news\ Mar 7, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Last year's earthquake in Tokyo made Super Mario 3D Land better


At GDC today, Koichi Hayashida, director of the recent Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS, explained how the devastating earthquake and series of aftershocks that hit Japan last year helped him and his team create a better game.

Hayashida recalled that when the most powerful earthquake, one of the top five in world history, shook Japan on March 11, 2011, he feared he wouldn't survive the ordeal. At the time of the event Nintendo EAD Tokyo were developing Super Mario 3D Land, and the earthquake stalled development for a week. "We weren't sure whether we would be able to continue development in Tokyo at all," he said.

In the wake of the deaths and destruction, the team wasn't certain work could continue to be enjoyable. Despite the stress and pervading feeling of helplessness, they decided that "bringing smiles to the faces of people with a fun game by the end of this year is maybe something only we can do."

"I am so very proud of our team," he said. "Enjoying work was a great source of strength for me after the earthquake."

Instead of working alone at their desks, the team met once a week to playtest the game. The change in tactic, Hayashida believes, led to a better finished product. "Enjoying making something leads to making something enjoyable."

The release of Super Mario 3D Land ultimately had a much more profound impact on the people of Japan than gamers in America. One Japanese player even wrote the team, expressing his sincere appreciation and thanking the team for their efforts:

"This game has been like a light finally shining into what has been such a depressing time," he told the developers. "I feel like this game has given me the power to go on living. ... It's helped me remember pure feelings from a more innocent time."

It's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of video game news and releases each month, but Hayashida's story reminds us that games are, at their core, supposed to be fun. But it's not every day that they bring hope.

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Stephanie Carmichael Twitter: @wita
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