Back to Bits

Artists pay tribute to NES games with a collection of GIFs

Videogame GIFs are one of my favorite things on the internet. Retro game nostalgia less so, but that hasn’t stopped me enjoying the NES game-inspired GIFs that are being showcased on Back to Bits. The website launched today and is a curated animation project created by Washington-based artist Jerry Liu. His reason for putting Back to Bits together is simple: he wanted a way to bring likeminded artists together and to celebrate the games of his and their childhood. a range of different art styles and approaches The GIFs that you can see today were created by more than 40 different…


I miss the summers in Japan: How videogames overcome language barriers

I sat cross legged in front of the TV and watched as Alex carefully removed the Super Nintendo from its dusty, neglected box. Our grandfather hardly used it, preferring to play Shogi on his computer instead of the console. Also stored away were a pile of games with labels we couldn’t read. The Japanese characters were printed in bold intimidating letters, with no illustrations to help guide our interpretation of what the cartridge held. He fished around for a second before grabbing the Super Mario World (1990) cartridge, blowing into it. It was a very familiar ritual, repeated during our…


12 Things You Can Do While Playing Super Mario Run

multitask [muhl-tee-task, -tahsk, muhl-tahy-] 1: (of one person) to perform two or more tasks simultaneously. We’re all busy people. And being busy, we have to multitask. For instance, imagine me commuting somewhere (a rarity—working from home and all), listening to a podcast, and styling my adorable Mii with dumb clothes in Miitomo (just kidding—no one plays that anymore), all simultaneously. “Where are my one-handed games?” I recently asked myself, and from the distant country of Japan, Shigeru Miyamoto heard. He channeled his inner Mario, and platformed his way to the Apple keynote stage to announce a surprise game to solve our multitasking…

Olympics Shinzo Abe

You shouldn’t be surprised that the Japanese PM dressed up as Mario

So at this point you likely saw what happened during the Olympics closing event. Yeah, I know. At first glance, it seems like an unnecessary commercial incursion in an already saturated Olympic event. Nintendo, a $42 billion-dollar videogame company, needs no additional exposure, especially of the heels of the success of Pokémon Go. This is an opportunity for Japan to shine a light on any number of different cultural contributions and instead, we get Shinzō Abe emerging from a warp pipe with Mario’s plumber cap. Don’t get me wrong—videogames are important, but truly important enough to be the key signifier for…

Mario glitch

See the speedrunning glitch that shows Mario the code that makes him

Games on cartridges in particular have pretty strict limitations on space. This means that there’s often a weirdness to the way their data files are organized, and speedrunners like the folks at the Awesome Games Done Quick event love to discover and exploit these in any way they can. In a video posted on Tuesday, Chris Grant showed off one of these glitchy exploits to IGN’s Jose Otero. As it turns out, in the 1992 Game Boy game Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, the data that determines how levels are shaped is right next to the data that does…


That time Super Mario decided to get a real job

Super Mario, as long as we’ve known him, has been a plumber. Strangely we have rarely seen him engage in any plumbing. Super Mario is simply surrounded by pipes, but we do not see him inquiring about water leaks, fecal blockage, or invoices. Super Mario is more of a career adventurer, a socialite, a close friend to the royals, and the matter of his income would be more confusing if it weren’t for all the coins he picks up. The fact that every 100 coins automatically turns into an extended life suggests Philip K. Dickian elements may be at play…


Meat Boy, Mario, and the perfect platformer jump

“What actions are ideal in a jump curve?” asked Playdead level designer Martin Fasterholdt to a sizeable crowd for his panel at the Game Developer’s Conference. In a discussion that stemmed from Fasterholdt’s own master thesis, the “You Say Jump, I Say How High?” panel explored the varying degrees of the best and most dynamic of 2D platforming jumps. His primary examples for the talk being the frenetic Super Meat Boy (2010), the classic Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988), and the precision-driven Limbo (2010) from Fasterholdt’s own Playdead (a game he claimed he was incidentally “too young” to work on…


The AI being forced to climb Minecraft’s highest hills

Somewhere in Microsoft’s New York offices right now, an artificial intelligence is busy repeatedly trying and failing to climb a hill in Minecraft (2011), as if a modern day reenactment of the Sisyphus myth. This AI is being watched by a team of five computer scientists, and its many deaths are being meticulously recorded. Its name is Project AIX, and it’s part of a new open source initiative from Microsoft to advance not only games, but artificial intelligence as a whole. It’s a project not dissimilar to the one going on at Germany’s University of Tübingen entitled Social Mario, the concept of which…


Social Mario teaches AI to learn by imitating each other

As videogames are frequently focused on having a single human player interact with dozens or even hundreds of computer-controlled characters at a time, they tend to be particularly fertile ground for development of artificial intelligence. This is why it should come as no surprise that when the Chair of Cognitive Modeling at Germany’s University of Tübingen decided to create new ways for artificial intelligence to grow and interact, they opted to do so through the lens of Nintendo’s Mario series. Dubbed Social Mario, the project’s concept is simple: Rather than reacting to players or following the scripted commands of a programmer,…