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Today I’ll be connecting Mario to Hillary Clinton. But don’t worry, this isn’t a politically proselytizing episode. I’m simply taking advantage of the politically charged atmosphere here in the US. I’m selfish. So of course next week, it will be Donald Trump, whom I’ll be connecting to Sonic the Hedgehog.

You know that social theory that everyone on earth can be connected to anyone else by no more than 5 intermediaries? They call that 6 Degrees of Separation. I do the same thing here, except I connect video game topics in strange ways using 6 Degrees of Pixelation.

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Welcome to 6 Degrees of Pixelation, the show that brings the social theory 6 degrees of separation to video games. I’m Caleb. This is my lair, and today I’ll be connecting Mario to Hillary Clinton. And don’t worry, this isn’t a politically proselytizing episode. I’m simply taking advantage of the politically charged atmosphere here in the US. I’m selfish. So of course next week, it will be Donald Trump, whom I’ll be connecting to Sonic the Hedgehog.

So, why Mario and Sonic as the seeds for this two-part political mini-series. In the world of video games, no battle is older, and no battle has better defined factions of gamers than Nintendo vs. Sega. Sure, we’ve had PC vs Console gamers, and we’ve seen fanboys argue over the merits of individual entries among a single series of games, but back when video games were beginning to reestablish themselves after the video game crash in the early 1980’s (at least here in the US), Nintendo and Sega fought like no video game companies have since, they fought, dare I say, like presidential candidates. The Nintendo and Sega mascots, Mario and Sonic, then feel like appropriate proxies for political candidates, both groups fighting for the hearts and minds of the public. And probably disenfranchising them along the way.

Let’s start with Mario, and his connection to…Deep Purple?

1 & 2 –  Mario > Deep Purple

Considering Mario can be connected to just about anything–he’s inserted himself into every decade and almost every subculture since the 80’s–I’m going to challenge myself at least somewhat by immediately jumping out of the world of videogames and into music. Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System did a lot of things better than its predecessors, but perhaps one of the most under-acknowledged things is the way it handled music.

Nintendo was the first videogame maker to hire a full time composer for its games, and considering most of us probably imagine the NES console capable only of simple bleeps and bloops, a composer would initially seem like an impractical hire on Nintendo’s part. But that’s far from the case.

At the time video game music had a history of barely being music at all. Its primary purpose was often just to attract new customers to arcade machines and to provide feedback to players.

But Koji Kondo, the Nintendo composer in question, approached the task of creating video game music in stark contrast to the way music in videogames had traditionally been approached. Kondo demanded that his music fulfill two principal functions: 1) to convey an unambiguous sonic image of the game world, and 2) to enhance the emotional and physical experience of the gamer.

In addition to Super Mario Bros, Kondo would go on to compose music for many more Mario games and many Legend of Zelda games. One of his musical influences: Deep Purple.

But Deep Purple hasn’t impacted gaming only in terms of inspiration. Their music has actually appeared in a few video games, including Grand Theft Auto IV…

3 Deep Purple > Grand Theft Auto IV

The Grand Theft Auto series is known for many things, most of those things involving lawsuits. In fact, according to Guinness World Records 2009 Gamer’s Edition Grand Theft Auto is the most controversial video game series of all time, with over 4,000 news stories having been published about it, and plenty more since 2009.

But the series isn’t just about violence. It’s also about open world gameplay, intricate storytelling, and promoting caffeinated assertiveness, the type of go-getter attitude that only hot coffee can provide. I read that somewhere, that you can get Hot Coffee, or something, in the game. I’m not sure how that’s possible but good. Oh you have a clip (clip – come back stoic). That’s the hot coffee mod? Okay, how do I transition to Deep Purple? Boy he sure was going deep with his purple…

Grand Theft Auto is also known for including tons of celebrity voices and cameos in the series. From Ray Liotta, to Danny Tamberelli, and Samuel L. Jackson, James Woods, and Katt Williams, there are so many others. And I haven’t even touched on musicians (unless you count Danny Tamberelli, he’s not just Pete, he’s in a band, too). There are so many musicians in these games that in 2016 The Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition (of aforementioned 2009 fame) awarded Grand Theft Auto IV with having the largest in-game soundtrack, 340 commercially released songs in total. One of those songs? Highway Star by Deep Purple which appeared in both the Lost and Damned and the Ballad of Gay Tony expansions.

