Fortunately, games like Super Mario Galaxy prove that appealing to your inner child doesn't have to come with all the infantile, immature baggage. From the beginning, it's evident in the color palette alone that you`re engaging in a much different kind of experience than Gears of War. Galaxy`s bright, saturated tones contrast sharply with Gears` limited variations of gray and brown. Where the latter is meant to evoke gritty realism, Galaxy takes a more fanciful approach. Plumbers gracefully fly through space, traversing worlds ranging from desert ruins to spaceships to giant, rotating pastries. Manta rays exist to be surfed on. And anthropomorphic stars power a giant observatory traveling through the cosmos disguised as a comet. There is no pretense to depicting reality here; Galaxy is wholly fantastical, a product of that state of mind we have as children when anything is possible.
Boundless imagination and childhood innocence go hand in hand. Kids are innocent to the horrors the world contains, unimpeded by rational thought and free from the laws of physics. They don`t know how the world works, so they`re free to make up their own rules. In Galaxy, you can turn into a spring to jump higher, challenge penguins to swimming races, and fall into lava with a singed behind as the only consequence. Shigeru Miyamoto and his team have once again created a playground where these youthful feelings can freely express themselves.
Galaxy`s innocence comes from being completely divorced from reality. On the other hand, Gears' half-baked realism invites criticism for glamorizing war and misrepresenting violence. It treats a serious subject, war, with the naivety of a child`s mind. Killing is just something to do for fun in Gears, and all its imagination is focused on that one act. It`s the ultimate expression of that childish feeling of picking up a stick and pretending it`s a deadly weapon. As a kid, I'd have loved it, but I've lost the taste for its pointless violence, superficial heroism and offensive male stereotypes. In other words, I've grown up.
It`s not that violence in games is wrong. It`s that Gears of War portrays it in a shamefully simplistic and childish manner. Other games, like Metal Gear Solid, Half-Life 2 and BioShock, prove that violence can be depicted in videogames with maturity and complexity. Ratchet and Clank shows that guns can be goofy and fun without being distasteful. Super Mario Galaxy`s route is to steer clear of the subject altogether, avoiding offensive depictions of real-world subjects by existing in a purely imaginative realm. By doing this, Galaxy lets adult gamers like me reconnect with the childhood I want to remember, not the ugly, immature parts in which Gears of War revels. Maybe part of growing up is being able to reclaim all the innocence and wonder of youth while shedding its naivety and false ideals. Gears of War may have received the M rating, but it's Super Mario Galaxy that is the more mature creation.
Chris LaVigne got his first Mario game along with a Nintendo Entertainment System as a surprise gift from his parents for getting the chicken pox. He's sure no disease has ever been so fondly remembered.