There are some jobs that are typically recognized as difficult. Most people, for example, probably don’t think that they could walk into an operating room and be a successful surgeon. Others, however, are often assumed to be easy. Teaching, for example, is something that many people assume they could be successful at. I’ve also seen musicians criticize those who make electronic music because they are “just pushing buttons.” As with teachers and electronic music artists, assuming that somebody has an easy job devalues the work that they do. Once in a while, though, people have the opportunity to try something that others make look easy, discovering that it is, in fact, rather difficult.
Enter Super Mario Maker.
Super Mario Maker is a videogame for Nintendo’s Wii U game console. In the game, players are able to create their own Super Mario Bros. levels, share those levels, and play levels created by others. In reviewing the game, Sean Buckley of Engadget summed up his experience nicely, stating:
It didn’t make any sense. I’d dreamed about making Nintendo games since I was 6 years old, but when the company gave me the chance to prove a game design genius lived under my skin, I flopped. It was then that a shocking and heartbreaking realization washed over me: I hate making video games.
My ego didn’t take this realization well. As both a hobbyist gamer and a journalist that covers games, I’ve always humored the little voice in the back of my head that said, “I could do this if I wanted. I could make games.” No, Super Mario Maker has shown me, I can’t — not really. Yes, technically I can construct a stage from set pieces I’ve seen in other Mario games, but I’m not really creating anything. My by-the-numbers Mario levels (a few power-ups to start, some pipes to leap over, maybe a Hammer brother or two and a flagpole at the end) feel more like light plagiarism than original content. Why do I suck at this so much?
Michael Thomsen at the Washington Post focused on how bad others are at creating Super Mario levels, arguing:
“Super Mario Maker” is a bad comedy. Released in coordination with the 30-year anniversary of “Super Mario Bros.,” it indulges players in the fantasy that they’d be good at making video game levels. This sort of self-deception has become common in the age of digital consumption, and while there’s something utopian in “Super Mario Maker’s” appeals to community participation and sharing, the game quickly collapses into a scratch sheet of horrible ideas and levels you’ll regret having played. It’s a tool for the mass production of cultural refuse, single-use distractions that fail to replicate the spirit of the original.
So it turns out that the people who have been making the Super Mario Bros. games all these years actually had talents and skills that most of us don’t have. I think this is great! I wish that we could have other opportunities to try what people do in a simplified manner. Imagine Super Teacher Maker where surgeons are given seven hours in a room with 25 eight year olds and asked to teach them math, or Super EDM Maker where a guitar player (or, better yet, a singer!) is given a computer and asked to create music. Maybe then we would start to recognize that everybody has hard jobs, even if our jobs are hard in different ways.
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