With such a vast array of musical acts, it would be a shame not to leverage one for my next connection, so I will. But curveball this musician plays a speaking role, not a singing role.

4 Grand Theft Auto IV > George Clinton

George “P Funk” Clinton appears as radio station Bounce FM’s DJ, amazingly named The Funkipus, in Grand Theft Auto; San Andreas. Sure George Clinton and his band Parliament Funkadelic are rightfully known for many things: consistently amazing funk music, legendary live shows, and the best multi-colored hair on a black guy ever..yes, Dennis Rodman… ever… (I just made a dennis rodman reference…and I don’t even like basketball or douche bags. What am I?). Considering all his great successes, I do believe the eventual obituary of George “P-Funk” Clinton would be crazy not to also honor his contribution to video game DJing. We as a human species simply cannot forget such poetically articulate sound nuggets as: (play clip) Wiser words have never before been mumbled so well.

George Clinton has found his way all over pop culture. Grand Theft Auto, sure, but also the pretty good movie PCU, the pretty good show The Cleveland Show, the pretty existing movie Good Burger, and the wonderfully authentic basketball simulator NBA Jam.

5 George Clinton > NBA Jam

NBA Jam is to sports what a night terror is to sleeping. It’s way more exciting and you’ll probably do it loud enough to wake your neighbors. At least I did. NBA Jam was just what an unathletic kid like me wanted. A way to play basketball but not really. It was 2-on-2, street basketball with half-court dunks, a rim so on fire you’d swear you just ate indian food, and an obnoxious announcer that would–for better or worse–contribute more to playground pick-up game lingo then all of our older brothers combined. Looking back, there isn’t anything much funnier than a 12-year old kid from a concerningly white small town school yelling “from downtoooowwn” as the rebounded ball from a missed layup sends him to the school nurse with a black eye. “You mean I was playing basketball with a real black guy?” “No, you were playing and got a black eye.”

With all this craziness happening on the court, having George Clinton as a hidden playable character actually doesn’t seem that strange. In fact, Clinton is probably the only member of the hidden roster that seems to make sense flying around in the air and lighting things on fire. It’d be weird if he was just playing basketball.

And there are a lot of hidden roster characters. Players could unlock dozens of actual classic basketball players like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, or tangentially related sports celebrities like Marv Albert and John Elway all the way to political figures like Sarah Palin and, you guessed it, Hillary Clinton.

6 NBA Jam > Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton, no relation to George Clinton (that I know of) is of course the former first lady, former Secretary of state, and current US presidential candidate, the first female nominee for a major political office from a major political party ever in the history of the united states. It’s about time.

* * *

This has been 6 Degrees of Pixelation, from Mario to Hillary Clinton.

But I’m not trying to influence your political persuasion here. I’m all about equal time. Which is why next week I will be bringing you 6 Degrees of Pixelation, from Sonic the Hedgehog to Donald Trump. Look forward to that. Because we all need more Donald Trump.

If you enjoyed this video, please give it a thumbs up. I know every video asks you to, but they do for a reason. It really goes a long way to help this video get seen by more people. Algorithms and such. It’s easy to do. Think of it like tipping the waitstaff, only in this case the waitstaff is me and by the way your service was excellent.

You’ll find a link in the description to a Google Doc with my script, notes, and sources so you can dig in more if you’d like.

Special shout out: Schartmann, Andrew. Koji Kondo’s Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. Print.

Until next time, I’m caleb, you’re just a single, miserable vote, and we are Burning Books.

Research/Sources/Credits/Inspirations (this is not a comprehensive list, as that would be impossible, especially the “inspirations” items)

Music Credits