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Shigesato Itoi Elegantly Explains What EarthBound Means to Him

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

"What is the video game, Earthbound?"

While we normally open any article with an introduction setting context, in this case we're going to keep it brief and say that Nintendo's Official EarthBound webpage has a wonderful piece of writing from the game's creator, Shigesato Itoi. It should be mandatory reading for fans of the game, and perhaps those that aren't, as it surely expresses the best of what creating a game can mean to its creator and audience. The full text is below.

What is the video game, Earthbound?
Even today, it’s so hard to answer that question.

It was like a group of children taking dolls from a toy chest.
Old dishes no longer used in the kitchen.
Nuts and bolts found inside a toolbox.
Little flowers and leaves from the backyard.
And they were all laid down on the carpet with everybody singing made-up songs.
Ready to talk all day about that world they just made.
That, I think was how Earthbound was made.

Well, I’m a grown-up too,
so I didn’t hold back in adding things here and there,
like putting more angles here,
hiding a secret there,
and sometimes slipping in little mean things.

Then a whole lot of friends came over to play.
And they helped it grow as they were having fun as they pleased.
They gave it branches, leaves and flowers,
to what was once a simple story of just root and trunk.
For every person that played, there are that many iterations of Earthbound.

As I met different people on unrelated occasions,
they told me “I found out about you by playing Earthbound.”
This was not only right after the game was out.
People were telling me this after it’s been out for quite some time.

All sorts of people tell me about their memories,
about all the things I left in the playground called Earthbound.
From the tiny safety pins, broken pieces of colored glass to the withering leaves.
When I ask them, “how do you remember so much?”
With their eyes gleaming, they say,
“I love that world so much I remember everything about it.”
I reply right away saying “me too.”

Ah hah! That may be it.
Maybe I wanted to make a playground.
A playground filled with things no matter how small or unwanted,
they would all be kept dear in people’s hearts.
It looks like all my friends from around the world have discovered the theme to the game as they were playing – even though I didn’t think I gave it one.
That’s right, that’s something I also wanted to do all along.

I was already a grown-up at the time I was making Earthbound,
but now that thirty years have been added to my life, I’ve grown up even more.
I think about things that I didn’t back then.

Things like, “what kind of a person do I want to be when I die?”
I already know the answer to this one.
It’s “someone with a lively wake*.”

The person who passed away has to be in all sorts of different people’s memories.
What they’ve done, how stupid they were, what kind of things they did for fun,
and how kind that person was sometimes.
All the people who are still alive are laughing,
wanting to be the first one to bring up those things to everyone around them.
The life I want to live is something that can be concluded with that kind of a party-like wake.
Fame and fortune, setting records and accomplishments are all meaningless.
That person is inside those stories that are told,
where people talk about their episodes, casually and sincerely.

Well, it’s not dead, and it’s not even human,
but to me Earthbound is a game that’s kind of like that guy.

Now that you’ll be able to play Earthbound to your heart’s content,
I hope you’ll play it with someone and create all kinds of great, happy memories.
I’m glad that this day has come.
And I think everyone who had a part in making this game is very excited too.

Thank you for everything.

*The Japanese word Mr. Itoi used here is “otsuya”. Similar to a wake, an otsuya is a Japanese tradition where relatives and friends are invited the night before the funeral ceremony to talk about their memories of the departed, and to mourn the loss over dinner and drinks in addition to prayer.

[via earthbound.nintendo.com]

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User Comments (33)

ricklongo

#1

ricklongo said:

Fantastic read. I'd expect no less from the man behind that little masterpiece.

I really hope we haven't seen the last of this franchise.

Maskeraid

#2

Maskeraid said:

... By god, that's one of the deepest things I've ever read. Thank you Mr. Itoi.

Einherjar

#9

Einherjar said:

The difference between a game made, just because a handfull of people had a dream, and games only made to make money.
A beatiful read, although you have t read it a couple of times to really grasp what he is trying to say. He talks about Earthbound like someone would talk about a close friend, and that is an example of how much heart he put into his work. For some, its just a regular RPG game with a goofy story and a FInal Boss known through internet memes, for others its the perfect example, that if all components of a game are "just" solid and none is anything special, the outcome can just be outstanding.Because, lets face it, there are better Battlesystems out there, much more deep and involved and there are much grander storys to experiance and still, although there are games with much much stronger single components, there is very little that can compare itself overall to earthbound as a whole. It has just the right amount of everything, nothing is too much, nothing feels to less.

