The Walt Disney of Video Games
Shigeru Miyamoto is known as the godfather of modern video games and the greatest game designer. Shigeru is responsible for having created iconic characters like Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Star Fox, and Pikmin.
Shigeru has spent the past forty years in the industry developing the most highly acclaimed video games, winning several video game of the year awards, such as A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Galaxy, and Super Mario Odyssey.
During the 1980s, video games weren’t as popular as they are today. The video game industry was having a decline in popularity due to a lot of developers and businesses believing that video games were simple to make, allowing them to earn easy money. This lead to a saturation of games on store shelves with poor quality, which received negative reviews from consumers and critics.
People started to turn away from video games and began to believe it to be a passing fad. Nintendo was determined to change the perspective of people.
The Begining of a Legend
Shigeru Miyamoto graduated with a degree in industrial design from Kanazawa Municipal College of Industrial Arts in Japan. Shigeru originally wanted to become a manga artist before falling in love with video games in 1978, with Space Invaders. Shigeru’s father arranged an interview with Nintendos then-president Hiroshi Yamauchi. He was hired as an apprentice after showing his portfolio of work.
Nintendo’s first task assigned to Miyamoto was to redesign a failed game called Radar Scope. Shigeru took on this role as director and developed the arcade classic Donkey Kong which was released in 1981. Donkey Kong received praise for its story, characters, and innovative gameplay becoming the first platformer. This was also the first time the public got to play as Mario, back then known as Jump Man.
“Well, early on the people who made video games, they were technologists, they were programmers, hardware designers. I wasn’t, I was a designer, I studied industrial design, I was an artist, I drew pictures. And so I think that it was in my generation that people who made video games became designers rather than technologists.“ – Shigeru Miyamoto
Nintendo released the Famicom in Japan, also known as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) around the world. High-quality video games could now be played at home. Shigeru would create Super Mario Bros. bundled with the NES and became a universal hit that struck a chord with every person that came in contact with.
Less than six months after the release of Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, another Miyamoto creation, would revolutionalize the industry with its non-linear gameplay and backup save files. Both Mario and Zelda gave Shigeru recognition around the world.
Nintendo later developed the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and released it in 1991. Miyamoto designed the new L and R buttons on the SNES controller which has since become an industry standard. With the new console, his creations were able to become more immersive and with bigger adventures for gamers to explore.
Miyamoto’s Design Philosophy and Approach
Shigeru’s attention to detail and philosophy on game design is unparalleled. Working closely with programmers, he will work hours on end to fine-tune and polish every aspect of a video game. He first begins by drawing his ideas by hand on graph paper and having brainstorming sessions before passing the information to the programmer. Before in the early days, programmers would take one entire day to translate his ideas digitally.
Miyamoto doesn’t follow trends and he creates games the way he believes they should be played, he is a visionary. He has also been known to take his time to be reiterated and improved upon. This has led to some video games receiving delays but they never receive negative reviews upon release.
“A rushed game is never good, but a delayed game is forever good.” – Shigeru Miyamoto
Link outside the witches hut in A Link to the Past (SNES 1991)
Miyamoto’s Influence and Lasting Impact
Miyamoto would continue to release incredible games throughout the following decades, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, F-Zero, Star Fox, Mario 64, Mario Kart, Ocarina of Time, Majoras Mask. Everything that Miyamoto has created has laid the foundations for other action-adventure role-playing games and influenced modern games.
“Anyone who makes 3-D games who says they’ve not borrowed something from Mario or Zelda is lying.” – Dan Houser, co-creator of Grand Theft Auto
Miyamoto has made a lot of happy and unforgettable childhoods. He’s an absolute legend and a reason why I am so passionate about becoming a game designer and making games. We’re all really blessed to be able to be alive and play these incredible games.
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