Upon reading the title of this article, you probably asked yourself one of two questions: “Who’s ‘Moviebob'” or “Why would you bother reviewing a 3 year old book that has been reviewed by several people already?”
To answer the first question: Robert “Moviebob” Chipman is a film and video game reviewer notable for shows such as “The Game Overthinker” and “Escape to the Movies”, or at least those were his flagship shows around the time I stopped watching him. I used to be a fan of his-I found his theorizing about various tropes and theories of video games genuinely interesting, and I still do think the man is smart enough to be a decent reviewer. The reason he isn’t a decent reviewer anymore is because sometime around the time Django Unchained came out, Bob decided to adhere to all the worst concepts of “social justice”, much to the detriment of comedy or worthwhile information in his articles, videos, and twitter feed.
The increased presence of “storylines” (ie: shooting poorly-spliced fire out of his hands as he plays grabass with whatever friend he could rope into wearing a costume) in his reviews was the final nail in the coffin of my interest in him.
As for why I’m reviewing this book now: I only managed to get my hands on it recently, and having read it, I’m simultaneously sad and happy that I did: Sad because this book peaks at “mediocrity” and averages at “slightly disturbing”, and happy because it is-in a way-relevant to all men: This book is like a guide of how NOT to live your life, and should be given to aspiring NEETs as a way to psychologically slap them. So numerous are the books problems that I have to do what none of my other reviews on this site have done, and split it with subheadings.
After the dedication page proclaims that Shigeru Miyamoto saved Bob’s life “multiple times” (setting the tone of the book), the book is split into four sections: A brief history of the Mario franchise, Bob’s strange relationship with the game (or his life in the Mushroom Kingdom), an overview of the game itself, and finally a step by step journey through every level and world of the game.
Common Problems In Each Section
The book has a few recurring problems: The first is that he has a strange writing style that is written as if he’s having a conversation with the reader: “Is this game the most important one in the franchise? No” (p. 9) “A piranha plant that spits fireballs? Madness! (p. 87). While to an extent it is amusing to imagine this book as a man talking to himself about nonsense, it gets old fast.
The second problem, and in my opinion the biggest flaw, is that Bob speaks of this video game, a commercial product, with a quasi-religious air of gravitas that I (speaking as a Mario fan) feel the franchise (or any game franchise, really) absolutely does not deserve. This problem starts in the foreword (along with a dose of unwarranted self importance), and continues throughout.
Amusingly, the foreword ends with a sentence proclaiming that Bob wanted to choose a game that “formed an emotive journey with him”, and then clarifies “It should be a game I loved”-or rather, it should have said that. Instead it says “I should be a game I loved”. While this is undoubtedly a typo (one of many in the text, bad editing being another problem), it is oddly fitting for reasons you will see below.
The History of Mario
This first section is the best of the book-in fact, there’s a fair amount I agree with, such as when he proclaims that a truly great character should be created organically, rather than by a focus group. But it’s really nothing a gamer wouldn’t be familiar with already: the failure to obtain the Popeye license, Donkey Kong, etc.
My Life in the Mushroom Kingdom
But it is section 2, where Bob opens up about his personal life, that things go off the rails (And is likely what will attract 90% of readers). I’ll give what is likely a controversial opinion: Were this section a work of “loser-lit” fiction in the style of Charles Bukowski, Kurt Vonnegut, or Louis-Ferdinand Celine, it would be a masterpiece-a mundanely epic saga of a downtrodden man caught in the pastel grasp of his idealized plumber-hero, held back in infancy by the mustachioed paragon as he struggles to obtain maturity. Sadly, this is meant to be taken seriously.
The previous section gives a few hints of Bob’s mental state: referring to Mario as “Ascending to pop culture godhood”, referring to the arrival of Sonic the Hedgehog as “Life in Wartime” and similar statements, but he lays it all bare for us in this autobiographical piece that revolves around the NES:
An innocent glance at his friend’s TV and Nintendo sparked his interest in the character, immediately dumping He-Man as his “thing” in exchange for the portly plumber (Perhaps he wouldn’t have type 2 diabetes if he had continued to be inspired by the Herculean physique of the Eternian)
The clear importance of video games to his life is a recurring theme-for he is unashamed to admit that Mario and Nintendo were his “happy place”, a constant that anchored him during the struggles in his life as a nerd:
“For now that Mario was at his peak [circa 1989 with the release of The Wizard], I felt that for once me and the rest of the world were in sync. It seemed the beginning of a better new world…but it turned out it was the beginning of the end” (P. 30).
