gdc 2012

Nintendo Aimed To Make Japan Smile With Super Mario 3D Land

by Tim Turi on Mar 08, 2012 at 03:55 PM

During his presentation at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, Super Mario 3D Land director Koichi Hayashida reflected on the earthquake and subsequent disasters that plagued Japan last year. The Mario director took a somber moment during his otherwise upbeat talk to touch on how the development team worked through the difficult times after the disaster. The team aimed to finish up the 3DS game in a timely manner to bring a bit of happiness to the troubled country.

The date March 11, 2011 appeared on the projector screen as Mr. Hayashida's face became uncharacteristically serious. He explained he was delivering a presentation about Super Mario Galaxy 2 on the fifth floor of the Nintendo studio when the earthquake hit. He recalls the cacophony of noises he heard as the building sustained damage and he thought he was going to die. Fear of aftershocks, power outages, and radiation suspended development of Super Mario 3D Land for two weeks, a stretch of time off that Hayashida says is very damaging. After what felt like an eternity to Hayashida, the team returned to development.

"We’re all asking ourselves what we can do to help right now," says Hayashida regarding the disaster. "Bringing smiles to the faces of people by the end of this year is something we can do."

With spirits low due to the strife in Japan, the team banded together to help boost morale. Developers hung out together while play-testing Super Mario 3D Land, which Hayashida says reminded him of just playing games while hanging out at a friend's house. Work was fun again.

After the game shipped, the team received a sobering yet uplifting letter from a fan, validating the team's goal to bring happiness to Japan in some small way.

"This game has been like a light finally shining into what has been such a depressing time," the letter reads. "I feel like this game has given me the power to go on living.. .. it’s something like a miracle. It’s helped me remember pure feelings from a more innocent time. I want to thank the development team."

Concluding his presentation, Hayashida shared a very simple, yet very important lesson he learned during the development of Super Mario 3D Land: "Enjoying making something leads to making something enjoyable."