Shigeru Miyamoto. Nintendo's ultimate game designer
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
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