The last time, I played Nintendo was years ago, on an original Wii console. Now, I’m being asked to demonstrate prowess with a Wii U, which is just different enough that it’s not going well. In fact, I’m embarrassing myself in front of a small crowd of some very talented Facebook coders. The Wii U feels so entirely foreign in my hands, nothing at all like the tiny original Wii controller I used, or the NES one of my youth. I make Mario jump around the screen a little, hurl him into a few pipes, and quickly fall to my death.
Thankfully, my pitiful skills are not what’s on display here at Facebook’s Nintendo hackathon. More than 150 Facebook employees gathered to dream up virtual game environments using Super Mario Maker, the Wii U game that lets you construct playable levels for Mario to solve. The winning team from the Facebook hackathon will have the opportunity to create a level to be featured in the game’s launch this September. Everyone at the company was invited, and entrants from engineering group to the culinary team participated—three of the chefs who actually made food for the event entered a level as well.
In a room made to feel like a real life Mario level (complete with wandering Mario and a life-size green pipe), coders saddled up to Wii Us and plugged away at their games all day. The criteria: Create something that embodies both Facebook (“open, honest, move fast and break things”) and Nintendo (“fun, surprise, creativity”)—and then, of course, be able to beat your own level (an impressive feat, given some of the games I saw).