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Super Mario – Linear but not so Ludus?

November 16, 2011

At the beginning of the year, we discussed the article written by Caillois in which the author presents this idea of a Paidia/Ludus spectrum. Basically, on one end of the spectrum you have Paidia which deals with games that are sort of closed, structured, and highly rule-based. On the other end is Ludus, and this deals with games that are more open and free. In between these two ends, then is a spectrum on which different games fall in relation to each other. On to my point, in class we talked about linear games, like Super Mario, where you go from start to finish on a path to the end of the level, without really having the ability to be freedom to explore or play differently, and how they are generally thought to fall more on the Ludus end of the spectrum because its linear and in a very much closed playing space. However, I’d argue that Super Mario falls more towards the center of the spectrum than given credit. Of course it still have many Ludus qualities to it. You are still limited to what Mario can physically do in the game and it is two-dimensional so you are also limited in that you can only move up, down, left, and right. However, on the Paidia side of things, you can have very similar games, but for an experienced Super Mario player, you can play through the game several times and experience it differently each time. If you know where certain hidden items and places are in the maps, a player can quickly skip over several levels at a time or they can decide to not use them and play through the whole thing. Players can also make the choice to take a shortcut and as a result they play through a level or two without fire power or big Mario, for example. Also in later additions like Super Mario 3, you are given the ability to go backwards which helps you, for example, get a fire power back that you just lost. You are also given Yoshi and players now have the choice to play through levels with the help of Yoshi or not. All these choices and different ways in which you can play the game, I feel opens and frees up a significant amount, and gives the game a more Padia sense.

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