In much the same way a T-bone steak can be hard to properly grill, this is a hard book to review. Just as a T-bone steak is really two smaller steaks, this book is really two smaller books in one. One book is a critical analysis of Super Mario Bros. 3 for the NES and the other is the personal journal of Bob Chipman, including tales from his troubled childhood as well as the saga of finally moving out of his childhood home at the tender young age of 31.
Who is Moviebob you might ask?
For those of you who don’t know, Bob “Moviebob” Chipman is a contributor at The Escapist, as well as a staunch GamerGate opponent and frequent white knight for Anita Sarkeesian. But I’ve actually enjoyed a lot of his videos. When he’s not climbing up on his social justice high horse he produces some decent content.
So given that, much like Bob, I’m a huge fan of Mario, I thought it might be worth taking a look at his book on Super Mario Bros. 3. The book didn’t have a good reputation but I figured a lot of that might just be from people inclined to dislike Chipman’s work because they hate him. And despite his idiotic political views and shitty behavior toward those who don’t share them, I’m really not so inclined. As I said, I’ve really enjoyed some of his videos.
A quick overview
The book is divided up into three parts, or four if you count the short but hard to slog through introduction. In the first main part Bob goes through a rather short history of Mario. It’s decent but forgettable as it’s nothing a Mario fan, even a casual one, isn’t likely to know.
The second part is when Bob goes through his personal history with the franchise. This is when things get a bit cringe worthy. He describes how, after seeing the abysmal live action Super Mario Bros. movie, he refused to accept that it was, indeed, a bad movie.
Naturally, I convinced myself it was good. Not only good, but great. I reviewed it, positively, in much greater detail and to much greater positivity than it deserved for the school paper.
Bob goes on to talk about how he “needed it to be good” because “Mario was my friend”. He then goes on to describe an emotional blow brought on by the game Yoshi’s Island. You see, that game showed Mario as having been born in the Mushroom Kingdom, rather than Brooklyn as Mario lore had said up until that point.
The rest of this section really doesn’t have that much to do with Mario. He goes on to basically give a short life story. I for one didn’t care for this bait and switch on Bob’s part. Just because no one in their right mind would pay to read your autobiography doesn’t mean you need to sneak that crap into a book on Mario 3.
Just to give you an idea of how far off topic Bob wanders, he describes an incident when he was a contributor on a public access show as a movie reviewer. Apparently the host of the show, a conservative Christian, didn’t care for a negative review of the Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion, and chewed out and fired Bob over it. Given Bob’s history of immature and petty behavior towards those of different political views than him, I’m skeptical as to whether that’s really how it went. Point is though, what in the hell does this have to do with Mario?
And the next part is Bob describing all of the enemies, characters, and each and every level of Mario 3 as he plays through it, as well as splicing in journal entries of his life at the time. The analysis of Mario 3 isn’t that bad really, but the personal stuff ranges anywhere from boring and irrelevant to painfully awkward to read.
As I said, Bob goes into great detail on the game, when he finally gets to the book’s titular topic, and those parts are pretty enjoyable. There’s nothing groundbreaking in it. No grand “Game Theorist“-like parts that made me see the game in a whole new light or anything. But Bob does a good job of really appreciating and describing all the little things that made this such an amazing game, both for the time and to this day.
The bad and the ugly
Pretty much everything in this book not having to do directly with Mario 3 is either boring or downright painful to read. Even during the play through section Bob insists on putting personal journal sections describing things like how boozed up he got before each session, the unfortunate sickness and death of his grandmother, and his search for his first apartment.
In his Friday, May 25th 2012 entry he talks about how he had gotten all of his work done early and feared that, as a result, he would have a panic attack because he wouldn’t know what to do with himself. What sort of mental state leaves a person so afraid of having a little downtime? I’m reminded of that line from a song by Pink: “The quiet scares me cause it screams the truth.”
Part of me wants to like Movie Bob Chipman. I feel like I have a lot in common with him. Someone on my Ask.fm page a few weeks ago actually said I reminded them of Bob, except that I’m not “a self-righteous socialist asshole”. The guy is a talented man capable of producing decent content, and this book shows that. When he’s actually on topic it’s a decent read, but when he’s describing the hot mess that is his life it’s terrible. And why wouldn’t his life be a mess? He’s a social justice warrior. The whole social justice philosophy is all about embracing loserhood.
I would almost, and I stress ALMOST, recommend this book to all my fellow nerds. It could inspire you. Inspire you to hit the gym, ask that cute girl you know out, go in for that promotion at work. It just might motivate you to better yourself through negative example. After all, you don’t want to end up like Movie Bob do you?
Really though, despite only being $8.00 new on Fangamer.com, I wouldn’t waste your money on this mess of a book. I sold my copy to a local used/retro game store. They game me $1.00 store credit for it. Jokes on them—I would have taken half that.