region of the physical world’s Mushroom Kingdom, there is an underwater section in the castle, so it was still plausible. The pipe from which I emerged was pink, just like the nearby coral, but the coral itself was floating unnattached to the green blocks below. I looked into the distance and its deep bluish-purple color for a while; it beautifully complemented the palette laid out before me. Staring out there, I noticed something else that I hadn’t expected to see: clouds. The water went as high as I could see, and yet, clouds were plainly visible, not distorted by the water; was I underwater, or was I swimming through the sky? Perhaps I was in some sort of sky lake. I swam through here, eventually coming to another pink pipe, this one having a horizontal offshoot that more closely resembled those from the Mushroom Kingdom, which looked very strange coming from an expanded Subcon pipe. On top of it all was a battery of Bullet Bill launchers, and behind it was a gorgeous waterfall of pastel blue and pink, almost resembling cotton candy. Perhaps I was in a sky lake, and this was where it drained out, though I could not explain the cascade’s coloration. I swam past a metroid and entered the pipe.

The pipe, having been topped by the battery, could not possibly have taken my upward, and yet, I came upward out of the next pipe into a sunny area. There were many compound clouds – those with multiple sets of eyes – dotting the light blue sky. There was a long bridge of sorts, suspended in the air, that was made of blue blocks. I decided to take this route, because beneath it was an endless waterfall, from which whale-like creatures from the Cave of Monsters were leaping. I ran along for a while, avoiding the creatures until I found a vine, which I climbed to the next section.

Suddenly, I was in a nightscape that resembled Dinosaur Land. At first I’d thought that I had climbed into outer space, but I noticed clouds in the distance. The vine behind me had turned a strange blue color that strongly resembled the Mushroom Kingdom Underground. I made my way forward through this hauntingly empty area for a while, wondering what to expect next. I found myself abruptly thrust into the next area.

I was in an area that had resembled the bridge, but was more intricate. Looking at it long enough, I realized it to be a brick version of an area that I’d known from the Subcon. It was much more easily traveled without the ice that had been there in the physical world, but the whale-like creatures were back with a vengeance. I’d reached the end and looked below the overhang, expecting to find the tuft of plant matter that, when pulled, would yield a rocket to take me to the next area. Not finding one, I located a vine, which I climbed in its stead.

I was in another nightscape, this one filled with short green Subcon pipes. The drastic changes in scenery were no longer disorienting to me. SInce the last few changes had been shifts back and forth between two similar biomes, I’d begun to believe that reality was beginning to concentrate. I made my way past a few impossibly-colored Koopa Troopas, through this exciting obstacle course. Soon, I found my way to the next section, and jumped right into it.

Unexpectedly, I was back in the castle, but this was a familiar environment, at the very least. Blocks were piled in here, leading up to the top of a tall wall. From the wall, I saw a long stretch of pillars barely emerging from the lava below. I made several difficult leaps to cross this latest hazard, making my way through corridors of lovely design. I soon came to a bridge, but this one was much longer than the ones that I’d seen in the physical world, and the lava came much closer to touching it. At the end was not an axe, but a grey pipe, which I entered, not knowing what to expect.

I came out of an orange pipe with red markings into an area that I could not easily comprehend. The red bricks of the castle were beneath me, but I was outside. It was night, and the clouds above were outlined in red. There were orange hills with faces, as well as red and orange palm trees standing tall above them. It seemed as though I had entered some manner of courtyard or rooftop garden, though I could not be certain. I came to what appeared to have once been a deep chasm, but had been completely filled with bricks, making it into a flat surface. Heading through here, I came to a small chamber, from which I could see large red bushes with black spots, as well as smaller orange shrubs with black fruit growing from them. There was also some sort of nightmare princess with black eyes, who startled me awake, ending my dream at that very moment.

Dreams can sometimes bring a fresh perspective to something without actually doing anything fresh. In this case, I had a dream about three areas – ones that I had explored a long time ago – woven together. Though these three elements were not new, there was a much different context to them, and so, they created a new experience. So, while I believe dreams themselves to be meaningless, that is not to say that we cannot learn from them. Sometimes, something old in a new light will make something completely unique, and so it can be very rewarding to review old experiences in our lives.

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