Whole books have been written about Hamlet’s famous six words, “To be or not to be,” yet not one page has been published on the implications of Mario’s even more economic proclamation, “It’s-a me, Mario!” That literature is an art form worthy of analysis is a fact we take for granted; we teach novels in school, we memorize poetry, we sit in book clubs and try to figure out what it all means. But what would happen if we turned that lens of “close reading” onto video games?
A different kind of art form, games may not always be as serious as Hamlet’s brooding over life and death — but they have just as much offer the scholar (or even the average player) who takes them seriously. Katamari’s roll becomes a metaphor, a character’s CGI rendering becomes a symbol, and enormous unexplored worlds of interpretation open up to us in games we may have played again and again but we have never really read.
Note: the Mario as Hamlet picture was created by Benjamin Burger.