The “are games art” argument ended a long time ago, but even so, PBS has fielded yet another champion of the artistic merit of games in its new webseries, Game Design 101. After all, nothing says “respectably reserved” quite like public television, right? Nobody has ever doubted the credentials of a person carrying a branded tote bag. That’s not even sarcasm.
The new show falls under the Game/Show banner, PBS’ YouTube channel dedicated to critical video game discussion. Like all of its shows, Game Design 101 is hosted by Jamin Warren, founder of Kill Screen magazine.
And if you’re going to be talking game design, what better subject to kick off a new series than Super Mario Bros.? That’s right, the first episode focuses on the seminal Nintendo platformer that probably every person on the planet is intimately familiar with, and then breaks down why it is that we’re all so intimately familiar with it.
As you might imagine, Super Mario Bros. is a topic that is positively fertile with subject matter, so rather than trying to cram everything into a single video, the team has opted to break things up into three parts. The first episode, published Feb. 16, lays the groundwork by discussing Mario games using the games’ own language. It can be heady stuff, especially for those who weren’t expecting a discussion of Mario to get so cerebral. Sentence diagrams, visual language, feedback loops, emergent gameplay, and player expectations are all covered in ways that are simple to understand for the budding critical mind, but are also interesting enough for even seasoned game critics to learn something.
But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself.