In this new series, which I am entitling ‘Gaming Gods’, I am going to give you thorough and unrelenting snippets of information about the Gods we pray to for bringing us the heavenly gift of Games.
I thought long and hard about who I’d talk about in this series, and then thought even harder about which order would best represent them. In the end, I decided that the only definite position would have to be at the top of our leader board, Nintendo’s own Shigeru Miyamoto.
Shigeru Miyamoto was born on November 16th 1952 in Kyoto, Japan. From an early age he began to explore his home town, Sonobe, and the surrounding forest. His explorations as a child have been a key part in his creations throughout his career.
Miyamoto is a very famous name in gaming at the moment, but his start with Nintendo was a coin-operated arcade game called Sheriff. In 1980 Miyamoto helped create the game ‘Radar Scope’ as an attempt for Nintendo to breach the American gaming market. Although the game was a moderate success in Japan, it was a complete failure in America. With Nintendo on the verge of financial collapse the CEO, Hiroshi Yamauchi, tasked Miyamoto with converting the un-sold Radar scope games into an all new game. Miyamoto did this with Nintendo’s Head engineer, Gunpei Yokoi, supervising the project.
For this conversion, Miyamoto spent a lot of time thinking of possible plots and storylines, and various concepts that could make a good game. He eventually settled on a Love triangle between a Gorilla, a Carpenter and an Ape. This concept was based loosely around Popeye and Bluto fighting for the love of Olive Oyl. Bluto was changed into an ape as part of this new concept, with the ape being the pet of the main character. With ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘King Kong’ named as influences, Donkey Kong was the first game that had more time spent on the storyline than the programming.
Miyamoto had high hopes for this new concept, but lacked the technical skills to program it himself. Instead, he consulted with technicians to see whether his ideas were possible. He wanted each character to be a different size and move differently, but Yokoi deemed them to be too complex. After several failed concepts, the eventually decided that they would use ladders for travel and barrels for obstacles. Although the 4-man programming team wasn’t too keen on it, they also settled for having different levels.
Donkey Kong was a success, leading Miyamoto to design Donkey Kong Jr and Donkey Kong 3. Miyamoto’s success earned him a position at Nintendo, and he eventually started a new Game based on a character from Donkey Kong. The Carpenter, Named Mario Segale by the American testers, became Mario, and Miyamoto gave him a brother, Luigi. This then became Mario bros. Yokoi suggested that in the new game Mario should be given some form of super human ability, like falling from large heights without being harmed. Mario’s appearance in Donkey Kong, Namely a moustache, overalls and a red cap, led to Miyamoto making him more like a plumber in Mario bros that a carpenter.
After the success of Mario Bros and Donkey Kong, Miyamoto made several more games with Yokoi, including Ice Climber and Kid Icarus. This soon led to a sequel in the Mario series called Super Mario Bros. Once this game had been made, Miyamoto started a completely new game, The legend of Zelda. In both the Mario and the Zelda series, Miyamoto concentrated more on gameplay than high scores, an idea that was almost unheard of in games of the time. The Legend of Zelda took a new direction by forcing the player into non-linear gameplay, i.e. making the player solve riddles and puzzles to continue through the game. Zelda was a very influential series, pioneering the idea of an open world.
Miyamoto worked on numerous sequels to both the Mario and Zelda series. Super Mario Bros 2 was a huge success, and so was The Legend of Zelda: The Adventure of Link. These then spread to other well known titles along each series line.
In the early ‘90s Nintendo launched Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development, Headed by Miyamoto. Nintendo EAD was given 15 months to develop the game ‘F-Zero’ as a launch title for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
When Nintendo released the Nintendo 64, Miyamoto started concentrating on making games for the new console. Although this mostly consisted of previous franchises, it was still immensely successful. The first release, Super Mario 64, had a large amount of time spent on it. Originally, the idea was to have a fixed-path layout, meaning the player has to play the game in a certain order. Eventually, Miyamoto decided to have a free-roaming layout for the game, but put a few fixed-path aspects of the game in. Even though you could play any level whenever you wanted, you still had to get a certain amount of stars to progress to the Bowser battles and the other levels.
After Super Mario, which had been directed by Miyamoto, came Ocarina of Time. As part of a new direction for Nintendo EAD, Miyamoto produced The Ocarina of Time and led the team of Directors. Each Director was in charge of a different part of the game. Originally, this game was going to be played in 1st-person perspective, but when they introduced the idea of a child Link, it was decided that the character should be on the screen as well.
In the following years Miyamoto and his team produced several spin off games like Mario Kart 64 and Mario Party, as well as producing Zelda: Majora’s Mask. This new Zelda game was designed using the same engine as The Ocarina of Time, so it only took a small team 18 months to make. Unfortunately, Ocarina of Time was such a monumental success that the team were at a loss as to what could follow on from a game which sold 7 million units. They eventually settled on the 3-day gameplay system to ‘make the game more compact, while still providing deep gameplay.’
Every time that Nintendo released a new console, Miyamoto created a new game. The Zelda and Mario franchises were stretch further and further, getting stronger with each additional game.
I’ll admit, even I am surprised at how much this man has done in his career. This article is nothing but a mere summary. I’m sure that after this, you will probably agree, that this many is truly a God of gaming, a messiah to which millions owe a debt of gratitude. He has managed to create 2 of the most successful gaming franchises in the world, Mario and Zelda, and has managed to carry them on without ruining them, which happens to many game franchises.
He has also pioneered the world of gaming, dragging it from the dark ages of high-scores to the modern utopia of the open-world, free-roaming masterpiece that so many games use today. I personally think of him as the Zeus of Gaming Gods, the God of all Gods. Many will agree, and with good reason.