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Editorial: The History of Mario, Part 8

Posted on Sun, Jun 20, 2004

Biography of Shigeru Miyamoto

“What if everything you see is more than what you see—the person next to you is a warrior and the space that appears empty is a secret door to another world? What if something appears that shouldn’t? You either dismiss it, or you accept that there is much more to the world than you think. Perhaps it really is a doorway, and if you go inside, you’ll find many unexpected things”

You know you’ve reached the status of “visionary” in this industry when a quote of yours is on the back of the box of every Nintendo GameCube being sold. Such is the case for Shigeru Miyamoto, arguably the most talented video game developer to ever grace this good green Earth. Shigeru Miyamoto has had a leading role in the development of titles widely regarded as some of the best games of all time, and with the creation of Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros., is virtually responsible for the recovery of the video game industry after the “great crash” of 1982-1983. But if you’re a gamer to any degree, you probably already knew all that. Now it’s time to learn a little more about the man behind Mario, and the full extent of his contributions to the video game industry.

“I joined Nintendo to make products that use ideas and intelligence, and they just turned out to be video games.” –Shigeru Miyamoto, in an interview in the April 12, 1999 issue of Time Digital Magazine

For such a talented man, you may be surprised by Miyamoto’s humble beginnings. He grew up in the rural community of Sonebe, Japan, and in 1970 began studying industrial design at the Kanazawa Munici College of Industrial Arts and Craft. After graduating, it was actually through a connection of his father’s that he had the opportunity to land a job at Nintendo. Such employment opportunities are what you get when your father’s connection is an old friend named Hiroshi Yamauchi, President of Nintendo from 1950 to 2002, when he finally stepped down and was replaced by Sataru Iwata. As a favor for his friend, Yamauchi hired Miyamoto as Nintendo’s first staff artist. Since then, no one has been more influential to the success of Nintendo than Shigeru Miyamoto.

Although Miyamoto started working at Nintendo in 1977, it wasn’t until 1981 that he was assigned to develop his first game. In 1980, Nintendo released a popular Japanese arcade game called Radar Scope in the United States. The game was a failure in arcades, and a year later, Hiroshi Yamauchi was faced with the problem of disposing a large amount of unsold Radar Scope arcade cabinets. To make up for the losses, Yamauchi assigned Miyamoto the task of developing a new game to use with the useless cabinets. The game he created was an action game where the goal was to guide your character, Jumpman (who would later be renamed Mario by Nintendo of America’s staff, an homage to their then-landlord Mario Segali), to the top of various obstacle-laden courses, where a large gorilla was holding a girl captive. He named the game after the name of the gorilla: Donkey Kong. The game was a huge success, even spawning a breakfast cereal, and it cemented Miyamoto’s invaluable status at Nintendo. Of course, Miyamoto went on to develop innumerable classics, such as the Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda series, and quickly rose through the ranks at Nintendo. He currently acts as the general manager of Nintendo’s research and development division, and oversees the development of many of Nintendo’s most high profile games.

“I guess violence is one way you can elicit emotion and deliver entertainment to players. But at the same time I think it's more of an escape route for developers to use when they have a hard time coming up with ideas for creating fun.”—Miyamoto, in a May 2002 E3 roundtable discussion

Miyamoto is renowned for his insistence to create games that would be enjoyable for all ages, from kids to adults. If you look at all the games he’s had a hand in developing, you won’t find a single Mature—or even an Early Childhood—rated game in the bunch; not one game that’s specifically made for a certain age group. And considering the most recent projects he’s been involved with—namely The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Mario Kart: Double Dash!!—it doesn’t seem as if he will deviate from this trend any time soon.

But perhaps it’s this very work ethic that pushes him to innovate as much as he does. In fact, you can trace a remarkable amount of major innovations in the video game industry back to a Shigeru Miyamoto developed game. Some of his most notable achievements include: the first side-scrolling platform game (Super Mario Bros.); the first game cartridge to feature a battery to save your progress (The Legend of Zelda); the first game to successfully use analog control (Super Mario 64); and the first game to incorporate rumble technology in the controller (Star Fox 64). In 1997, the video game industry officially recognized Miyamoto’s many achievements when he was inducted into the Interactive Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame. He was the first person to ever receive the honor.

“It used to be that the industry had no real history, but in the past 10 years, there have been some things that can be called history. For example, there were not many games in the old days that can be enjoyable even today. But there are some games today that can still be enjoyable even five years from now. I feel this is the most profound change in the industry”—Miyamoto, in the November, 1997 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly

Shigeru Miyamoto is not only a man important to Nintendo; he is a man important to the entire video game industry. Along with other notable “gaming gurus,” he helped establish the history of this industry through all the truly classic games he has created and all the innovations those games have propagated—and in the process, he became part of this industry’s history himself. As Nintendo’s presence in the console market becomes ever more unstable, the influence of Shigeru Miyamoto is as important for the company as ever, especially as he helps train his future successors in the ways of masterful video game design. The sad fact, after all, is that the man cannot continue to make games forever, no matter how much every gamer in the world—and especially Nintendo—wishes he could.


Part 1 - Overview
Part 2 - Super Mario Bros 1 + 2
Part 3 - Super Mario Bros 3 + World
Part 4 - Super Mario World 2 + 64
Part 5 - Super Mario Sunshine
Part 6 - Spin-Offs
Part 7 - Spin-Offs, Continued
Part 8 - Shigeru Miyamoto Biography

Posted By: Kris Pigna - 3323 Reads

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