While much of the modern games industry has an unspoken lineage to Nintendo’s dungaree-clad plumber Mario, this week the iconic character adopted a more direct route to inspiring the devs of tomorrow.
Nintendo teamed up with the San Francisco Public Library, known for its digital teaching space called The Mix, to use Wii U title Super Mario Maker to educate students about the basics of game development.
As a quick refresher, Super Mario Maker allows players to build their own 2D Mario levels using items, characters, environments and physics models from the 30-plus history of the franchise.
"What we saw from launch until now is that there’s so much more to Super Mario Maker than just it being a game," Nintendo’s Krysta Yang told Polygon.
"We want them to learn the basics of level design, and start to think about the strategy and creativity that goes into creating video games. “Really give them a glimpse into that using these easy-to-pick-up-and-master tools that are already available in Super Mario Maker."
Attendees were given an overview of the game and its tool set by a member of Nintendo’s Treehouse organisation, before being split into groups led by another helper from the company.
“Games like Super Mario Maker allow kids to take control of storytelling elements and game design and encourage them on the path from consumers to creators,” observed Megan Anderson, youth centres manager at SFPL.
Super Mario Maker isn’t the first mainstream title to double as an educational tool – various schools and organisations have made use of Minecraft’s open-ended creation platform to teach children, allow pupils with learning difficulties to more easily express themselves and promote agendas from environment awareness to an understanding of geographical features.
A version of Mojang’s block-building game designed specifically with education in mind was announced earlier this year.
However, for now, Nintendo said that it had "nothing to announce at this time about additional educational initiatives around Super Mario Maker”.