I first became aware of this "game" last night. I'm probably late to the party, but I don't really buy new games anymore, so that's to be expected.
So anyway, the similarities between playing this and ROM hacking are obvious, which got me wondering:
Was the creation of SMM inspired by ROM hacking? It seems that this would be the case. Obviously it's not the first time a game has invited players to design their own levels (come on, best part about Excitebike, right), and Nintendo has seen its competitor(s) in recent years enjoy a fair amount of success with titles that do (Little Big World comes to mind). But unlike those examples, this is a game whose main focus is level creation, and in a way that resembles a very streamlined, user-friendly Mario level editor one might find on this site. So...
Was SMM created as a way to quell the creative impulses that generally give rise to a new ROM hacker and instead channel them into a licensed creation? I mean, we all know Nintendo's stance on the very existence of emulation, and while it is far more unwavering than that of any of its rivals, their desire to protect intellectual property is clearly justified and understandable. I've always considered ROM hacking, strictly speaking, to be more of a moral gray area, in that the Hacker is not necessarily encouraging illegal copies of a game, despite the fact that playing a ROM hack basically requires at least one of a handful of game copying actions that Nintendo opposes. The actual hack itself, though, generally is more akin to fan fiction - while copyrighted material is surely being used, it serves as a backdrop for what is produced, and what is produced is a showcase of the ROM hacker's creative interpretations of the source material, usually to others who are already fans and in many cases (okay, that may be a stretch...) owners of a legitimate copy of the source material. And of course, the fact that the hacker neither profits from the hack nor expressly distributes the illegal copy provides the indemnity that allows ROM hacking to continue. Still, the use of this supposedly ethical fan fiction does require prohibited, and in most cases illegal, practices by the user. While I have never seen a direct comment by Nintendo about its stance on hacking, the legal page of its site is very clear about its stance on copying and emulation, and it can therefore be assumed they do not look very highly upon the practice. So then, we arrive back at the question, are they attempting to provide a legal avenue for those who might otherwise become ROM hackers or ROM hack (for lack of a better term) consumers? And perhaps the more important question,
Could this be effective? I submit that it cannot. While ROM hacking has grown in recognition over time, it is still far from a mainstream form of entertainment. One has to search to find its existence. Without a game like SMM, many casual video game fans might never even think about acting on the impulse to create a new Mario level. Doesn't it stand to reason, though, that conversely people might play SMM and think to themselves, "wouldn't it be great if they had this for Mega Man, too?" a thought that might eventually lead to the discovery of rhdn by a gamer who would otherwise be blissfully unaware of the very existence of emulation?
Well, anyway, lots of you guys know a lot more about the stuff I'm talking about here, so what do you think?