- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Nintendo’s senior managing director, Shigeru Miyamoto, is the creative force behind some of the world’s most popular video games.

After joining Nintendo in 1977 as a staff artist, he quickly built a reputation by developing such franchise characters as Mario, Zelda and the arcade legend Donkey Kong. To date, he has worked on more than 80 games, with recent projects including the Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Metroid Prime and Luigi’s Mansion.

Mr. Miyamoto, who holds a degree in industrial design from Kanazawa College of Art in Ishikawa, Japan, took some time while in the District recently to discuss his career and the future of the video game.

Q: Why did you decide to develop video games?

A: When I first started, I had little interest in computers and new technology. I was more interested in creating things that were an expression of people or an expression of the person who created them and developing new ideas.

When I first joined Nintendo, it had just released a tennis, Pong-style video game in Japan, so it was a company that had very little to do with video games when I joined it. Shortly after I joined, Space Invaders came out and became a big hit. I had studied industrial design and was hired to work on artwork and make toys. I realized that the process of coming up with new toys was very similar to the planning involved in thinking up new video games.

Q: How do you go about creating a new video game?

A: When you are holding that controller and controlling something, what kind of feeling do you get when you see your actions on the controller play out on the screen? I always think about that when I begin the process.

We have a limited amount of space and a limited amount of pixels to create a character, so I must also think about how I can create a character that feels distinct and unique.

Q: How important is technology in the video game?

A: Technology is something that is kind of strange and mysterious to me. All this time, my focus has been on creating new experiences for people to play, things that they have never experienced before. But in all that time of creating video games, I feel we have been too reliant on technology in coming up with something.

So while technology has been used as a creative tool, I think at a certain point, we went from it being a tool to being relied upon to provide us with the creativity, and I think that is something, as an industry, that we need to re-evaluate.

Q: What effects does playing video games have on children?

A: In terms of negative effects, it is not good for people to focus all of their time and energy on one thing, whether it be video games or anything else. Never experiencing other things is not good. Parental control is required to help a child experience as much of the world as he can, which will help him in the future.

In terms of positive effects, particularly with the games I create, when people play those games, they really think about the world they are playing in. When people are presented with a problem or a puzzle, then they try different ways of solving it. They can then predict results very quickly, bringing out the creative side of them and encouraging them to think in different ways while playing the game.

Q: Will the movie experience ever merge with the video-game experience?

A: I think interactivity is the most important part of video games, and while it’s true that video games do use cinematic graphics and the process of making video games is similar to the process of making movies, people tend to compare the two. But if you think about it, movies are a passive medium, as the audience takes in the story, while the video game is almost a 180-degree turn away from the movie, in which interactivity can often define the story.

It’s also true that video games are taking on more traits of popular movies, as in cinematics and taking on licenses, and it’s making the industry become more movielike. That is OK, but the video game needs more simple forms of play that are more innovative and creative.

Q: What will the video game look like 10 years from now?

A: The very basic system of people playing with a computer that shows graphics will not change for a long time. What will change is interfaces, like our DS touchpad or such past Nintendo innovations as the plus control pad or the analog control stick. The basic medium in which video games are displayed will also advance as more televisions use crystal screens, or maybe at some point players will wear goggles. But no matter what changes, video games will always be a way for people to interact with things that they have never experienced before.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002, or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washington times.com).

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