The unexplained removal of one of the most popular, ultra-difficult Super Mario Maker 2 courses is raising concerns about Nintendo’s moderation policies for the popular Switch title.
David Hunt, a popular Mario speedrunner who goes by GrandPooBear online, noted this morning that his level “Pile of Poo: Kai-Zero G” had been unceremoniously removed from Nintendo’s Super Mario Maker 2 servers. Since its upload on July 5, the low-gravity course—which took its name from the ultra-hard set of Mario ROM hacks known as Kaizo games—had received over 1,200 “hearts” from over 10,500 players as of last night. This was enough to put it on the first page of popular “Super Expert” courses in the game.
But today isn’t the first time GrandPooBear has faced the seeming caprice of Nintendo’s online moderation. Three years ago, he found all of his popular levels in the original Super Mario Maker had been deleted, a state of affairs Nintendo was not able to adequately explain in a recorded call with the streamer at the time.
Nintendo maintains a Code of Conduct that allows it to remove Super Mario Maker 2 courses for a number of reasons, including exploitation of in-game bugs, inappropriate content “such as offensive language,” and explicit advertising or promotional materials. In an email from Nintendo that GrandPooBear shared on Twitter, the company cites “inappropriate and/or harmful content” as the reason for the removal of “Kai-Zero G,” which is the company’s “final decision” on the matter.
While “Kai-Zero G” doesn’t appear to have any obviously explicit content, the word Poo does appear in the title and spelled out in block gaps during one part of the level (seen at about 0:30 here). Hunt says that’s a reference to Nintendo’s Earthbound character of the same name, which served as the inspiration for his handle, and shouldn’t serve as a cause for deletion.
“All of my Maker 1 levels, that contain the same name [Poo], are still up today after we re-uploaded them years ago,” GrandPooBear tweeted. “[The] Pile of Poo series is still alive and well in Mario Maker 1… They were re-uploaded after deletion and have stayed uploaded for years. I can’t express enough how not a problem they have with the name of my levels.”
Nintendo’s move comes as Reddit user zach2thefuture reports his <em>Super Mario Maker 2</em> level, “Storm Area 51,” was also removed for “inappropriate or harmful content.” The level was an apparent reference to a popular meme which has thus far attracted over 1.3 million people to sign up on Facebook to attend a “Storm Area 51” event purportedly focused on a mass infiltration of Nevada’s Area 51 military base to “see them aliens.”
“I would rather make a ROM hack”
Speaking to Ars Technica over email, GrandPooBear says he thinks he’s the victim of players abusing Nintendo’s in-game course reporting system for fun. “I think it’s just a situation where, because I am a [popular] streamer, we get a lot of false reports,” he told Ars. “Since my other two levels are training levels and get lots of hearts, the threshold for deleting those is probably much higher than a crazy-hard Kaizo level which won’t get as many plays. I was told this is what happened to me in [the original Super Mario Maker] when they deleted all of my levels.”
It’s unclear whether or to what extent human moderators are involved in level deletion decisions for the millions of levels that have been uploaded to Super Mario Maker 2 thus far. Nintendo has not responded to a request for comment from Ars Technica.
“If there is something that Nintendo could point me too that caused this, I would gladly fix that given the opportunity,” GrandPooBear added on Twitter. “Given the fact there is no opportunity to do so, not I have no idea what actually caused it, im left feeling like they just hate me.”
“Nintendo should never, ever, ever, be deleting anyone’s levels unless they contain obvious language or blatant dicks,” he continued in an email to Ars. “Take them out of the endless rotation so they don’t show up for random players, but deleting people’s hard work is never a good idea. It erases history of the game and potentially useful information, plus it can lead to mistakes like this which causes players to not want to be a part of the community anymore.”
After being hit with Nintendo’s unexplained moderation a second time, GrandPooBear seems resigned to his fate. “I am not going to upload any new real levels anytime soon,” he told Ars. “I will probably just stick to dumb tech levels to get my Maker score back up. But this is the second time this has happened to me… It feels like there is little point to me being a creator in this game if this is going to continue to happen. I would rather make a ROM hack that will last forever.”