Here’s a question: What do you do in Mario?
Good question. I love Mario! In Mario you run and jump and defeat enemies. You explore. You get from left to right. You sometimes climb flagpoles. If it’s Mario 2 you pick and throw vegetables. If it’s Super Mario World, you get to knock about on a dinosaur. If it’s Mario Galaxy you dropkick meteors into the heart of a distant sun. Mario is pretty good when it comes to doing things. It excels at getting things done. It has purity, and it also has range.
But still, I don’t think the answer is even that simple. When you’re a kid, what you do in Mario is often quite different. You look to the horizon and wonder what it’s like over there. You try to hop the warp-pipe at the beginning of 1-2, and when you can’t, you wonder why you can’t, and you wonder what would happen if you could. I once read a thing about a guy whose kids tried Mario Galaxy and afterwards would play with their toys on the underside of the kitchen table as well as the top. This was all doing stuff in Mario, if you ask me: it was using Mario physics to expand your options in the real world. (Actually, that sounds quite dangerous.)