The Secret Language of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (and Mario Kart 8), Kartography and Motion Language

Mario Kart 8 was released for the WiiU in 2014 and the Deluxe version of the game came out for Nintendo Switch in 2017. The Mario Kart series of games remain highly popular and although the longevity of these titles through online racing means that these games demand high prices years (almost decades in the case of Mario Kart 7) after release, the communities that build up in these games are rarely subject to academic enquiry or basic coverage in the average games media. 

Fascinatingly, because Nintendo EAD, the developer of the game and Nintendo the publisher take online harassment and bullying seriously players of online Nintendo games and games on Nintendo platforms often have a highly limited mode of expression to communicate with other players when playing online together. This is of interest because enterprising players use the limited tools they have to contrive and develop new languages and forms of expression through cosmetics in games (costumes, 'emotes', equipment, vehicles) and from specific actions within the games engine (teabagging is perhaps the best known in game action to signal humiliation, ridicule and prowess in besting an opponent). 

With a nearly five year lifecycle, unusual for contemporary video games, a very sophisticated language has evolved within the game Mario Kart for players to express feelings, sexual preferences and to advertise business opportunities. After several months of 'digital field' ethnography (Foucault 1962) in the game world of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe some of this language has been studied and a partial lexicon is presented here to aid further study in this exciting new field of ethnographic study and linguistics. 

Character Choice
Of the limited ways in which Mario Kart 8 Deluxe players can express themselves within the game world, one of the primary methods of differentiation is through character or avatar selection. 42 preset characters are available initially, however, there are a number of costume variants and the Mii character option allows for near infinite variation and on top of that costume options with use of amiibo (statues of game characters with an NFC chip to interact with games) unlockable accessories. Character choice is not always a direct signifier, the below list charts some general observed trends have been observed:

Gold Mario- Indicates into pee stuff, genital play and object sex.

Waluigi- Indicates submissiveness or ADHD

Baby Peach- Foot fetish, soiling. Alternatively short stature.

Baby Daisy- Diarrhoea play, spitting, gagging, tucking your willy between your legs and saying 'Look at me I'm a Ladeeee' etc.

Ludwig- Cannibalism, Self-cannibalism alternatively into R&B music.

Dry Bones- Preference for more mature sexual partners(sometimes m).

Dry Bowser- Preference for more mature sexual partners(sometimes f).

Bowser- Preference for larger built sexual partner or eyeball/eyelid licking.

Inkling Boy/Inkling Girl- Interacial couplings or alternatively street theatre.

Rosalina- Stretch play/insertion/piercings or likes horoscopes

Shy Guy- Voyeur/peeping or alternatively racist/homophobic depending on the costume colour.

Tanooki Mario- Testicles. Hairy testicles.

Cat Peach- Vomit play or butt stuff.

Luigi- Depravity/dangerous/chokeplay or asexual.

Figure 1. For example a player choosing Rosalina in a Comet is 'saying' to other players "I like stretch play and have long arms and short hair"
Kart Choice
Despite there being a more obvious link between character choice and physical human form, curiously Kart choice is shorthand for physical characteristics of the players behind the avatar. Tyres  and gliders customisation don't appear to be widely used, perhaps because these can be harder to discern in-game. 

Inkstriker- Hung

Splat Buggy- Incontinent

Bone Rattler- Physically fit/muscular

Teddy Buggy- Prosthetics/missing organs

Wild Wiggler- Virgin/inexperienced

Standard Quad- Eyesight problems/glasses/partially sighted

Yoshi Bike- Island nation

Jet Bike- East Asian

Varmint- Teeth missing/false teeth

Comet- Short hair/long arms

Koopa Clown- Atheist

Streetle- Working class

Tanooki Kart- Big balls/hanging balls

Prancer- Large breasts

Cat cruiser- Ichthyosis

Figure 2. Tanooki Mario in the Tanooki Kart signals big balls. Really big balls. Giant danglers. 
This concludes the initial foray into this developing exciting virtual language and although not the focus of this study, there is evidence to suggest that this signalling and language has diverged across time and between the WiiU and Nintendo Switch communities. Furthermore, there is a whole language around in game interactions (driving off road, reversing clockwise, holding onto a Golden mushroom, tooting the horn) yet to be decoded. 

With more time and resources, this burgeoning field of study could be applied to other online games, their subcultures and novel languages.

Foucault, M. 1962. 'Un si cruel savoir'in: Critique, July 1962, no. 182, pp. 597-611. (cit. SL)


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