Kaizo Mario Maker: ROM hacking, abusive game design and Nintendo's Super Mario Maker

Newman, J (2018) 'Kaizo Mario Maker: ROM hacking, abusive game design and Nintendo's Super Mario Maker.' Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 24 (4). pp. 339-356. ISSN 1354-8565

8603.pdf - Accepted Version
Repository Terms Apply.

Download (472kB) | Preview
Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1354856516677540


Released in late 2015 for the Wii U console, Super Mario Maker (SMM) is an extension of Nintendo’s two-dimensional (2-D) ‘Super Mario’ series that offers the ability to create new stages using a suite of level design tools. However, despite initial appearances, I argue that SMM is not a Super Mario level maker, per se. The game creates a complex web of relations between professional and amateur design that simultaneously venerates Nintendo’s designers and provides a platform for the creation of designs informed by an ethos standing in opposition to the principles it espouses. On one hand, appropriating the products and modalities of ROM hacking allows Nintendo to demonstrate its awareness of its games as they are played and played with while simultaneously neutralizing the practice of ROM hacking which it codifies as an ‘illegal’ act of software piracy. Most interestingly, however, is how Nintendo balances the celebration and reinforcement of its core design principles of player advocacy, inclusivity and accessibility alongside the altogether more ruthless, even openly hostile, designs evident in the genre of ROM hacks known as ‘Kaizo’ designs. That Nintendo explicitly showcases such levels in its promotional materials for SMM seems, prima facie, utterly at odds with its game design principles and the celebratory nature of the SMM package. However, following Wilson and Sicart’s (2010) work on ‘Abusive Game Design’, I suggest that SMM operates as a ‘dialogical’ platform. By foregrounding the level creators’ identities and their status as amateur designers, SMM allows and encourages the production of ‘unfair’ level designs, while simultaneously sanctifying Nintendo’s authorial principles and the underlying player-centric design ethos of the Super Mario canon. As such, in addition to operating as a totemic object celebrating Super Mario’s 30-year anniversary, SMM can be read as part of Nintendo’s project to reclaim Mario as an object of design.

Item Type: Article

First published online on 15 November 2016.

Keywords: abusive game design, game design, kaizo Mario World, Nintendo player advocacy, ROM hacking, Super Mario, videogame
Divisions: Bath School of Design
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1177/1354856516677540
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2016 17:14
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2023 19:16
URI / Page ID: https://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/8603
Request a change to this item or report an issue Request a change to this item or report an issue
Update item (repository staff only) Update item (repository staff only)