“Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about rock-n-roll.”
Shigeru Miyamoto was born on this day in Sonobe, Kyoto, Japan in 1952. He is 60 years old.
[OK raise your hand if you know who Shigeru Miyamoto is. For the three of you who know who he is … pat yourself on the back — you are a game playing hipster, and I appreciate you taking time away from your Wii to read this blog. For the rest of us… raise your hand if you’ve heard of Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda or played Nintendo. Shingeru Miyamota is Mario’s father if you will.]
The Miyamoto grew up in a small town in the Kyoto region of Japan. Only a few of the homes in the area had Televisions, and Miyamoto’s wasn’t one of them.
Instead, he found entertainment in a steady stream of comic books and puppet shows. [Los Angeles Times ]
He also loved to explore the woods and caves around his town. He embraced the Manga style of art and had hopes of becoming a professional manga artist before switching to video.
A graduate of the Kanazawa College of Industrial Arts Miyamoto says his instructors didn’t always know what to make of him. “I made a lot of strange things in school,” [Ibid] and he was constantly thinking outside the box.
That kind of thinking (and some family connections) got him in the door at Nintendo in 1977. Instead of bringing a portfolio of drawings Miyamoto brought clothes hangers.
He had designed and made them for children who were too small to reach closet bars and too young for traditional, hooked, metal wire hangers. “I came up with a different solution,” Miyamoto said. “I made a wooden hanger that had a little cross shape which would fit into a notch on the wall. I painted pictures of elephants on them.” [Ibid]
He also showed them his idea for a three-way seesaw and an amusement park clock he designed. Nintendo loved it. He got the job.
His first big hit at Nintendo was Sheriff in 1979. He came to the rescue when the nascent Nintendo of America found itself with an overstock of Radar Scope arcade games. His challenge was to create a game that would fit into the existing stand up arcade style games.
He had always wondered why video games had no plot and felt that there was an unexplored potential for engrossing stories. He … desperately wanted to get the license for a Popeye game. Nintendo was unable to get it, however, so Miyamoto resorted to creating his own characters. [Nintendo.wikia.com]
What he came up with was Donkey Kong. The “hero” of Donkey Kong is, of course, Mario.
In 1984 Miyamoto entered the world of consuls with Super Mario Bros. for the new Nintendo Entertainment System. It was a huge success and spawned a number of sequels.
Next he developed the fantasy world for The Legend of Zelda.
The game was inspired by notable events that Miyamoto experienced as a child. For example, Miyamoto has expressed that he found it enjoyable to travel through an unknown city without the use of a map. This way, the person won’t know what they’ll find at every corner. He also found a maze like structure near his home as a child, which was also an influence for the game. Finding new things… brought joy to Miyamoto which would be incorporated into his game. [Ibid]
As new Nintendo gaming counsels came out (which, conveniently, happened just in time for the Christmas selling season) he was involved in developing games that worked specifically for each product.
He takes inspiration from the world around him. That cave near his childhood home was the basis for The Legend of Zelda … The bathroom scale started Wii Fit, and a dog training class was the inspiration for Nintendogs.
He has dozens of titles to his name. Together Donkey Kong, Mario and Zelda have sold over 350 million copies.
[So here’s the big question… who is your favorite Miyamoto character?… I’m a Princess Peach girl myself. ]