[Slideshow] Dad Creates the Ultimate Mario Bedroom for His Teenage Daughter

The bar has been raised! Want your kids to be considered cool in the ranks of kid gamers? You're going to have to go the extra mile.
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Lying still in the dark, AJ felt a presence. She looked around, not fully awake, and realized... she was not alone.

She reached over, flipped the light switch, and instantly remembered -


AJ Carpenter may be a typical 13-year-old girl, but her bedroom is anything but. As a big fan of the original Super Mario Bros. game, AJ’s father, Dustin, turned her bedroom into a Mario paradise. The room is covered in the game's signature blue sky as a background, decorated with hand-painted recreations of classic Mario characters and icons, decals, props, and plush toys.

Oh, and that light switch she just used a second ago? It's an NES controller that plays the Super Mario theme song.

I had a chance to talk with Dustin and ask him what inspired him to create the room, what was involved, and what role videogames have played in his and his daughter’s life. One thing's for sure, games are important, and it has helped to build the bond between Dustin and his daughter. As a parent myself, it is encouraging to see video games play such a big role in connecting a father and daughter, as playing games with my kids is one of the things I enjoy most about parenting.

What inspired you to create this bedroom for your daughter?

"[She] asked if I could make a Batcave. That seemed a little impractical"

Dustin: "The idea of changing her room was something she wanted. She had asked about doing it in Batman, and asked if I could make a Batcave. That seemed a little impractical so I asked her to give me another idea, and she said Mario. I told her that we could do that especially knowing how much Mario stuff was available to purchase if we wanted."

Did you consider any other themes before deciding on Mario? Are there any other themed rooms you think would be fun to create?

Dustin: "We didn't really get past the Mario. There wasn't much thought put into what theme. As soon as I said I could do Mario, that's as far as AJ went into picking out themes. Being a 13-year-old girl she went from a room COVERED in One Direction and Cody Simpson posters to this Mario theme. Needless to say, the change didn't disappoint me."

Have you seen any other game-based rooms that you really admired?

Dustin: "I'd never really seen other game-based rooms until I started to research the stuff available for a Mario bedroom. There are some fantastic artists out there that have done some extensive game murals on bedroom walls."

How long did it take you to complete the project? Was it a one-man job?

Dustin: "I estimate somewhere around 60 or 70 hours total. I didn't keep track as the project was pretty slow going, only working on it a couple hours at a time. It was a one man job, but I did have AJ help with taping off some of the lines so that I could paint and she would also help peel off the tape."

What was AJ's reaction to the room when she saw it completed?

Dustin: "She absolutely loved it. 'Amazing' is what she said."

Was there anyone urging you against doing this? If so, have they come around now?

Dustin: "My wife was on board with it and for the most part just said 'this is your project.' I'm fortunate enough to have a wife that is really laid back with stuff like this."

Maybe the most impressive part to me is that you appear to have a still-working NES! Do you and your daughter still actively use the system?

Dustin: "On occasion we will still play either Super Mario Bros. 1 or Super Mario Bros. 3. It's still finicky as it was in the 80's though, so we still have to tap, blow, barely push the game in, etc., just to get the games to work."

Were you into videogames as a kid? If so, what were some of your favorite games?

Dustin: "I was indeed into video games. My first system was an Atari and one of my first memories is my thumb and hand being sore from playing Pac-Man. I learned the patterns to run to so you wouldn't die and could just keep playing and playing. My goal was to "flip" the score back to 0, which I did. I loved River Raid, Pitfall and Missile Command on the Atari 2600, Moon Patrol on the PC and RC Pro Am, Double Dribble, Baseball Stars and of course Mario on Nintendo. Mario 3 is still my favorite game even today."

When did your daughter begin playing games? 

Dustin: "She has had a Nintendo DS for many years and it would be something she'd play in the car on trips or here and there. She started playing the console games 6-7 years ago when we got the Wii at launch and the kids got it as a Christmas present. She was still pretty young then so a good number of the games were a little advanced for her."

What are some of her favorite games?

Dustin: "She really only plays 4 games. Super Mario and Super Mario 3 on the NES, New Super Mario Bros on the Wii and once in a while she will play Trauma Center on the Wii."

Did you ever consider building in a stereo system that just plays the Mario music in the background forever on repeat? It would add authenticity, right?

Dustin: "I could have set up the light switch so that when light came on in the room it just continually played the theme, but yeah it wouldn't take long before the hammer came out!"

What kind of influence do you think games have had on your daughter? With all the negativity out there about violence in games, does it make you concerned about letting her play them?

Dustin: "I don't really have too much of a concern with my daughter. She keeps to the simple games. I think the violence in games is something that is important to keep an eye on when you have kids of a certain age playing games. A lot of that just falls on parenting though. You have to be aware of the content of the games and make sure that it's appropriate for your kids. All kids have different maturity levels so what might be ok for one 13-year-old, might not be for another. That's where the parenting comes in. And as always, limit game play time relative to age."

What would you say to someone who didn't approve of letting your daughter play videogames?

Dustin: "I would tell them that she has a lot of different hobbies and things she likes doing and video games are just a small fraction of what she does with her free time. That's my politically correct answer anyway!"

What would you say to other parents thinking about a project like this?

Dustin: "If you have the time and the patience, go for it. Finding the time is unquestionably the hardest part about the project."


Ok moms and dads, the bar has been raised!

No longer is it cool enough to simply get your kids the latest gaming systems, unique collectibles from eBay, or hard-to-acquire soundtracks from classic games. Thanks to Dustin, you're going to have to give it a little more effort. Personally, I couldn't tell you the difference between a wrench and a ratchet, and my artistic abilities lie somewhere between a kindergartener and... well... no, that's not true. My daughter is in kindergarten and can already draw better than me.

I guess my kids are pretty much out of luck. 

Major kudos, and a heartfelt "Dad of the Year" nomination from me to Dustin.

*All images courtesy of Dustin Carpenter*

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Brian Armstrong
Proud gamer parent and freelance journalist (and fundraiser). I cover anything and everything that's interesting about the gaming industry, and even some stuff that isn't so interesting.