There are few plaudits that haven't been directed at Shigeru Miyamoto, the key development figurehead at Nintendo throughout its history in the video game industry. From providing a breakthrough hit with the original Donkey Kong arcade to overseeing and directing multiple projects as an executive, his imprint defines Nintendo gaming culture. For those fearful of his eventual retirement, meanwhile, there are promising sings that Miyamoto-san and his colleagues have begun to foster a succession of talented young developers that are currently producing excellent, exciting titles on Wii U and 3DS.
When Miyamoto-san speaks about game development, people listen, so some of his latest comments in an interview with UK broadsheet The Telegraph are rather intriguing. While promoting the Tokyo International Film Festival première of Pikmin Short Movies — since released on the eShop — Miyamoto-san shared the perspective that game development doesn't need to learn from film; he highlighted the key differences in experiences, and what he sees as a disappointing trend in current development.
When you play a game, one moment you’re just controlling it and then suddenly you feel you’re in its world. And that’s something you cannot experience through film or literature. It’s a completely unique experience.
...These younger game creators, they want to be recognised. They want to tell stories that will touch people’s hearts. And while I understand that desire, the trend worries me. It should be the experience, that is touching. What I strive for is to make the person playing the game the director. All I do is help them feel that, by playing, they’re creating something that only they could create.
While Miyamoto-san's focus is on making games, not necessarily concerning himself directly with unit sales or profits, he gave a clear indication of his views on what rival systems have to offer, and how Nintendo differs.
What the other companies are doing makes business sense. But it’s boring. The same games appear on every system. At Nintendo we want an environment where game creators can collaborate and think of ideas for games that could have never happened before.
When pressed on the current hot topic in gaming, Virtual Reality, Miyamoto-san shared "concern" that the insular experience of Oculus Rift — for example — "didn't look beautiful", while saying that Nintendo has "nothing to announce yet" in the space; that does reinforce previous suggestions that it's being considered by the company.
Beyond these core philosophies, what shines through in this interview is Miyamoto-san's desire for gaming experiences to also educate and provide meaning for young players. In Pikmin he outlined how characters die but are reborn with others in their place, reflecting nature and perhaps a hint of spirituality — "I thought trying to teach children that there’s always an end to a life but a new beginning will follow shortly was worthwhile." The following sequence of events, published here as it appears in The Telegraph, also provides a telling insight into his focus and priorities with projects such as the Pikmin short movies.
Afterwards, the assembled critics and journalists give the film a warm round of applause, but for Miyamoto, who takes to the stage, it’s clear that something is missing. “You were all very quiet,” he says. “I was hoping to hear more laughter.” Then his eyes scan the crowd, sitting with notebooks on laps, and he smiles to himself, having identified the problem. “Perhaps we needed more children here,” he says.
Do you agree with Miyamoto-san's comments on current development trends and his outline of Nintendo's priorities and philosophy? Let us know what you think in the comments below.