Creating with (Un)Limited Possibilities: Normative Interfaces and Discourses in Super Mario Maker


  • Isabelle Lefebvre Université de Montréal


This paper explores how the creative expression of players is framed within Super Mario Maker (Nintendo, 2015). Dispelling the promises of “endless possibilities” (Nintendo, 2015) with which the game is marketed, this article argues instead that a player’s creativity is oriented, limited, and influenced by the interface of the game (its possibilities, and impossibilities), the paratext supplied by Nintendo (advertising, user guide, and tutorials), the reception, as well as the appraisal of levels by the community of players within the closed social platform of the game. In order to analyze this process of “normativization,” the following article begins by proposing an actualization of theories of participatory culture as defined by Matt Hills (2002), Henry Jenkins (2006), Sam Ford, and Joshua Green (2013). From these remarks, this paper also proposes to locate some of Super Mario Maker’s normative elements that have an influence on players’ creations, using as a starting point McIntyre’s work on creativity (2012), Albera’s concept of “amateur-dispositive” (2011), Kline et al.’s “Three Circuits of Interactivity” (2003), and Consalvo’s gaming capital (2007). Finally, this paper analyzes certain recurring motifs found in Super Mario Maker’s user-generated levels that serve to benefit what I call the “paradigm of difficulty,” a pattern well-known within the video game medium since its infancy.

Author Biography

Isabelle Lefebvre, Université de Montréal

Isabelle Lefebvre is a PhD student at the Department of Art History and Film Studies of Université de Montréal.