Let There Be Yoshi

Yoshi’s Woolly World is a place without 1-UP mushrooms, Bowsers, or princesses. Playing the game makes me question much more than just the last ten years I’ve spent mastering Mario’s staple platformers. Though I’m controlling Nintendo’s patent dino this time around, my actual identity within Yoshi’s Woolly World is vague at best. I live in an Etsy power fantasy, surrounded by worlds knitted from fabric and thread, with loose spools and spare cotton fluffs marking the uncharted land of craft supplies. Intelligent design is afoot, and I, green Yoshi, am its woolly creation. …Or am I actually the creator? As I omnisciently survey the workshop beyond Yoshi’s limited vision, importing amiibo designs into the game to create even more yarn dinosaurs, I find myself in an identity crisis. Perhaps the word “woolly” is appropriate in more ways than one. Clever, Nintendo. In spinning a yarn about a valiant Yoshi determined to re-stich his community, Nintendo not only puts a soft, home-made twist on Mario’s aesthetics, but also dares to probe into the spiritual nature of creativity by putting players in the dual roles of creator and creation. I originally played Yoshi’s Woolly World expecting to find nothing more than a sweet, if not idealistic, lesson about teamwork and friendship. From the moment the evil wizard, Kamek, unravels Yoshi’s friends, an uncanny valley of emptiness sets in (though not quite gloom—it’s hard to feel gloomy with all those vibrant colours filling the landscape and that happy-go-lucky music playing). Without its community of little dinos, the otherwise lively world feels like an unframed painting—beautiful, but incomplete. As Yoshi travels through sub-worlds, reknitting architecture and friends alike, the overworld gradually regains its sense of order. Seeing the vast world through Yoshi’s eyes reveals that the creator is powerful and imaginative, but studying Yoshi himself reveals that the creator is also loving. Yoshi are colour-coded to best suit the sub-world they live in. Compared to the sloppy yarn loops that hold Shy Guys and other Mushroom Kingdom baddies together, Yoshis’ designs reveal every knit and purl, without a single fuzzy mistake. I psychologically take on the role of creator as I not only omnipotently guide and protect my little dino, but I also feel proud of him. I take pleasure in watching Yoshi’s dedication and love for the world which I have “built.” Oppositely, from Yoshi’s point-of-view, I feel fulfilled each time I give back to that world by collecting spools and beating sub-worlds. Like a two-way mirror, I reflect the world around me to the creator, and the creator to the world. I am clearly the creator’s magnum opus—the sentient being meant to keep, manage, and enjoy the woolly Garden of Eden around me. Any creator would certainly intervene when their creation threatens to come undone, or so it would seem, but the game doesn’t allow the player to intervene that way. Instead, the player, as Yoshi, performs a primary role in bringing about restoration without god-like intervention. The unspoken message reveals a much bigger picture where each character—yes, even Kamek—is hand-crafted to tell the story the creator has mapped out long in advance. Rather than abandon creation to its destiny, then, Yoshi’s Woolly World implies that the creator honours her creation by empowering it to play a vital role in her grand story, rather than play NPC to the creator’s power. In many ways, Yoshi’s Woolly World imitates the Christian understanding of creation and the creator’s role within it, while granting the player two perspectives to fully appreciate the complex dynamic. On a meta level, the game is an endless cycle of creativity inspired by the ultimate act of creativity, trickling from God, to Nintendo game designers, to player, to avatar. I am clearly the creator’s magnum opus—the sentient being meant to keep, manage, and enjoy the woolly Garden of Eden around me. Yoshis aren’t breathed into life from the dust...