Shigeru Miyamoto

Shigeru Miyamoto is the genius who helped Nintendo go from being a card and novelty toy company to being a founding force in the art and business of videogames.

Just The Facts

  1. Shigeru Miyamoto is a living demigod of videogame creation.
  2. He has made Nintendo a household name, and created as much memorable family friendly entertainment as Jim Henson or Walt Disney.
  3. He's a weird nerd who likes to play the banjo when he's not dreaming up new worlds.

Young Shigeru's Big Adventures

The story of Shigeru Miyamoto starts back when he was a child. The smart young boy loved exploring, and would wander around the natural landscape of Sonebe, outside Kyoto.

He would walk through forests, rice fields, and canyons, over hills and streams. On one hand, we ask "What kind of fucking parents let their kid just go wilderness exploring on his own? Especially when the Japanese countryside might be full of monsters?". Actually, they just didn't have TV, which was obviously a good thing since there was no Nintendo to hook it to anyway. Young Shigeru continued to spend time exploring outside. Eventually he stumled upon a large hole in the ground, and discovered it went into a cave. But, he couldn't go in. Why? Simple. It was fucking dark in there.

He ran off and came back with a lantern, and we like to believe that a fanfare played in the background when he first held it up above his head. Armed with his lantern, and no longer quite so afraid, he ventured inside and began to explore.

We are going to guess he found a map and compass inside, and eventually had to fight a large boss of some kind. However, the important part is that the young Shigeru never forgot about his sense of wonder in exploring, or the ingenuity or bravery he needed for it. The experience stayed in his head for many years before he was able to share it with the world.

A Pioneer

While the world itself had been pretty well discovered by the time he grew up, humanity still needed pioneers of other sorts to get where it was going.

Shigeru Miyamoto found himself working for a Japanese card and toy company called Nintendo. They had been around nearly 100 years, but almost no one outside Asia had even heard of them. They had done ok before, but by the early 80's, things weren't looking that great. Miyamoto worked in the department of creative design, making ideas work, and making things look nice. He certainly wasn't a computer expert.

Someone had tried to find out exactly what was cutting into sales of toys and card games, and it turned out it was machines. Pong, Space Invaders, and Pac-Man, to be specific. They were eating quarters, and not going away. Things didn't look that great for Nintendo.

Unless...yes, that was it. They would make their own video game machine, because, hey, fuck those other guys. "We are Nintendo, goddammit!" they shouted (in japanese), "We will make BETTER games!"

Miyamoto was placed in charge of making sure the game turned out well. "Jumpman" was just a small fat guy who would eventually become more famously known as Mario, but with his lady-abducting nemesis Donkey Kong, the first Nintendo videogame was born.

A Creator of Multiple Game Legends

Donkey Kong arcade consoles muscled aside the competition and began eating quarters too; and they did it by offering a new kind of gameplay (the "platform" game) and doing it with colorful graphics that looked a bit better than other games of the time.

Everybody wanted to buy Shigeru a warm cup of sake. He was the man now. Assuming, of course, he could come up with more ideas...

First he unleashed Donkey Kong Jr, and then Mario Brothers. Now Mario had a brother, Luigi; a nearly identical plumber-guy with a green suit and hat instead of a red one. The two of them spent the first game trying to clear monsters out of a fairly repetetive sewer.

They really needed someplace to run around. Miyamoto decided that was a super idea, and he turned them into Super Mario Brothers. Now they had a landscape to run across. A really weird blocky landscape. And they ate mushrooms and fire flowers. And it was weird.

And people fucking loved it. The only downside was you know, having to go somewhere to play these games. There were home game systems, but those hadn't turned out so well thus far. They kept appearing and booming, and then going away and choking on their own vomit and dying.

If there was some way to stop that from happening though, it would be great. It was indeed great. Called "Famicom" in Japan, and "Nintendo Entertainment System" or "NES" outside Asia, this game system pretty much remade the home game market. Everyone wanted one, and eventually, almost everyone got one. Earning the occasion nickname "Ghetto Nintendo" was not merely a comparison to the later and superior looking "Super Nintendo", but a testament to the sheer amount of market saturation. There were literally poor people who had no other luxuries whatsoever, except a TV and a Nintendo.

Shigeru had an idea for a game. If there was some way to capture the magic of exploring a large world as a little kid, it might be a lot of fun. Drawing on his own childhood experiences, Miyamoto built the land of Hyrule, and created a small boy named Link to explore it. Mario had to rescue the abducted Princess Peach, and that worked out pretty well, so the same goal would be used again here. This princess was to be slightly more of a tomboy than Peach, but she was still going to be abducted. The game was named "The Legend of Zelda" after her; a fitting title, considering that it was to achieve legendary status as one of the best videogames ever.

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