Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Woman of Super Mario World

Via ffwd, Serious Games Source has an article by Gonzalo Frasca about Super Princess Peach
and the gender stereotypes that Nintendo reinforces in the game. It's less of a manifesto and more of an attempt to take the game more seriously, which appears to be mission of the site.

The most interesting part of the article is the part where Frasca compares the Japanese version of the game's advertisement to the American version. The contrasts between our two cultures are quite stark.

But this was strange to read:

In Mario’s universe, Princess Peach - formerly known as Princess Toadstool in Western countries until 1996 - has always played the damsel in distress role. Until now, all she did was wait until Mario showed up and rescued her.

My favorite playable character in Super Mario Brothers 2 was always Princess Toadstool. When she jumped, she seemed to defy gravity. I preferred her everywhere but the ice world. Of course, who knows if she was really capable of all that - we find out at the end of the game that it was all in Mario's head.

So I don't know how Frasca could have forgotten about Super Mario 2. Back then, the Princess was a much less emotional character, probably due more to 8-bit sprite limitations than anything else.

Taking video games seriously is a good idea, I'm sure, because video games play a major role in society. But I think you'd want to discuss the effects games actually have on attitudes and habits, rather than limiting the discussion to subject matter. And incidentally, any truly serious discussion about gender in Mario World would include Birdo. I remember learning, as a child, about Transgenderism through the Super Mario 2 manual.

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