Mushroom Kingdom

The Sociopolitical Implications of the Mushroom Kingdom

Consider the Mushroom Kingdom, the most common setting of the Super Mario Brothers franchise. Set aside the fact that its main populace consists of anthropomorphic mushrooms and focus instead on the downright bizarre social and political implications presented by Nintendo’s flagship franchise. Now consider how much weirder things get when you expand outward to games like Mario Party and Mario Kart.

This is a kingdom in a state of constant political upheaval, and yet there is no succession plan should the ruler be deposed. It lacks any sort of organized military despite being under constant assault by a literal fire-breathing dragon. The inhabitants show very little prejudice, and yet the social system is filled with incredible amounts of systemic bias.

Clearly, this strange kingdom bears a more thorough investigation.

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Why Don’t We Have More Good D&D Video Games?

The approaching full release of Baldur’s Gate III has a lot of gamers very hyped, and for good reason. It’s a high-end video game utilizing the ever-popular Dungeons & Dragons system…and it feels like it’s been forever. While fans got an expansion to an old classic with Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear in 2016, there hasn’t been an actual proper stand-alone D&D cRPG since Sword Coast Legends in 2015…and you have to go all the way back to Neverwinter Nights 2 to find one that was well-received.

Why the long layoff in titles and the difficulty in creating a solid game bearing the D&D trademark? With excellent cRPGS like Dragon Age and Pillars of Eternity out there, why can’t the grandparent of all role-playing games follow suit? The answer, in my opinion, boils down to resources, creative restrictions forced by the property, and good old-fashioned corporate politics.

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The Weird and Wild World of Pokémon

Over the past 25 years, Pokémon has gone from a fad to a multimedia juggernaut. Dozens of video games, movies, TV seasons, comics, and more have sprang into existence around the cute little monsters.

These different properties have varied in some respects, but all have helped to apply at least a veneer of continuity on the imaginary world where pocket monsters roam the wild. And, in many ways…what these things show is pretty weird.

I’m not talking about weird as in the obvious, with bizarre creatures that live in tiny Pokéballs. I mean that the world we see in the different franchises, particularly the videogames, has some fascinatingly odd worldbuilding implications. Here are just a few of the things you’d have to contend with if you lived in the world of Pokémon.

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Super Mario Odyssey

Death is Cheap in Super Mario Odyssey, and I Love It

Common wisdom in video game design says that you can’t make death cheap. While you never want the player to quit in frustration, you also want to make them think. If death lacks consequences, players feel no tension. So a bullet wound or bottomless pit usually leads to a reload or level restart.

And then along comes a game like Super Mario Odyssey, where getting mauled by a Tyrannosaurus only loses you 10 coins, which you can go back and recover 30 seconds later. What gives with that?

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