Study Finds The Reason Behind Super Mario Running From Left To Right

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''Mario'', a character in Nintendo Co Ltd's ''Mario Bros'' video games
''Mario'', a character in Nintendo Co Ltd's ''Mario Bros'' video games, is seen at the company's showroom in Tokyo July 28, 2011. Reuters/Toru Hanai

A new research conducted by a researcher at the Lancaster University has unraveled the mystery behind why games have characters moving from left to right. In the press release, it is pointed out that all the games from Super Mario, a popular 2D game to other side scrolling games had the characters run from left to right. The preference here is not stylistic and is dependent on the choice of the people, the study finds.

Psychologist Dr Peter Walker of Lancaster University conducted the research and he states that there is a fundamental bias amongst the people for visual motion. Generally people prefer objects in images to move from left to right. He calls this preference of motion a “left-to-right bias,” in the press release. Walker states that this is the main reason why all the protagonists of side scrolling video games in the past run from left to right. 2D games in the 80’s and 90’s had mostly a side scrolling format and this includes the popular Super Mario.

For the study Walker analysed thousand of images from Google. He observed that to indicate motion in animate and inanimate still images, artists use the age old principle of drawing the character leaning forward. This indicates movement and a greater degree of force or a greater bend in the posture from the waist-up while erect shows greater speed, he states. “Another convention, revealed in the present study, involves depicting items moving from left to right," Walker added.

This observation is not limited to characters in games and can be found across graphical representation, even with text, the press release informs. Designers also italicize text and this gives a feeling of motion and speed.

He states that this is a rightward bias and it is found in drawings of animate items in motion. For inanimate items, there is either a leftward or no bias at all. He therefore concludes in the press release that this points to a fundamental left-to-right bias for visual motion.

Answering the question regarding Hebrew typo graphics where text is read from right to left, the preference for motion remains the same, he states. Though the text is read differently, the artistic convention for conveying motion remains the same. People have a “left to right bias,” irrespective of the conditioning by which they read text, he explains.

The study is published in the journal Perception.

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