Blink and you’ll miss it! An enterprising YouTuber who has an evident fascination with Super Mario has documented all the characters who do (and don’t) blink.
The characters who don’t is rather larger – about 50 – compared to 14 who do.
Among the more sentient are Princess Peach and Mario himself.
For those who may not know, in the Mario games, Mario frequently rescues Princess Peach from danger and has a bit of romantic interest in her as well.
Being a video series, and in particular a Nintendo production, Mario is much happier chasing stars and villains rather than a Princess, but it is interesting to note that their blinks are synced, a small tribute to their chaste romantic desires.
Some of the less important creatures have only two phases – open and closed – while the more important characters open and close and pause mid-way.
The primary villain in the series, Bowser, is treated a bit differently.
Bowser’s blinks are related to a timer and his aggression and he spends most of his time (at 52 frames each time) with his eyes open. Then he cycles through the other states with eyes either open, partially closed or closed for precisely four frames.
Bowser’s timer works even when the game is on pause. Apparently Nintendo doesn’t like the idea of a villain with dry-eye.
However, Bowser can’t blink unless he’s looking straight ahead.
Penguins use the game’s global timer to regulate blinks: they blink when the global timer is equal to 50k+43, where k is an integer.
Like Bowser, the penguins manage to blink when the game is paused.
And all penguins blink simultaneously. Most of the other creatures are on the same system but scheduled at different intervals.
It’s perhaps a bit obsessive – when you’re watching video games and documenting blinks you’re bound to be a bit obsessive or an odd academic or perhaps both – but it’s undeniably interesting, not least of all for this:
Nintendo goes to great lengths to create a believable world. And for any world to be believable, viewers must believe the eyes. As the old saying goes, they are windows to the soul.
Nintendo appears to believe that blinks are a key to humanizing and making characters believable. It’s a subtle but interesting insight into the art of game programming.