Having dating/been friends with people who have lived outside the realm of video games made me realize one thing, that people who have spent most of their lives playing games have an understanding of the language of video games. And it might seem kind of weird to say that a visual medium has a language (especially if that visual medium is constantly ridiculed) but my academic career that was solely based around film had taught me that every medium has a certain language.
And video games, obviously, is no different. Recently, I tried to "teach" a friend how to play a video game and we started with Fallout 4 because it was the game that was in the system when they came over. And after seeing them struggle with something as simple as movement helped drive the point that they had no understanding of this language that I was fluent in.
So when PBS's Game/Show released an episode explaining or, more specifically, exploring the language in the Super Mario series, I couldn't help but write a card about how important this is to games and gaming.
In the video, Jamin Warren outlines how "sentences" work in Super Mario's language (you can see an example above). The word "JUMPS" is in all caps because it's the verb of the game's core mechanic. And since we all know how to read, I don't really need to explain what a verb is to you. In gaming, it basically has the same definition except it outlines what the player character's main action is.
In Super Mario, that verb is jump. And the example above shows a sentence structure within the game's design. It's something that basically happens instantaneously and for someone like me, or you if you play loads of games, won't even question or understand. Throughout the video, Warren goes through how different sentences can be created through the use of Mario's core verb.
While it's really awesome to watch a video deconstruct one of the most iconic games in gaming history, it's also pretty interesting when you apply this language or knowledge to games that are made today. It's something that doesn't really cross my mind as a gamer because I already understand how to get going or how to "start writing sentences" using the game's language.
Fallout, for example, there are a couple of different verbs available to the player. But the main one that my friend (you know, the one from the earlier anecdote) didn't understand was movement. Moving in a 3D space in contemporary games revolves around the use of the two sticks on the controller. The left stick manages the actual movement while the right manages the view. And this is a "language" that most FPS games need their player's to speak fluently. That being said, the way that many of us just simple "know" how to move around in that 3D space, is like knowing a language that someone else -- like my friend -- doesn't know at all.
It's kind of interesting to think about these things whether or not you want to be a game designer. It's also a good thing to keep in mind if you ever find yourself trying to teach someone how to play video games when they have touched a controller their whole life.
You can watch the video below and, maybe, you should share it with someone who knows nothing about games so they can learn a little bit more about them.