mario battle no.1

(mario battle no-one)


Exhibited or distributed at:
Year01.com , Runme.org (and Ars Electronica), Play -Weewerk gallery curated by Heather Corcoran(Toronto) with Joe McKay. Playboy with Gameboys - Curated by Alex Cechetti, SmartProjectSpace (Amsterdam) with Oliver Witchow, Covox and Lo-bat,
Controller: Artists crack the game code –Interacess Media Arts Centre with RSG, Yumi & Co, Tasman Richardson and others curated by Heather Corcoran, Avatar Curated by Malcolm Smith, Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney, Australia, Terraforms, Babycastles (NYC)Zerogamer, curated by Corrado Morgana, Ffotogallery, Cardiff, Wales, London Games Fringe Festival, London, UK, curated by Corrado Morgana, HTTP Furtherfield.org Artful Gaming –London Games Festival/Science Museum Dana Centre- Cybersalon, London UK, Perform.Media – video games as performative media, Bloomington, Indiana, Mawa group exhibition curated by Skawennati Tricia Fragnito, Winnipeg, Manitoba


When I first made this work in 2000 I had a hard time exhibiting it in game format. (mostly for lack of interest) so I dumped it to a single channel video, and showed it at Moneyhouse (Toronto) and BadPlanet (Toronto). Since then, I uploaded it in nes rom format, staying true to it's gaming rootsto runme.org and and year01.com curated it into their gallery page.

In the year 2000, (the year Nintendo applied for its patent) I hacked a super mario brothers game rom. I removed all the architecture, prizes, enemies, performance enhancing drugs, obstacles so that all you can do is go for a walk. Mario becomes the users avatar, walking seemingly aimlessly through the digital landscape. a solitary mission without an obvious goal, saved as "mario_battle_no1."

In mario battle no. 1, the gamer is invited to play theSuper Mario bros video game, which orginally consisted of mario, a plumber from brooklyn, who encounters monsters, villains, and wins money, and mind altering mushrooms, all under an umbrella of heroism to help free the captured Princess Peach Toadstool, who is being held by bowser, the big villain who looks like a fat lizard-dog-dinosaur with pokey spikes on his body, and who also has an army of villains ( Goombas, Lakitus, Koopa Troopas, Bullet Bills and Piranha Plants) in this game. The game they will end up playing, my version, is very different.

The original Super Mario Bros. game was released in 1985, during which time, as a 15 year old, I spent an unspeakable amount of time playing Super Mario Bros, for an entire summer, rarely stopping to go to the bathroom, or eat. Super Mario Bros was the first video game ever to have more than one screen at one time, using a scrolling screen method, to allow the gamer to travel and have the scene change, thus providing more opportunity for narratives. Ex: captured princess needs to be saved by hero, using various methods of cutely wrapped violence, survivalist tactics. As well, different objects & architecture were fabricated & presented to the gamer as opportunities in not so subtle setups for survivalist tactics. Mario can use the objects that are presented to him as weapons. The turtle doves, who can kill him if he bumps into them, but won't if he jumps on them, flipped upside down can take out other turtle doves and/or any enemies. He uses the bodies of the dead enemies against the enemies.

In my version of Super Mario Bros: mario battle no. 1, I have removed all of the enemies, all of the prizes, all of the architecture, and left only the landscape. As there is no captured princess peach (toadstool), no need for heroism, no monetary prizes, no amphetamines to make you stronger, there is nothing left to do but go for a walk, run, or jump around, solitary in the landscape and then you run out of time and die.

The gaming scene has been hacking game roms for many years, to both upload the game to a regular pc to trade the game & play on emulators, and also to sample the sounds, through software and hardware hacking. This activity has historically been an illegal activity, and the law requires that emulators and roms are not distributed from the same location. As well, if you are in possession of a rom, you must also be in possession of the game cartridge. When I hacked the Super Mario Bros video game rom, I had nowhere to distribute it. I ended up distributing it on floppies as a piece of free culture - iconic imagery, altered. This led it to be mostly a localized distribution at parties and to friends etc. This also made it an illegal activity as I needed to distribute the emulator and rom together in order for it to work properly and with users ease in mind. "Due to copyright laws & patent laws, it is illegal to download a ROM of any game that you do not own, unless you delete it within 24 hours."

The actual law states that you can only use a ROM according to the following two conditions: a) You have purchased a copy of the original software, and the rom serves as a 'backup' in case of damage, or because the original is already damaged. b) If you don't have the orignal software, you can use it, but must remove it from your computer (or whatever medium you have stored it on) within 24 hours. These laws apply to ALL games, old and new. This is because even if the game is no longer produced for it's original console, the company still own it's copyright, and may even market a replica in the future.

The illegal implications are through distribution of the ability to play a game that is no longer available (as of my hacking it initially) in the marketplace. Games, are pieces of popular culture, culture that has permeated millions of people from my generation and are illegal to hack, alter, & redistribute even after they have become obselete. These activities fall somewhere in the grey zone of intellectual property & copyright debates prevalent today. companies are able to penetrate our thoughts, imbibe us with experiences and we are not allowed to actually own or comment through any of this imagery, and in some ways, this makes us "owned" and potential criminals.

Mario trilogy - mario battle no.1, mario doing time, mario is drowning from Myfanwy Ashmore on Vimeo.



mario_battle_no.1 on runme.org

Travel grant was funded by the Canada Council for the Arts