Shigeru Miyamoto: Nintendo's Version of Walt Disney
A recent New York Times profile of Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of various Nintendo franchises, gives some insight on the man's history and creative process. Miyamoto designed the Mario and Legend of Zelda game series (among others), and his continuing work at Nintendo involves hit after hit. His designs are directly responsible for bringing Nintendo to international prominence, and through each generation of video game technology, he continues to focus on what's fun about games: play. By creating iconic characters in genuinely fun games, Miyamoto brings lifelong fans to his games -- Nintendo's Wii console effectively sells itself, as friends share its social games with each other, passing the fun-baton (literally and figuratively) from person to person. Miyamoto's Wii Fit promises to make exercise fun, bringing a lighthearted element of play to what has traditionally been perceived as a chore. From the NYT profile:
Through all his games, his designs are marked by an accumulation of care and detail. There is nothing objective about why a goofy guy in blue overalls like Mario should appeal to so many, just as there is nothing objective in how Disney could have built a company on talking animals. Rather, the reason I stood in line at a pizzeria more than 20 years ago to play Super Mario Bros., the reason Mr. Miyamoto is almost a living god in the game world, is that his games have some ineffable lure that inspires you to drop just one more quarter (or, these days, to stay on the couch just one more hour). Just as a film is not measured by the quality of its special effects, a game is not measured merely by its graphics. This concept is lost on many designers, but not on Mr. Miyamoto. And just as a film buff might prefer to watch an old black-and-white movie instead of, say, "Iron Man," even Mr. Miyamoto's earliest games hold up as worthy diversions. (The story of two men battling for the world record in Donkey Kong was made into a film, "The King of Kong," last year.)
Read the rest for a look into the mind behind the games on which I misspent my youth. See also: Miyamoto's Wikipedia page, which includes more details on his other hit games.