Next week, Nintendo will be hosting a hackathon at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California (near San Francisco). Facebook employees will take a break from their normal work in order to try their hand at the upcoming game Super Mario Maker, a game that allows its players to design their own Mario levels.
The hackathon participants will be competing to design a new level of the game. The winning level will be selected by judges from Facebook and Nintendo and will be available to all people who purchase the game after it comes out this September.
It will be interesting to see what kinds of design quirks Facebook might bring to a custom Super Mario level. Will there be unnecessary poking? Maybe the image quality will be inexplicably lowered at random moments? Perhaps you’ll be forced to agree to a complex and unnecessary terms of service, only to see your personal information pop up later on the screens of other Super Mario Maker players? Who knows. Maybe we’ll be seeing Mario features pop up in future Facebook updates instead.
Hackathons are actually a pretty cool concept. Usually they involve getting a bunch of computer programmers together in one room to compete or work towards a shared goal. This goal can be anything from building a new piece of software to “bug hunting” (hacking secure websites looking for ways to improve security measures). Often hackathons challenge programmers to work for a good cause, like redesigning city transportation systems or coming up with technology useful to people with medical ailments.
An event very similar to a hackathon is a game jam, in which game designers try to build a new game from scratch in a limited timeframe, often within a specific theme. You can learn more about game jams right here.