In big nerd news lately, Nintendo’s archives have been unleashed across the internet. The files mostly involve video games from 20 or more years ago, with artwork, early versions and even some messages between people in the office being shared to the world. It’s a large amount of data, and there has been a lot of excitement as people look at the alternate versions of games they have been familiar with for decades.
The question is, however, if the material is actually a good thing.
From the perspective of a creative person, of course, seeing people access what you otherwise discarded is a horrifying prospect. I don’t think I’d want anyone to see alternate drafts or rejected photos, things that I got rid of for a reason. And, in the case of the Nintendo leak, there’s plenty of artwork where you can see they went in a different direction for a good reason - early versions of Yoshi, the dinosaur Mario rides, looked bizarre. In some cases, content was cut for technical reasons and it’s a bit disappointing to see what you could have had.
For this reason, I wonder how much Nintendo is going to change their security procedures, and how much more difficult it will be to have a glimpse behind the curtain, and see the many creative dead-ends and alternate visions they had before the games were actually released.
But, from a perspective of a fan of the work, it’s a fascinating process, because the creative dead ends and abandoned directions are really interesting. I like to see the discarded art, because it’s interesting to me how they kept evolving directions and changed ideas. In some cases, you might think they should have kept the older style, in some cases you very much do not, but it’s fascinating because it shows just how much changes as a game is being made, and how different early ideas can be from a finished product.
I find myself of two minds on this topic, being fascinated by everything that has been unearthed but understanding completely why you wouldn’t want it to be. I just find myself wishing that there was a third option here.
What I would find ideal would be a book. Something that documents the way these games were made, compiles all the artwork, both used and left on the cutting room floor, and collects interviews with the people behind the games about why it changed.
Something that gives context and that glimpse behind the curtain that fans crave. But, it’s also something that’s put together with purpose, so the people behind the work don’t feel it’s a violation of their privacy but a way to talk about creativity and help fans understand the work that goes into the entertainment they love.
The genie is out of the bottle right now and people are going to be poring over this data trying to find new and exciting revelations about old games. But it would have been better if we had those revelations from the source itself, because while we can get a glimpse of the process through this leak, it doesn’t give anything close to the full picture.
Worse still, the leak happening might mean there are going to be fewer opportunities in the future to see this entertainment history.