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Video games appreciated as an “Odyssey” of art

Video game icon, Super Mario, made his series debut for the recently released Nintendo Switch console in the game “Super Mario Odyssey” on Oct. 27 2017.

“Odyssey” is a three-dimensional platforming game and is the latest addition to Nintendo’s 32-year-old Super Mario franchise. Metacritic, a website that organizes media criticisms, gave “Odyssey” a score of ninety-seven, making it the highest scoring game this year.

“How I would describe ‘Super Mario Odyssey’ is as the closest thing to [the perfect video game] that I have seen in a very, very long time,” said Phillip Johnson, sophomore electrical engineering major.

Johnson purchased the game on release and has logged twenty-two hours of play since then. The difficulty, level design, tone, art, fairness, music, creativity and all other aspects of the game, are “fantastic,” Johnson said.

“Creative games instead of repetitive things - that’s why I feel Nintendo still manages to amaze people,” Johnson said. “Every single game is a different experience having its own merits, and it’s not necessarily about the time it was released, but about the creative input that went into it.”

Nintendo’s creativity in its games is in contrast with much of the video game industry, Johnson said, which generally has more repetition across games. According to him, uniqueness is one of the hallmarks of a great game.

“In my middle school years, I really played a lot of ‘Call of Duty,’ and then was just ‘what’s the point in picking up the next one, it’s essentially the same thing,’” Johnson said.

“Call of Duty” is a first-person shooter game franchise by Activision.

Cameron Brennan, junior communication major, said he has an avid interest in video games. His favorite genres are fantasy and first-person-shooters.

Brennan said that each installment of “Call of Duty” is one in an evolution, even if that evolution is slower than in most game series.

“A lot of people think that every ‘Call of Duty’ is exactly the same, but if you are an avid ‘Call of Duty’ player, it’s not,” Brennan said. “There’s definitely a theorem that [‘Call of Duty’ games] follow, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all ‘copy and paste.’”

Brennan said that he plays certain games in order to hang out with friends, to escape into a different world, to get a sense of accomplishment or sometimes to stop being bored.

Jared Bundy, a 2008 graduate of SVC, said, “I get a ton of stress relief from exploring open world games like [‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’] or blowing up Nazis in ‘Wolfenstein.’”

Bundy is an adjunct communication instructor at Saint Vincent and Interactive Marketing Director of the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.

Like Johnson and Brennan, Bundy said he grew up playing Nintendo games and consoles.

“As a parent, my video game playing has definitely slowed down, but I still really enjoy it,” Bundy said. “I use group or squad-based games as a way to keep in touch with friends who have since moved away, and we are currently playing ‘Destiny 2’ together.”

Bundy said that video games have evolved so much since arcades and the birth of home video consoles in the 1970’s.

“Video games are also unique in that they span across so many genres besides art,” Bundy said. “They can be played competitively as a sport, and now have worldwide competitions and college teams with scholarships. They can be used for therapy and psychology, like ‘Minecraft,’ to help people express themselves. They can even be enjoyed passively like a movie, as thousands of people turn to Twitch and YouTube to watch professional gamers show off their mastery, and they do this as a full-time career.”

While Johnson, Brennan and Bundy each said that the category of video game is broad, they also said that the active participation of the player makes all video games unique from any other art form.

“You can interact with a video game. You can make choices, and I think that’s a huge difference,” Brennan said. “It helps creativity, it helps decision making, it helps teamwork… it sounds like I’m really reaching for stuff, but I really do think that’s how it works.”

Brennan said that, given the amount of care that goes into some games, including “Skyrim,” “Destiny 2” and “Grand Theft Auto,” he could not see how video games could not be considered art.

“If I were to pop in ‘Battlefield I’ - the story it tells is phenomenal and the way it looks is amazing. I honestly can’t look at a painting the same way, because [games are] interactive. It’s almost like an interactive painting or an interactive movie,” Brennan said.

Johnson said that if film and literature are appreciated as art, then so should video games.

“If someone tried to say that video games as a whole were a waste of time, that’s like saying watching films is a waste of time, reading books is a waste of time,” Johnson said. “[Video games are] something that can give you really thought provoking, or possibly even life-changing, thoughts. And if it’s simply meant to entertain — is entertainment wrong?”

“My hope,” Bundy said, “is that video games break out of the ‘person playing in their parents’ basement’ stereotype and are taken seriously as an art form, as a sport, and as an educational and psychological tool.”

Brennan said he takes the importance of the Super Mario franchise seriously, and that he finds “Odyssey” in particular interesting and fun.

“Mario’s been around since the beginning of video games,” Brennan said. “Just because it’s cartoonish doesn’t make it only for kids.”

“Go outside,” Johnson said, “life’s full of color. And yet people seem to be shifting away from bright, colorful things and perceiving them as childish.”

According to Bundy, the evolution of Super Mario, including the latest game, is important in the history of video games.

“I am very excited to get my hands on ‘Super Mario Odyssey.’ Every time a platform is launched by Nintendo, I believe that the Mario franchise is the flagship for how games should function in the future,” Bundy said. “‘Super Mario’ set the standard for platformers, ‘Mario 64’ is one of the first 3D open world adventure games, and is still one of the best, ‘Mario Galaxy’ showed the possibilities of this 3D exploration, and now to Odyssey.”

“Super Mario Bros.,” which was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, was Mario’s first home console appearance. “Mario 64” came out in 1996, and “Super Mario Galaxy” in 2007.

“Mario has always been one of my favorite franchises and, at this point, I don’t think I will ever grow out of liking that red-garbed little plumber,” Bundy said.


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