An old video game like Super Mario Bros. is a delight to play. It's a colorful, simple game with a bright, gratifying soundtrack, and an easygoing, pick-up-and-play feel to it. Basically, the barriers to entry on a game like Super Mario Bros. are remarkably low. You just grab a controller, move to your right, and jump around. Nothing to it, right?
Not quite. As game designer Dan "OtherDan" Emmons points out in "Design Club" (a new video series for the YouTube channel, Extra Credits), the first level of Super Mario Bros. is actually deceptively simple. All throughout the debut stage of Mario's premiere home console title, there are prime examples of game design at its absolute best. Negative space, visual signals, and short iteration cycles are used to maximum effect in Shigeru Miyamoto's 1985 classic to ensure that gamers are able to understand the mechanics of the game as soon as they play.
While none of these signals are terribly overt, Emmons' direction helps you understand what is going on behind the scenes. Like, did you ever think about why Question Blocks use the "?" symbol? Well, put yourself in the shoes of someone who knows nothing about the Mario franchise: wouldn't they want to know what the hell is going on in the world they just entered? And what better facilitator do we have for gaining knowledge than by asking questions? Hence, the Question Block. There's levels to this shit, people.
"Show, don't tell," is a common rule of thumb for making anything creative work, and with the beginning level of Super Mario Bros., Miyamoto proves that he understands this rule better than anyone else. Watch and learn more from Emmons above.
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[via Extra Credits]