When we think of video games, we think of them as alternate realities and strange universes outside of the norm. Video games shouldn’t be real life.
But should these alternate realities imitate real life? Should we place bizarre worlds into constructions of our own world? That’s delicious food for thought that game developer Nina Freeman opened up with her DEVS MAKE MARIO video for Polygon.
Freeman is the creator of games Cibele and How Do You Do It. Her games are a combination of role playing with Internet tendencies. The games put you in the experiences of the modern young woman, to learn what it’s like to be them. They’re not empathy games as much as they are windows into thoughts and reflections of how we behave and learn: they are literal role plays.
When given the tools to make Mario role play, Freeman does something fascinating, that other developers given the tools in this Polygon series have not done: she makes Mario do a real life something. She puts Mario on a date with the codependent yet bashful ghost Boo set in a mall. The level is less of something that you have to work through to “win” but a wandering of experience. What would it be like to go to a mall in Mario? What would a date level look like? How do you role play a high school experience using Mario? Is a video game where you just go on a date a video game?
The result is fascinating and, while lots of bros will see this and think it is stupid, this is a masterpiece of the genre. It represents a brilliant thought process and shows that Freeman is kind of a genius when it comes to using gaming formats to put you in someone else’s life or to reflect in on your own life and experiences.
You can watch Freeman design and play the level below.