If you haven’t had a chance to read this interview yet with Shigeru Miyamoto, I recommend you do!
It’s a really nice change of pace in terms of interview style and Miyamoto-san gets a chance to reflect a bit more on his previous works. It’s short but sweet. There’s one question that was asked of him, that really caught my attention and I’ll post it here. The question was “What would you say to children who are interested in video game design?” His answer was the following:
“Today, a single video game is typically created by teams of 50-100 people. Even though there are many people working on the video game, there is typically one person that is directing the project. For kids who are interested in creating video games, obviously you need to be able to play video games; however, what’s even more important is to have many other experiences outside of video games so you can imagine different possibilities in the games you are creating. Things like playing sports or communicating with friends, talking to them and sharing ideas are all important activities that will help you become a great video game designer. So, my advice is to go out and experience lots of different things.”
I’ve known for a while, especially after Wii Fit and Wii Music released that Miyamoto liked using things from real life and somehow working them into his games. Wii Fit for example, came about from Miyamoto-san and his family exercising, tracking their weight and comparing results from each other. Nintendogs from when his family had just gotten a puppy into the family. And this is probably well known, but other aspects of Miyamoto’s life helped shape and create other games. The chain chomps in Mario? Inspired from an angry dog on a leash that he had to walk past on the way to school. And Zelda came from Miyamoto’s youth and exploring the caves and land in his backyard. It’s amazing how some of these experiences, some might consider mundane, become games and successful ones at that. At last count Wii Fit has sold 22 million units!
But back to the question that was asked. I thought it was an interesting response and one that a kid probably wasn’t expecting. I could be wrong on this, but I feel most kids and aspiring game designers need to sit for hours in front of a computer, playing other games and studying what makes them great and not experiencing other things in life. Granted some of the great games may have come about in this way, I still feel that the best games I’ve played are from Miyamoto, because they’re fun and relatable. I think that’s why I enjoy them so much more, because they are relatable experiences, stuff we’ve done at least a few times in our lives. We’ve all cared for a pet, all exercised and played some form of sport, it’s all things we’ve experienced in life. One game that he’s made that I love is the Luigi’s Mansion series. We’ve all pretended to be a Ghostbuster once or twice, right? I always did it with a vacuum strapped to my back and it was great fun as a kid so it felt personal when I first got my hands on the game and the Poltergust 5000. It felt like that it was made just for people like me who lived out their original Ghostbuster fantasies.
His point about communicating with friends is important to note too, because video games are considered to be an anti-social thing. Multiplayer helps change that perception, more so the local multiplayer experiences than the online ones. Xbox Live, PSN and PC gaming are all great as they allow you to play with anyone, anywhere, anytime, but it’s still somewhat antisocial. That’s why I enjoy local experiences more, it feels more personal and fun than any online experience I’ve had. And that’s why I find multiplayer Mario is so compelling and why some of my greatest gaming memories are with the Wii U, because it encourages interactions with the people around you, not somewhere away from it all. In a world of always online, as a gamer it’s more satisfying playing a game with friends in the flesh.
Miyamoto-san seems so against the grain of what the gaming world seems to be today. You look at the current landscape of games where it’s got to be a shooter or something that’s gritty and sells millions, to me a lot of these games seem uninspired and boring and I’m not sure what to make of them. I think that’s why I like Miyamoto-san so much, because it’s different and passionate. His views on games design and his beginnings have helped create some of the best games and my favourite games of all time.
I feel like I’m rambling a bit with this article, so I’m going to stop myself before I make no sense at all. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the reason I love Miyamoto’s games and why I feel so strongly about his response to the original question is because he’s so different to the rest of the gaming industry in general. He makes games that he’s drawn from real life, personal experiences and pumps passion and fun directly into it, to create something that resonates with a lot of people. It’s what makes Nintendo games fun and specifically his games great.