“What do I know of plumbing? Do I plumb? Have I plumbed?” – Luigi
There are games and then there are experiences. A game invites you in, gives you options, and let’s you play within the rules. An experience resonates and changes you. Some games engender experiences. Some don’t even try. When you encounter an experience in the wild, unburdened by marketing or expectations, it’s a glorious day. The day of Ennuigi.
Ennuigi by Josh Millard is an independent, parody Mario game released several years ago. I played it then and I was changed. Unlike any other game I’ve played in the last ten years, it returns to me. At unexpected times, in unexpected ways I find myself remembering the slow pull on the cigarette, the bricks of the mushroom kingdom drained of joy, and the plodding footsteps of the ruminating, lesser Mario brother. If this is enough to convince you, stop now and play the game. It is free, simple, and takes as long as you give it. You may be done after a single button press, or, like me, you may be wandering aimlessly years later, desperate for an existential fix, addicted to the digital nicotine.
We deal in alternatives here, and this is an alternative we need. The Mario Brothers game franchise has value, but it can give us more. A game reflects our totality, simplifying and magnifying chosen aspects of our experience. Fun. Practice. Success. What do we see when we bring a mirror into the mirror world? What vision of our reality can we find there? Ennuigi plays with futility, dread and petty addiction as readily as Super Mario Bros. plays with coins and magic mushrooms. In the end we need them both. A world simplified into a success machine frees us from a world where success is a fiction. A world simplified into an existential nightmare reminds us that fiction pulls both ways. We’re stuck in the middle, between two mirrors trying to understand our own reflection.
Perhaps Luigi says it best, “A cracked mirror, is the crack in the glass or in the seer?”