SyFyTy

#10

SyFyTy said:

Would LOVE this for the 3ds... I only wish all other develoeprs felt the same about thier creations, instead of just about the financial end of things.
BTW, Thank You Mr. Itoi.

SyFyTy

#11

SyFyTy said:

@Einherjar the expression that comes to mind is... "The whole [game] is greater than the sum of it's individual parts'.

Joshers744

#14

Joshers744 said:

Wow. That was great.
From the first three or so towns I've played through, it really is a special game. I miss the days of playing through just about every game with my dad when I was a kid back on the SNES and 64 days. My wife just isn't quite as interested in most of the games I am. Even so I've been enjoying it on my own.

unrandomsam

#16

unrandomsam said:

I think the most that should be done is Mother and Mother 3 translated and rereleased think that will be enough.

I think reusing franchises spoils them. Think it would annoy me less if other things were still being produced. (Or they were less frequent and a later was 100% superior to the last and no gradual reduction of difficulty in a series).

Tylr

#18

Tylr said:

My heart is touched by Itoi's words. Beautiful words for a beautiful game and it's players.

MasterChordles

#19

MasterChordles said:

https://miiverse.nintendo.net/users/GigaBlizzard
I'm barely into it, but I've already made tons of posts about it. That shows how great it is. It's witty, fun, beautiful. It's helps other be creative. That's what I think of it anyways. Good read, thanks for posting

JaxonH

#21

JaxonH said:

People just don't speak like this anymore. All you hear from 3rd party devs and publishers is yip yap about focus groups and maximizing profits and the like. This man is intelligent beyond the traditional sense, and it's truly a shame that there aren't more game designers like him. I will say that Nintendo has many of the greatest minds of our generation associated with them in some way, and this is one of the many reasons I call myself a fan.

sinalefa

#23

sinalefa said:

This guy is a writer. This really shows it. Maybe I will get this game sooner than I was anticipating.

triforcepower73

#24

triforcepower73 said:

@FineLerv THIS! Seriously, games connect with me so much deeper than any other form of art(besides music). Movies, books, etc. Everybody has a different experience, for the most part with a great game. In movies everybody just sits on their butts watching the same thing. When you come back to watch it in a few years again you see the same thing. Yes, you notice things that you didn't notice the first time you watched it but there's a limit. The great masterpieces of gaming such as Earthbound seem endless in their depth.

Asaki

#25

Asaki said:

I envy all of you who get to experience the game for the very first time.

Maybe someday when I'm old and gray, I won't remember anymore, and I'll be able to join you.

Dpishere

#26

Dpishere said:

I have yet to play the game, namely because I have get to get a Wii U. Hopefully I will have done just that by this holiday, seeing as many great games I would like to buy will be coming out around then.

ogo79

#28

ogo79 said:

"The person who passed away has to be in all sorts of different people’s memories.
What they’ve done, how stupid they were, what kind of things they did for fun,
and how kind that person was sometimes."

im gonna be the one that gets talked about for how stupid i am. im trying to set a record here, thanks for the encouragement!

"Now that you’ll be able to play Earthbound to your heart’s content,
I hope you’ll play it with someone and create all kinds of great, happy memories."

no but in all seriousness i tried to make some memories with others while playing earthbound. one time an ex girlfriend of mine said she wished she played it before i was. when i asked why she said "because of the way it looks"
guess she didnt just want to watch me play it...

Crimson_Ridley

#29

Crimson_Ridley said:

@Melkaticox - Clearly there is too many words there. You barely typed a post and didn't read that, else you would have realised you said "too long, read didn't". It takes a minute, if that, to read this post. How lazy can one be?

Big_A2

#30

Big_A2 said:

Playing Mother 3 was my first "video games as art" moment and I've read lots of Itoi's comments about his games over the years, but it's always nice to read his new reflections on it. It's a real shame the man isn't interested in making games anymore.

SomeBitTripFan

#31

SomeBitTripFan said:

That was absolutely incredible writing. I already want to get Earthbound, (unfortunately I don't have the time to play it now) but reading such passionate, deep, and simply beautiful writing as such displays just how much was put into that game. It is when I see how much something means to someone, as Earthbound does to Itoi, that I want to experience his work and delve into the world of his mind. I hope to play Earthbound soon.

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