An innocent request from his little girl prompted a game designer to role reverse Donkey Kong and letting Pauline come to the rescue of Mario.
If you love someone earnestly enough, then it only makes sense to try and move the stars in the sky just to make them happy. Veteran game designer and chief creative officer at Other Ocean Interactive, Mike Mika, set upon his own star moving by reworking the arcade hit Donkey Kong to fulfill the wishes of his 3-year-old daughter, a budding gamer who loves playing videogames with her proud papa.
It took a whole lot of late night reverse engineering and a good understanding of how Donkey Kong creator Shigeru Miyamoto – along with help by the late great Gunpei Yokoi (who created the Game Boy) – programmed the sprites to work in the game, but Mike managed to switch damsel-in-distress Pauline with her overalls-wearing savior Mario, and allow her to be the heroine by using a pixel-editing program called Tile Layer Pro.
Now, it might seem like an easy job to change a few pixels in an 8-bit game, but unfortunately videogames from that era suffer from a programming condition that I like to call the “Jenga effect.” Meaning, if you accidentally alter one piece of a game willy-nilly, the odds are likely that you could cause the rest to crumble.
The same thing can happen in Donkey Kong as Mike experienced at firsthand. Primarily, the size difference between Mario and his captured companion – Pauline is three pixel tiles taller than Mario’s two – makes it hard to just do a straight-up sprite swap. Mike had to make Pauline fit the two pixel tiles that Mario has so that the game can operate in typical barrel-jumping fashion.
Take a look at the final product.
Mike himself admitted that the process was a little strenuous, but it was all worth it to see the smile on his daughter’s face as she played her favorite videogame in an awesomely new way thanks to his mod. Seriously, you’re such a cool Dad, Mike. I’m sure your daughter will remember this moment forever.
Images courtesy of Mike Mika & Wired.com’s GameLife