Mario as The Voiceless Hero

One facet of the Mario franchised self-parodied in "Super Mario RPG" is the facet of Mario as a voiceless figure in his society. He is incapable of speaking other than through actions. Mario rarely, if ever, has significant dialogue in any of the games.

With the original games, plot, dialogue, and character were less important, but nonetheless are reflective of a very important psychological juxtaposition in the game, of that between Mario and the Player of the game.

Silence from avatars in games is not uncommon, let alone rare. The majority of games, especially in America, focus almost exclusively on game play. When there is dialogue from the player's avatar in the game, such as with Raiden in Metal Gear Solid II, there is a great risk of alienating the player from their character. This trend has continued long past the time that there were technical limitations on the capacity for language.

In one sense, this is to increase the capacity of the player to identify with the character. In a sense, it is left to the player to speak for the protagonist. Thus, having the avatar/protagonist speak at all would be removing that crucial element of the player taking on the role of the character.

To an extent, this is the case. In most Mario games, there is a fair range of flexibility on when and how jumps can be achieved. If players disagree with the scenario, then they can always turn off the game if they really want to. Sometimes enemies can be completely avoided, and only the bosses may truly have to be killed.

But none of that changes the fact that it is still a game, and if they play the game, they can only "beat" it as it was designed, unless of course they cheat. Most maps have definitive beginnings and endings. Even if most enemies can be avoided, violence is always the most recognized solution to problems. While if the basic premises are accepted, there may be variation on the levels in one sense, there nonetheless is the situation that no matter what, Mario will never be able to investigate the causes of the events around him. Mario, like the player, is left silent regarding the real content of the game.

What does this mean though?

For the player, there may be a form of learned helplessness at work. Since most Mario games are objective oriented, players are left with the truth that if they want to "win", they must follow the internal rules of the games. This leads to unidirectional thought and uncreative mental states. Of course, many avid gamers are unwilling to maintain a state of helplessness. And from unsatisfied players with this scenario, there come the "Game Genies", the "hacks", the "cheats", and everything else.

It is easy to criticize the "hackers" and "cheaters" because they do not have to work as hard to win the games. They spend less time playing the games, generally, than others, and they reap more of the special benefits more quickly. However, nonetheless, hacking and cheating may be the natural, and perhaps even healthy, response to the environment most games present.

The intriguing thing about hackers, cheaters, and exploiters of games in general is that they are the ones unwilling to be confined by the arbitrary, and occasionally unpleasant, rules that games present. In "player vs. player" games, of course, such actions will usually cause most other players in a game to become displeased with people who use such tools against them, but this is because many players in pvp games are interested in demonstrating mastery over the arbitrary rule systems they obey, rather than challenging the rules themselves.

Of course, cheating is not frequently necessary in Mario games, nor is it as common as many other games. And the reasons for this are clear. If people cheat to get past unpleasant, arbitrary rule systems, then the rule system of Mario must be fairly pleasant, in addition to the game itself.

Mario has a:
Character people can identify with

Frequently, the capacity to freely roam the individual levels

Variety of miniature reward systems and smaller goals that contribute to the overall objective of defeating Bowser.

The voiceless nature of Mario is of course a facet of him being a character players identify with. However, due to the limitations in the game, it remains a lasting question: does the capacity of the player to act "for" Mario really equate to having a real voice for him? And what impact does this really have on the players of the games?