Shigeru Miyamoto. Nintendo's ultimate game designer
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Shigeru Miyamoto. Nintendo's ultimate game designer

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Extracted from "Creative Genius: Innovation from the Future Back" by Peter Fisk, to be published 2010

Extracted from "Creative Genius: Innovation from the Future Back" by Peter Fisk, to be published 2010

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  • 1. theGeniusWorks Shigeru Miyamoto Nintendo’s ultimate game designer Extracted from Creative Genius by Peter Fisk When the great Walt Disney died in 1966, Shigeru Miyamoto was a 14-year-old schoolteacher’s son living near Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. An aspiring cartoonist, he adored Donald and Mickey, Pluto and Goofy, the classic Disney characters. And when he wasn’t drawing, he made his own toys, carving wooden puppets with his grandfathers’ tools or devising a car race from a spare motor, string and tin cans. Miyamoto is now the world’s most famous and influential video-game designer - the creator of legendary games such as Donkey Kong and Mario Bros - and more recently, the Nintendo Wii. Yet he is still the hands-on artist, working with colleagues, sharing ideas and passions, smiling and having fun, virtually known outside of his design studio, but the hero of game-players around the world. As the creative mastermind at Nintendo for almost three decades, Miyamoto has seen a transformation in mass entertainment – riding the waves of digital technology progress – from the early personal computers, to sophisticated devices, wirelessly network. His products are at the top of most children’s gift lists, and many parents too. Compelling, irresistible, relentless, his games have led to phenomenal financial success too, unparalleled except perhaps for Disney. He has transformed the gaming industry, and aspects of modern culture too, and is personally responsible for the consumption of more billions of hours of human time than anyone else alive. Miyamoto graduated from the Kanazawa College of Art in 1975 and joined Nintendo two years later as a staff artist. He rose quickly through the company, first standing out in the early eighties when his Mario Bros. games helped save the industry after the collapse of Atari, maker of the first broadly
  • 2. theGeniusWorks popular home console. Nintendo’s game console, released in 1985, became the best-selling game machine of its era. Since then Miyamoto, supported by his 400-strong team, has given the world at least 70 games, including recent hits like Mario Kart Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Super Mario Galaxy and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. His designs are meticulously detailed, engaging and compulsive. This is because of much more than the impressive graphics, it’s because of the way his characters move and stories unfold, the incredible environments in which they find themselves, and the endless goals set for them. Who would have expected a generation to become addicted to a strange, frantic plumber in blue overalls? And beneath this is a rigorous system design that enables more.” Life in Kyoto If Miyamoto had grown up in a different world, San Francisco rather than Kyoto perhaps, then he would be a celebrity on par with Jobs and Spielberg. He would have set up his own studio, probably licensing his games to the leading brands, a celebrity everywhere he went and worth billions. Instead, despite being a cult figure at Nintendo HQ, he almost comes across as just another worker, arriving each morning with a cherub-like smile, and rushing home to his wife and two school-age children at the end of the day. But maybe this normality is a big part his personal, and Nintendo’s success. Focusing on the games, creating new ones, and making the others better, is the obsession, not money or fame. His ideas are well established, and protected, and he attracts the best talent to work alongside him. He has the trust and admiration of senior management, meaning that creativity and the creative process can flow without interruption or compromise. “What’s important is that the people that I work with are also recognised and that it’s the Nintendo brand that goes forward and continues to become strong and popular,” he said in an interview with
  • 3. theGeniusWorks the New York Times, when comparing Walt Disney’s role with his own, and adding with typical humility that any comparison with Disney is “very flattering and makes me happy to hear.” h Mario, the mustached Italian plumber he created almost 30 years ago, has become the planet’s most recognized fictional character, rivaled only by Mickey Mouse. His games have together sold more than 350 million copies, and Miyamoto – despite his anonymity - was voted the most influential person on the planet by Time magazine. Wii and Mii More than games, his influence is through the Wii, an innovation that has largely reinvented an industry. The idea was revolutionary in its simplicity: rather than create a new generation of games that would continue to support existing players, they wanted to reach out to new audiences – and developed the Wii as an easy-to-use, inexpensive diversion for families, to women, to parents, even grandparents. And it’s not just about gaming - riving, throwing, jumping or shooting - the Wii Fit system has created a new generation of tennis fanatics and yoga enthusiasts, sitting in front of a television screen doing what they did not have time, facilities or courage to do before. (One of my neighbours comes home from work each day, immediately changes into his tennis clothes, for an evening with his Wii). Largely thanks to Miyamoto, digital games have become Japan’s most successful cultural export, and Nintendo has become one of the most valuable companies in Japan. It is often said that without Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo would still be making playing cards, the original focus of the games maker when it began in 1989. Indeed he has been such a driving force to the industry, that there might not even be video games today without him., Miyamoto’s work has evolved from fantasy to human, conceptual to real. Nintendogs were inspired by his Shetland sheepdog at home, and then there is his love of rock music, and particularly the Beatles, and his love of playing the piano and banjo. From that has emerged Guitar Hero and Rock Band. His inspiration has shifted over time – from the desire to dream up new worlds and characters, to a realisation that his own personal experiences can be just as significant inspirations. As consumers want to become a part of their entertainment, and shape it, Miyamoto is creating a new star in his fantastical stable of characters – you, or rather Mii – the avatar that Wii users create of themselves. In the interview with the New York Times he reflected “I see the Miis as the most recent character creation” he said. Each Mii is unique, and much more relevant to the player, who is now part of the game rather than just playing it. Shigeru Miyamoto, the Walt Disney of the digital generation. © Copyright GeniusWorks 2010 Peter Fisk’s new book Creative Genius: Innovation from the Future Back will be published in late 2010 by Wiley Capstone. Starting with Leonardo da Vinci it helps you stretch your imagination and sharpen your intuition, with the likes of Armani and Banksy, Gü and Guggenheim, Maeda and Miyamoto ... 50 creative tracks, 50 inspiring stories, 5 innovation zones and 15 practical toolkits. www.theGeniusWorks.com www.CreativeGeniusLive.com