dwlt.thinksOutLoud

Miyamoto Profiled in the New Yorker

The New Yorker has an in-depth profile with Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto which is worth a read (all-in-one page here).

Overall, I’d call it a positive piece, although the tone veers between patronising and sincere. A few other things I want to comment on, in no particular order:

Fishermen have a saying, in reference to the addictive sensation of a fish hitting your line: “The tug is the drug.”

So when can we expect the Panorama episode on fishing?

this is called “gamification,” or, more gratingly, “funware”

Seriously? “Funware” is more grating than that other word? Good grief. I’ll save my rant on this for another time.

games are typically considered to be commercial products, rather than creative works; consider the fact that game titles, unlike the names of, say, movies or songs, appear in most newspapers and magazines, including this one, un-italicized

This bugs me, almost as much as it bugs me that the Guardian Gamesblog is in the ‘Technology’ section. However, this line clues us into why the industry is approached this way:

There aren’t very many video-game auteurs, but Miyamoto is one.

and this quote from Miyamoto towards the end of the article nails it:

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell, from the looks and the play of the games, who has created the software.”

Most games companies take the Walt Disney approach, and create everything from behind one brand. There’s nothing wrong with that. And it’s not the oft- lamented lack of ‘auteurs’ or ‘personalities’ that’s causing the problem here either.

It’s a lack of distinctiveness, and not just in terms of the central character. Note that Miyamoto mentions both ‘looks’ and ‘play’.

The problem is that you (or, at least, I) can very rarely tell which company is responsible for a game. Off the top of my head, if I was to do a play test on a range of games from various creators, I think I’d probably only be able to identify a Valve game, a Denki game and, yes, a Nintendo game. Maybe a PopCap game.

Writers, filmmakers and musicians often talk about ‘finding their voice’, the distinctive tone or mood or themes that marks their creations out from the hundreds of others. I think many game creators still have a way to go to find their voice. And until games show greater diversity of theme and mood and tone, it’s difficult to provide a compelling argument they deserve ‘creative work’ status.

Anyway, asides aside, there are loads of great design tips in the article, too many to quote here, so just go and read it. I’ll just end with this comment from Will Wright on Miyamoto:

“He approaches the games playfully, which seems kind of obvious, but most people don’t. And he approaches things from the players’ point of view, which is part of his magic.”