Monday, November 19, 2007

The Music of Mario - Time, Space, and Nostalgia

“All games have unique rhythms.” - Koji Kondo

The notion of progress is built into the Super Mario series, also the notion of resolution. That music needs to resolve implies that it is problematized to begin with, and we can relate that problem back to the motivation to complete a videogame, and the fact that the “rhythm of the game” is something complex that we all (players, composers, and designers of games) feel. Videogames are often spoken of in a way that relates their value (either in dollars or whether they are worth a player's time) to the amount of gameplay they offer, given in units of time. Fifty hours of gameplay is widely considered a good value. Part of this can be attributed to the high cost of videogames, but I think another reason for this is that the sense of progress built into them is satisfying, and the Super Mario series represents this progress by collecting items, defeating enemies, and moving through spaces, each action having a specific associated sound. The quote above, from the sound designer for almost all of the Super Mario series, relates to the entire soundscape of a game but for the purposes of this paper I am interested in the musical themes (the background music, or BGM) of certain levels and items, how these relate to time and progress, and how the simple themes of the Super Mario series mixed with the interactivity of the videogame medium create such a strong nostalgia for players and encourage the remixes that are featured as part of my audio mix. Specifically, I review the classic “Main Theme,” the “Underground Theme,” “Starman,” “Overworld 2 Theme” (from Super Mario Bros. 3), and “Ragtime Theme” (my title, from Super Mario World).

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