Mario and Archetypal Psychology

Mon, 09/13/2004 — Fasteriskhead

The story of Super Mario Brothers must be thought of chiefly as the story of Mario, not the story of the player's causation of Mario's actions. Despite this the player, though not the essential within the game, maintains his belief in his own autonomy, his own central position as the dictating force of events: "I control Mario." Thus when Mario is presented with a pit, the player thinks, "Whether Mario does or does not fall into the pit, the result of the action is mine." That is to say, if Mario falls then it is indicative of a deeper cause within the player, e.g. he is shitty at video games. Yet this is a fantasy, and though the player is trapped within it the heart still recognizes the truth of the power of the Mario-image. As a result, when Mario falls into that pit it is only a matter of time before the player, formerly thinking himself the cause of all things, screams at the Nintendo, throws his useless controller (indeed, a CON-troller!) at the wall, and curses Mario for his decision to die rather than to land on the far edge across from the pit. For it is Mario himself who determines his own fate, and the rage of the player is the roar of the captive lion who has only now recognized his own cage. Gradually the player calms the angered lion by working feverishly to reestablish his prior fantasy. He mutters "it's only a game," and Mario once again becomes merely a series of pixels existing only in relation to other pixels, incapable of action without the will of the player. The player, stuck in this fantasy of personal empowerment, never realizes that it is not he who controls Mario but rather Mario who controls him. It is only when the power of the image is recognized that the player can truly move with Mario, as a partner and ally rather than as an opposing force or as a mere symptom of the status of the player. The Mario-image, not the player, is the thing that is essential.

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