Novel Amusements #5-Games and Shames

As I watch the new issue of Novel Amusements I witness all 8-bits of our favourite, heroic plumber Mario unravel, allowing me a glance into the stressed and painful mind of a man constantly caught between podoboos (fireballs) and sewer dives. This is hard to watch. This is Mario’s Pain-a new short featured in Jim Munroe’s 5th instalment of an already fantastic DVD-zine series. The new issue gathers 12 of the best indie shorts under the banner-theme of Games and Shames. Shames, we find out, consists of vids like Polly Wally-a hilarious five minute short detailing the shaky politics behind polygamy and all the scheduling conflicts it creates. The most drastic demonstration of shame has to go to Mare Sheppard’s Office Donuts. While the elements that build it up seem simple enough, the ending arrives to smack you with something awful. Lev, of Tales of Mere Existence fame, also makes an appearance with the short How I Generally Feel When I Go to Parties, which showcases the depressing social dynamics that surround large festivities.

Games, however, become the life of the party in Room 101. This short doc opens up the board game battlegrounds held in the Drake Hotel basement. Host Misha explains what Lev pictures for us: that parties suck. So, he says, make them better; play games. Strangers are thus brought together, teased with small gifts of snacks, and let loose to compete for no particular prize, but perhaps some bragging rights for the next competition. Moving away from board games, but still keeping distance from the digital world is John Sasaki’s hilarious Game Modding for the ’80s. Shot like a homespun ’80s how-to video, Sasaki goes into great detail modifying an existing pinball machine to a pool party, mini-bar equipped pinball machine! Our how-to guide hero effortlessly laces modern game modding terminology into the remodelling of the classic machine. What’s interesting is how this idea of modding has actually created new possibilities for short vids (see Machinima, issue 23). Munroe’s own Yoga Deathmatch takes us into a dialogue between two characters using the game engine of Half Life 2. Discussing the odd similarities between yoga and Deathmatch leads to some violently funny (yet enlightening) scenarios. Even the docile image of the mouse-cursor is transformed into a swarming menace attacking some tired sucker in the short Don’t Mouse Around. But saddest of all has to be the exposition of Super Mario’s exhausting pain from the incessant daily demands of millions of players. In addition to severe back pain (to be expected), our plumber Mario chronicles the haunting nightmares he has on the job of being underwater with nowhere to jump, running out of air, eventually drowning. Who among us hasn’t driven that red button to make the plumber jump?

Included with the DVD is a great small booklet of interviews with the filmmakers and more details about the shorts. Packing this all into one DVD would be enough, but including a copy of the ‘droid dodging asexual ninja game just tops it. Pick this one up. (James King)

12 shorts curated by Jim Munroe, www.nomediakings.org

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