Bob’s life begins a long downward trend with the beginning of the console wars-not adopting the “cooler” Sonic made Bob an outcast once again clinging to Mario like a talisman: “I needed [Super Mario Bros. The Movie] to be good, since getting a movie meant he mattered beyond just some brief fad. He wasn’t a pet rock DAMMIT, he was my friend getting me through the misery of pre-teendom. I needed him to matter so that the time and energy I had invested in him mattered”. (p. 40)
The console wars drag on “like his own private Vietnam” as he enters high school, which proves a miserable experience for him as he finds himself “surrounded by Irish and Italian hoodlums whose parents paid for them to go to private school away from the ‘somehow worse’ black and Latino hoodlums” (p. 41) Aside from his ignorance of a mountain of statistics showing how working class white schools differ from NAM schools (see below), his disdain for poor white people clearly coalesced here, a barely veiled hatred for “bros” that is evident in his Twitter feed (see above) and his game reviews:
“The game community…seemed openly hostile to [what I remembered]. The inclusive nerd culture was now full of [CHADS] who only wanted white male heroes. Where there was once a pseudo-multiculturalism there was now Xenophobia” (p. 56).
As Bob’s politics began to seep into the anrrative, I realized the true horror of this book: I could have become Moviebob, and so could have many men like me. As I’ve stated previously, I myself was a nerd who got bullied in school and grew attracted to social justice out of my resentments. In an alternate universe, I might have been a fat SJW lashing out at “dudebros”.
However, my path ultimately led to abandoning the path of victimhood and instead working out, martial arts, learning how to speak like a human being, and sexual intercourse (while, admittedly, occasionally pursuing nerdery as you can plainly see). His path led to sitting in the car playing Game Boy until his parents went to sleep, allegedly so he could make videos.
Things look up for Bobbo in the end-not only does he get some fame and notoriety as a video maker, his faith (that’s really the best word for it) in Mario is reignited with the Wii’s Mario releases: Super Mario Galaxy is full of fascinating additions to the canon-high holy days and a sacred feminine mother goddess in Rosalina-while, more importantly, New Super Mario Bros. proves that the classic formula he has so vociferously fought for is still viable. And the “holiness” keeps coming-Seeing Mario and Sonic in the “Subspace Emissary” from Super Smash Bros. Brawl is openly stated to be akin to a religious experience, and after a scene in a game store where Bob metaphorically “passes the torch” to a child, that’s where his life in the Mushroom Kingdom ends-with Mario and Sonic as the Golden Age crusaders fighting against the Chads.
Ironically, despite the fact that his biography was by far the longest part of my review, the first two sections comprise barely a quarter of the book itself. The overwhelming bulk of the book is describing Super Mario Bros. 3 in agonizingly close detail, with occasional diary entries of Bob’s mental state throughout the playthrough. Despite telling us he wants to avoid “going over every brick and Goomba”, that is exactly what he does for 143 pages, when he’s not getting worked up over groundbreaking technical innovations like one level having different music than the other. Frankly, all I learned from this section is that textual Let’s Plays don’t exist for a very good reason.
A chronicle of Bob’s mental state is also prevalent in this section, and it is clear that while he may have gained fame and fortune, he is in many ways still that same awkward teenager: whether it be him admitting that he’s playing SMB3 to cope with his dying grandmother (p. 97), or a bizarre incident where he hallucinates having eaten a box of Special K: “I just had a creepy but banal pre-bedtime moment. A box of Special K I vividly remember eating from a day or so ago is sealed shut… If I was to dream about eating cereal I’d prefer something more potent like Fruity Pebbles or Booberry.” (P. 109)
While I would ask what kind of adult man refers to his “bedtime” or eats Fruity Pebbles (or for that matter eats an entire cereal box), I will instead point out the fact that he vividly remembers eating cereal. The few meals I vividly remember are things like eating foie gras with my loving girlfriend over candlelight on a brisk autumn evening, but different strokes, I suppose…
To the book’s credit, some of the mockery I had heard about this section was proven false: The oft repeated line that Bob sat in the car playing video games at his grandmother’s funeral was not the case.
Death is juxtaposed with [getting a] life, as at the tender age of 31, Bob moves out of his house and into an apartment, an apartment that only becomes home when he plugs in Mario 3.
Super Mario Bros. 3 Brick By Brick is, at best, readable when Bob discusses his beloved video games dispassionately and succinctly. But it becomes uncomfortably personal (in a way that a critic should know to avoid) at any point beyond that, and combined with the poor writing style and grammatical mistakes, is a book that only serve as a “how-to” guide of how not to live your life, how not to write, and how not to interact with a beloved character.