Meet David Hunt, aka “GrandPOObear.” He’s a popular streamer who specializes in Mario games, presently making most of his living from ad-supported videos of him playing titles such as Super Mario Maker.
Or he was, until Nintendo spontaneously purged his library of Mario Maker uploads, as reported by Kotaku earlier today.
“Wow, all of my levels just got deleted off of Mario Maker,” he tweeted. “I just called [Nintendo support], uploading a video of the call, and they said I didn’t get flagged for anything.”
Way back in January, Hunt discovered one of his Mario Maker levels had been removed for unknown reasons. The ‘why’ and ‘how’ aren’t terribly difficult to discern — players can report levels at will and it only takes a few trolls generating a handful of reports for something to get removed, whether or not the reasons are legitimate — but Hunt’s interactions with Nintendo’s support line revealed the company had neither adequate means of restoring falsely reported content nor clear guidelines on how to handle these situations internally. From the Kotaku report:
If the rep escalated Hunt’s request, it would require Nintendo to examine everything he’s created. This would mean looking at his other levels. If they decided to reject Pile of Poo-POOgatory, they might reject all of his stages. Hunt took the risk.
A week or so later, in the middle of a stream, Hunt got a call.
“We were able to get your level returned to Miiverse,” said the Nintendo rep.
Overjoyed at the news, Hunt thanked them for their help.
Unfortunately, the good news didn’t last for long; the level stayed offline. Days later, Hunt was informed by the same rep that he spoke too soon, that “it was a design decision that it [the level] couldn’t come back, they were very sorry and would change how levels were taken down in the future.”
This is from a call in mid-February. As of today, it appears Nintendo has spontaneously come down against Hunt, and has removed all of his Super Mario Maker uploads to date.
“I don’t see that you’ve been flagged for anything regarding cheating or whatnot,” a Nintendo representative says in the recording Hunt made of the call (below). “Mostly, if you are accused of cheating, there would be some notes on your account but there isn’t. At this time, it doesn’t look like we have a resolution for you.”
The representative offered to escalate the issue to another section of Nintendo’s support team, but honestly this all sounds like a typical case of a company’s left hand not knowing what the right one is doing. I have a few years experience as a game content moderator myself, and while every game is going to have its own customer service problems, the particulars here — internal miscommunication, lack of a clear paper trail or documentation, draconian all-or-nothing policies for handling reports — all raise red flags for me.
And this wouldn’t be the first time Nintendo’s handling of its playerbase came off — to put it politely — shady as all hell. Lest we forget, its response to Super Smash Bros Melee being played at one of the world’s biggest fighting game competitions by trying to shut it down (a policy it reversed after fan outcry), it routinely tries to appropriate or otherwise take a cut of Youtubers’ ad revenue, and you don’t have to cast your net very far to find stories of Miiverse users banned for being gay or posting incredibly mild doodles to that effect.
All of this speaks to an old-fashioned way of doing business. Which makes a bit of sense when you consider that Nintendo, as a company, is over 120 years old — but it makes no sense at all when you consider this is a corporation that wants to stay active in an increasingly digital, increasingly streamed and livetweeted industry like videogames. Hunt’s story is not unique — and you could probably make the argument that Super Mario Maker is no better or worse for losing a few poop jokes — but his extensive documentation of the experience reveals how, even in 2016, Nintendo seems utterly inflexible when it comes to engaging with its own fans.
As for Hunt, unfortunately, there is little to no recourse: his Mario Maker levels would appear to have been wiped, and short of recreating them by hand, tile by tile, in the game’s build mode, he’s not going to get them back. But hopefully (and it’s a slim hope, since, as I mentioned, Nintendo has a history of this), the company will take the right lesson from this and overhaul how it handles reports internally.
Kris Ligman is the News Editor for ZAM. While we’re listing off complaints about Nintendo, the convoluted way of taking screenshots on the 3DS is a real pain. Follow them on Twitter @KrisLigman.