Miyomoto New Yorker interview

Today The New Yorker published an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto. I figured I'd share it here for discussion.


I dont know if I agree about serious subjects being better left to passive entertainments, but I can respect his desire to focus on cheer and laughter.


The interesting thing about interactive media is that it allows the players to engage with a problem, conjure a solution, try out that solution, and then experience the results. Then they can go back to the thinking stage and start to plan out their next move. This process of trial and error builds the interactive world in their minds. This is the true canvas on which we design—not the screen. That’s something I always keep in mind when designing games.

I think contemporary nintendo has been successful making the kind of games he describes. I personally find their output less and less engaging, but am glad kids+younger people enjoy them. I think it's good that he focuses on that rather than trying to appeal to the broad kid<->manchild “market.”

I think there is a pretty good discussion to be had about games not being very good for serious topics.

In a _certain context_ I completely agree because of the interactive nature of video games there's always an opportunity for some moment to be completely ruined by some visual glitch, a repetitive VO line said at the wrong moment, or some mechanic that makes the whole thing entirely stupid. Press F to pay respects is probably the most famous example of this. Though I'm sure everyone here can mention many others!

I think if you go about designing serious moments with the understanding that games have all these uncontrollable elements then you can make something that is compelling. Though most examples people give of games with serious moments are games that basically try and treat that moment like a film. Or would have been better as a film or book. Or would have better if the creator had read a book, watched a film, or just didn't touch a topic they knew nothing about.

User engagement, and I guess agency and accountability creates enormous potential for covering serious topics in games. It‘s very rare that passive media can make you feel personally responsible, but that is certainly achievable in games. Some games have explored these themes with varying levels of efficacy… recently TLoU2 was trying real hard to make the player feel bad about the horrible things the MCs were doing, I haven’t played it myself but it doesn‘t seem like that aspect really landed for most people. MGS3 has that moment where you realise the game is waiting for you to pull the trigger. Bioshock explores themes of illusory player agency as well.

I guess this is a bit of a digression but it’s got me wondering what games have handled it best.

I think that games can absolutely channel serious topics as well as more passive media. However, they have to do it in a different way. It has to be innovative and native to the medium, rather than attempting to export it from an existing passive medium. People have already given several great examples of how this has been done effectively, and I'll add Undertale to that list, which uses a meta-narrative about how video games traditionally function as a way of making a statement about serious themes like grief, found family, loneliness, and violence. Some counter-examples exist too in which video games have tried to simply import the techniques of other mediums (usually film) and fail to achieve their thematic goals. Detroit:Become Human comes to mind.

I‘ve recently been playing pathologic 2 for the first time and so far I think it’s been doing a fine job addressing some difficult serious subjects though its mechanics and not just through the overt narrative.

If I had any modding expertise I would be adding Miyamoto's hospital handshakes ending to Goldeneye.

Yes the cinema-imitative strand of “serious” games is some real dumb dogshit.

@Moon#11451 this is a great example of a game that enmeshes a player in its themes/narrative/mechanics/audiovisuals to an incredibly effective degree, such that you get a real text-configurative experience, like being heavily engrossed in a novel or film. That kind of close connection, at least in my opinion.

Too bad the interviewer declined to get miyamoto's thoughts re Pathologic 2. I'll send him an email.


@shane#11438 some mechanic that makes the whole thing entirely stupid

There's some interesting writing about the experience and meaning of I guess what you might call the "post game content" of Gone Home.


warning: long ass braniac essay

I found this part interesting: “That said, I try to insure [sic] that nothing I make wastes the players’ time by having them do things that aren’t productive or creative.”

I wonder where the desire to show all those god darned placards everywhere comes from. I guess they've reduced that compulsion but that has struck me as a Very Nintendo thing, maybe it's not a Very Miyamoto thing though. What he says certainly goes against the "did you know you can press A to read signs" kind of thing.

As for the grief thing, I agree that passive media is better suited to it, and games that try to make me feel sad are often presumptuous or come off as pretentious and other unsavory pre-words, and feel manipulative in a way that movies don't always. I think you can create much more complex emotions in games and throw grief or sadness into the mix though, and come out pretty well. It's not something I'm particularly interested in putting forward in my games but I am interested in that kind of "staring into the middle distance for a while" emotion.

Ultimately this interview made me want to read an interview/discussion between miyamoto and other game designers. Get him and yasuhara in a room, or yoot saito, or even swery. Or me heh heh (sunglasses face). that would be an interview for a different audience of course, but I'd love for someone to have the opportunity to really dig in there with this guy.

Sidenote: I asked simon parkin and he said the new yorker's house style is to change "ensure" to "insure" for some wild reason. what the heck!! the "focussed" thing is them too. I find this upsetting!!


In-house style guides for legacy media can be so frustrating! The New Yorker uses up-style capitalization for titles of things, except for short words; so we get The Legend of Zelda. But short words are capitalized when they‘re verbs, as in There Will Be Blood. And there’s often weird Britishisms, as you noted. I wonder what the expected life span of a print media copy editor is?