SMB: Those three letters are enough to make a gamer recall some of the greatest and (occasionally) some of the hardest times of their lives. Everyone who’s played SMB can think back with a sense of triumph to their successes, and more specifically, to their failures. Sometimes the memories might have more to do with what went wrong, sure, but there is definitely a point at which that success, that victory, is achieved. When that happens, it all becomes worthwhile.
Remember how I said that I wanted to write about video game stories? It may not seem like Tetrisis the kind of game that I would gravitate towards, seeing as how there isn’t much of an arc to the stories of S-shape, I-shape, and L-shape. But sometimes the most compelling story isn’t the one in the game itself. It’s in the creation of the game, and the player’s experience of playing the game. Today I’d like to talk about two dreamers, who hoped big, got beaten down, but rose up, and eventually triumphed. The first is Alexey Pajitnov, the creator of Tetris, and the other is me.
“Edutational” games tend to come in two categories.
The “game” that is really just a badly strung together lesson, complete with exhortations to do one’s best with shoddy gameplay that would make most gamers roll their eyes in disgust, if not for the parent looking over their shoulder. Yeah, okay, they’re better than doing real homework, but not by much, particularly with Earthbound calling from the side cabinet.
The edutational product that’s barely edutational: it’s a game that passes itself off as “fun in education” with more emphasis on the former and little on the latter. I still love these games, but let’s be real. Most of the educational dynamics (planning, decision-making, economics, resource management) are really just gameplay dynamics found (beefed up) in other titles.
Guess which one kids prefer. Guess which one parents prefer.