Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer

ROMchip – See You Next Mission: An Analysis of the Super Metroid VARIA Randomizer

I’m excited to announce that my journal article See You Next Mission: An Analysis of the Super Metroid VARIA Randomizer has just been published in ROMchip. I have long been fascinated with videogame randomizers, and this piece conducts an in-depth analysis of the popular VARIA Super Metroid randomizer – an online application that  remixes the game.

“In order to play games in new ways and facilitate competitive races on Twitch, speedrunners and hackers have cultivated a new genre of speedrunning based on remixing classic video games. In this paper, I investigate the histories, affordances, and legalities of the browser-based applications that lie at the heart of this practice—video game randomizers—using the Very Adaptive Randomizer of Items and Areas (VARIA) for Super Metroid (1994) as a primary case study. I begin my analysis with an overview of Super Metroid’s underlying game structures while elaborating upon its connections to broader speedrunning histories. This is followed by a summary of how randomizers function and a chronicling of VARIA’s development, in which I draw comparisons to a number of commercially released game technologies. I then perform a more deliberate analysis of VARIA using the walkthrough method, scrutinizing the application’s environment of expected use (that is, how users are encouraged to interact with it) and providing a technical walkthrough of its features (that is, a step-by-step account of its functionality). I contend that VARIA is a crystallization of video game hacker and speedrunner activities, both enabling new practices through its affordances and codifying the expertise of its community members through its interface.”

I have been studying randomizers and other hacking applications for quite some time, and this piece specifically draws upon research I conducted during my master’s degree and as part of Stefanie Duguay‘s Digital Culture and Digital Research Methods course at Concordia University. This article was a great opportunity for me to trace the history of Super Metroid speedruns, challenge runs, and randomizers (drawing heavily upon Eric Koziel’s Speedrun Science), while focusing on a specific software application. I’m also happy to share that ROMchip is an open access and online journal, meaning that anyone can read the entire December 2021 edition!

a screenshot from a randomizer league twitch stream featuring four players

Citation: Iantorno, Michael. “See You Next Mission: An Analysis of the Super Metroid VARIA Randomizer.” ROMchip, vol. 3, no. 2, December 2021. https://romchip.org/index.php/romchip-journal/article/view/116

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By Michael
Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer