Mario Kart & Narrative

I’ve never been a huge fan of video games. It’s not that I don’t love to play them; it’s just that I’m not very good at them. I guess I didn’t gain the necessary dexterity and coordination because my parents never allowed me to have a gaming system as a kid. There are, however, two exceptions to my lackluster feelings about video games: Mario Kart and Wii Bowling. Since many of us in the cohort don’t own a Wii or an Xbox, and it’s always more fun to play with people than by yourself (in my opinion), we had a little video game get together where we happened to play my favorite games.

Mario Kart is a go-kart style racing game that offers players numerous levels of choice. First you have to pick what character(s) you want to play as, what kart he/she will drive, and finally, what course to drive. Peach Beach, Moo Moo Meadows, and DK Mountain were just a few of the courses we chose to play as a group. Before you’ve even hit the gas you’ve made a series of selections that will impact your success in the game as well as the story you create. I think one of the main factors that makes video games fun—at least for me—is being familiar with the game. If you’re constantly falling off a cliff or getting lapped, the game just gets frustrating. What I like about Mario Kart is that each course is a mini world with its own unique elements—that once you learn, you know how to use to your advantage, or, in my case, how not to get yourself killed.These choices and knowledge allow each player to experience the game in a highly personal way. It really comes down to strategy. Drawing on it and to what degree determines how complex your story becomes.

While we played four-person Mario Kart, I noticed that we were also creating a narrative as a group. The courses we chose to play, who won and who came in last, who was vicious with red shells, etc. How we interacted as players in the game resulted in real-time outcomes that influenced every interaction that followed. It was a dynamic process that built upon itself. Remove one action or alter one decision and everything would have played out differently. The way each person played changed the game for everyone else. We were creating a shared story, again related to strategy—who had it and who didn’t. Win or lose we all had a good time.

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