What Nintendo Gets Right by Keeping the Game Industry Weird

I’m preparing a segment for my project that explores what Nintendo gets right that everyone else seems to get wrong… landed on this article in the LA Times with an interview of Shigeru Miyamoto.

Now in his early 60s, Miyamoto is something of a goofball himself. Mention the recent “Super Mario 3D World,” which enabled Mario and Co. to turn into felines, and Miyamoto will use his fingers to mimic cat ears and meow.

“Nintendo isn’t one simple element of an overall gaming industry,” Miyamoto explained through a translator at the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), North America’s largest video game trade show, in Los Angeles. “I really think there needs to be a Nintendo genre, that’s almost its own entity.”

Miyamoto talks of designing games as making performance art.

“It’s not that I don’t like serious stories or that I couldn’t make one, but currently in the video game industry you see a lot of game designers who are working really hard to make their games seem really cool,” Miyamoto said. “For a lot of us at Nintendo, it’s difficult to decide what cool is. In fact, it’s a lot easier for us to laugh at ourselves. It’s almost as if we’re performers. Our way of performing is by creating these fun, odd and goofy things.”

I’ll be exploring a lot about the finer points of Nintendo and how, in the details, they manage to create properties that are more complex and fine tuned than just about anything else out there. Great read. 

Orbiting, In Earnest

I’ve joined Orbital Boot Camp for the summer for a 12 week program to launch a side project of mine. What this means:

1. I’m about to get publicly nerdy and I’m excited about that. I’m a lifelong enthusiast for games. However I grew up during a time where playing games was considered a juvenile hobby and, to most, a big waste of time. I never really felt that way. I’m going to take that enthusiasm, along with my design background and put together (aspirationally speaking) a mixed media approach at exploring games, the culture of play and the deep experiences we have with them. 

2. This is just a slice of what I, over time, plan on bringing to the art form. I’ll test the waters with audio and visual content. Depending on what I learn about myself in the process, there are more projects in the pipeline (or at least in my sketch book). 

3. I’m currently working alone on this, but I hope that by the end of this 12 weeks I will have connected with others and built relationships with a diverse group of minds who all have great things to say about the medium.

4. It’s very important to me that this production makes games accessible and interesting to those who aren’t just enthusiasts. I’ve felt, for a long time, that the way we present games as a medium tends to keep a lot of people at an arm’s length. I hope to aid in changing that. I want people to be comfortable with games and ignore the pre-constructed stigmas that come with them. 

5. There will be mistakes. There will be awkwardness. There will be iteration. Most of all, there will be passion and genuine care for the content that’s being released. For me this is more like an art project, not a business. I haven’t considered making money at this point and am solely focused on producing content that is worthy to serve as a record of the beauty in games. 

6. I will be promoting and communicating my love for games and the discoveries I make throughout on Twitter and Tumblr. It will be a mixed bag of info from this project as well as all the other things I’m working on. Follow me if you’d like to follow the process.

7. Feedback is welcome. All the way from my process to delivery. Everyone is invited. 

Being frank, this project is as much about the process as it is about the final outcome. I need to learn at every step. More to come soon! 

Stop Counting Pages, or How to Get Lost.

This weekend, I opened up a book that I bought a few days ago. It’s likely the thickest book I’ve ever held in one hand, carrying 1,300 pages of raw fantasy geekery of the most praiseworthy kind. It’s one of those unpleasant-to-hold-open-for-the-first-150-pages types of books, awkward in your hands when you aren’t quite close enough to the middle of the book to crack the binding and fully expose its pages. Feeling prematurely proud of this unwieldy tome, I showed it off to my wife. She gave me a particularly disarming smirk, vaporizing any of my misplaced pride and pointed out that I unnecessarily obsess over page numbers.

She’s right. When I start to read, I immediately calculate how far I’ve gone, how far I think I want to go, and how long the complete book will be. It’s a habit I’ve always had. You could say I think more about completing the book than about getting sucked in, losing myself to a good story. It seems I have one foot half in the door and the other half out if I’m always watching the page number. It’s a bad habit that has been subconsciously cultivated over years. I’ve always done it.

I also don’t finish many books.

I imagine, in my creative work, there are dozens of stories I’ve missed out on because I’ve been thinking about the benchmarks to achieve completion more than getting lost in the pursuit of said stories. Sure I’ve given my best work, but I don’t know if I always have been lost enough in my creative pursuits. A former design mentor of mine once told me that you’re only as good as your most obscure resources. He wanted me to learn to get lost, seek meaning and be concerned about more than visual appeal. Wisely, he encouraged me to find messaging that others would rarely seek.

There are an innumerably large amount of talented creators out there. We are all too pleased to believe that we can rise to the top just based on talent alone. Some will, many won’t. We frequently find the quickest route to inspiration, thinking about hitting deadlines and working fast. We all skim the same surface of an immeasurably deep ocean of information in this world, making discoveries rare and repackaging familiar experiences a norm. We gather in communities of like minds with encouraging words, hoping to be confidently prod forward so we don’t have to face the exciting but frightening fact that there are a vast number of solutions to access. Pragmatism tempers ambitions, as it often should. Our talent is wasted on shallow experimentation and quickly accessible solutions.

Yet we far too infrequently get lost. Those who truly get lost, who really get out into the world and explore on a deeper level than what they can access online in 10 minutes of searching a few key sites, are becoming few and far between. There’s an enormous opportunity for adventurous creatives who aren’t afraid of going into the unknown. Even big risk takers—the romanticized entrepreneurs who aspire themselves world changers—are often setting out with a plan and some goals in mind. They are willing to make a journey, but are often looking for a particular answer.

Great work will always operate within prescribed constraints. However, to counter those limitations it will meet challenges with a fluid and bold creative process. Habits should be supplemented with exploration. Briefs should be met with questions and challenges. Inspiration should be met with a wider range of media and environments. We should be willing to consider that a solution should be an open door rather than a closed one, opening our minds to getting lost just long enough to make whatever it is that we put out there become greater than we could have on our own.

For me, it means I have to stop counting the pages, sizing up the budgets or watching the calendar so much that it keeps me from taking a bit of time to be somewhere where I’m strategically uncomfortable.