I was growing bored with games.
Me, a guy who had been playing on-and off since the 80's, somebody who practically lived off the computer revolution of the late twentieth century, had grown complacent over a once-treasured past-time. Video games were not what they once were. Beloved genres had mutated and disappeared over what seemed like over-night. Squabbles that started as petty feuds over which mascot carrying brand was better had now turned into wars that may ultimately decide the direction that the video game industry would move in, with one side demanding others to pick a side or leave, and another side wistfully playing Bejeweled on the cell phones and that was enough for them.
I was stuck in the middle. Yes, I've cared about video games as a viable past-time and entertainment, even in some cases as an art form, but I wasn't about to let what passed as "hard-core" become the norm. First and third person shooters, a genre that with a few exceptions I've never been a huge fan of, were now held aloft by the "core gamer" as the best that we could get. From every angle I was bombarded by a bastion of bald space marines, future commandos, acid dripping demons and aliens, and enough body-armored freaks with gigantic chainsaws painted with a coat of "realistic" brown and gray. Each of these games wore their "adult" and "mature" themes on their sleeves, never stopping once to realize that they could possibly just be acting out the power fantasies of millions of fifteen year old boys. This is what the future held for gaming, a never ending wave of neanderthals with big guns chopping bio-mechanical mutants into hamburger meat? The mundane concepts, not to mention the mundane gameplay, was enough to turn me off from this side of the line.
Now on the other side, we have the casual gamers, the people who can get a few minutes of Tetris or Bejeweled on their cell phones and be happy. The people who bought Nintendo Wii and finished their video game purchase with the pack-in title. The people who, up until last year or the year before, had rarely, if ever, touched a game that wasn't Scrabble or Monopoly in their lives. I didn't belong with them either, these people didn't care if good titles sank or swim, or experiencing a new game outside their comfort zone, they were happy with their quick puzzle games and bouts of Wii Sports at the grandkids' house. So where did I fit in?
What happened to my generation?
It seemed like both camps were not of the same bread and butter that I was: One had their first taste of gaming on the "adult" Playstation in the late 90's, and the other played a round of Q-Bert in 1984, forgot about it, and picked up on Solitaire because it came with the cell phone package. What about those guys who played their dad's Atari 2600, religiously subscribed to Nintendo Power and called the Nintendo Power Line, and begged their parents for a Sega Genesis because it had "Blast Processing?" What happened to a generation that wanted the fun of leaping from platform to platform, breathlessly trying to avoid Cheep Cheeps that erupted from the ground? The gasps that accompanied a death-defying leap over a gigantic canyon, the sigh of relief after finally creaming that boss after what seemed like over a hundred hits on his noggin? A generation that got emotionally wrapped up in the adventure that they were collectively taking part in every time they plugged a gray (or black) cartridge into the slot?
I rediscovered that part of me in November 2007.
Super Mario Galaxy helped me rediscover what I loved about video games in the first place, the thrill of discovering something new, exciting and weird, the breathless Comet Runs from planet to planet, the laughter (Yes, laughing out loud) at what new moves and tricks I learned Mario could do, the sighs of relief after leaping over that gaping chasm. I was me playing Super Mario Bros. 3 again, playing Super Mario World, playing the masses of NES, SNES, and Genesis games I beheld in wonder as a child.
What the developers at EAD Tokyo did was take a world I was comfortable in, make it 3D, and somehow (pixie dust?), imbue it with the thrills and wonder that Mario had for me at a young age. I was once again that child of 8 or 9, struggling to keep the little man in blue overalls from getting smooshed, pounded, and flung into the farthest nether regions.
Which makes me wonder, are the developers who made Super Mario Galaxy in the same boat I was? Trying to re-capture what made video games (and Mario, specifically) exciting for them in the first place? I think they are.