SHOOK: How last year’s Japanese earthquake gave a Super Mario director perspective.

“Enjoying making something leads to making something enjoyable,” Nintendo game director of Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Super Mario 3D Land Koichi Hayashida closed his GDC talk yesterday. But last year’s devastating earthquake made the process difficult. Against the bleak backdrop of the the date of one of the most powerful earthquakes ever record, Hayashida recounted that day:

I was in Tokyo at the time and I was explaining to the team how we built the first level of Super Mario Galaxy 2. I was on the fifth floor and the shaking was really severe. From inside of the walls, I heard a sound I’d never heard before. It was like something breaking and I thought, “This is it. I could die.”

The office was closed for a week. We were concerned about radiation & power outages and there were lots of large aftershocks. We weren’t sure if we could conitnue development in Tokyo at all.

It was then that Hayashida had a revelation about what it means to make games:

I didn’t know what to dow with myself. When the office reopened, this is what I said: “We’re all asking ourselves what we can do to help right now. Bringing smiles to people by the end of this year is something we can do.”

Game designers rarely talk about the contexts in which their games are made and in this rare moment of honesty from a Nintendo director, you receive a microcosm of both the intense tragedy of the earthquake and the power of games to change lives — even for those who are making them.

-Jamin Warren