"He loves coins. And he loves this little spot right here, which is a dead end."
To supplement his SIGBOVIK paper entitled "The First Level of Super Mario Bros. is Easy with Lexicographic Orderings and Time Travel ... after that it gets a little tricky," author Tom Murphy has put together a video showing his approach to automated NES play. The work behind the paper is real, despite where it was submitted, according to Murphy. Start reading it for yourself and you'll see why such a thing needed to be pointed out.
Both the paper and video are surprisingly entertaining, with some great commentary and references thrown in. Essentially, a program attempts to "win" various games like Super Mario Bros. after analyzing human-made inputs. Not all games work, though the software seems to be a natural at playing Adventure Island.
"I'm mostly concerned with aesthetics," says Murphy. "And so the aesthetic here is this is a really simple, mathematically elegant, and stupid technique that works great."