Department of Rhetoric and Writing

The University of Texas at Austin

Blue Shells and the Apocalypse

           Image Credit: flipmeme.com

Welcome to video game week (actually, two weeks) at viz! This subject matter presented me with a bit of a quandary at first, because the last video game I played was Mario Kart, and that was probably ten years ago. Fortunately, that means I understand about blue shells, which gives me enough context to investigate the image I’ll be talking about today. For those not experienced in Mario Kart, a blue shell is a tool that one can pick up along the racetrack and then deploy against another player. It directly targets the first person in the race with an explosion, frequently knocking them far behind many others. Hence the image above.

The image uses several techniques to create hyperbole about the seriousness of the blue shell. The apocalyptic background of flames invokes an immediate sense of danger. The blood spattering the shell suggests that its attack on the leading player caused carnage, adding to the feeling of doom established by the background. The biblical quote, from the parable of the workers in the vineyard, both crowns the apocalyptic imagery and serves as a punchline. The Bible doesn’t say when the last will be first and the first last, but one possible interpretation is “at the end of the world.”  So the blue shell, rather than just causing an explosion of profanity, actually brings on the apocalypse, just by reversing the positions of players in Mario Kart. By making this claim, the graphic humorously evokes the extremity of feeling that one experiences when hit by a blue shell. It’s just a game, but when the shell hits you, it feels like the end of the world.

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