LOS ANGELES — When Shigeru Miyamoto talks, millions of gamers listen. The creator of Nintendo’s “Mario” and “Zelda” series and the company’s lead game designer had a lot to discuss at this year’s E3 — most obviously the radically new Nintendo console, the Wii (see “Nintendo On Unique Wii Controller: ’Playing Is Believing’ “ ). On Thursday of E3 week he took a seat backstage at Nintendo’s massive booth and helped MTV News make sense of the Wii, and also talked about his newest “Super Mario” adventure and even gave a little insight into what makes the world’s most acclaimed game designer tick. Throughout the interview Miyamoto waved around the two-handed motion-sensitive Wii controller — the remote in his right hand, the nunchaku attachment in his left — so our questions began with some of the unusual features of those unusual gadgets.
MTV: You’ve talked about wanting to use as few controller buttons as possible in your game designs. Where did this idea come from?
Miyamoto: When we first launched the Nintendo Entertainment System, people would look at that controller and immediately know which buttons to press [to achieve the desired effect] on the screen. There were very few buttons and it was very simple; it was very different from computer games where you’ve got this keyboard in front of you and you really don’t know which button to press to get started. So we saw a very big difference between those two audiences. But gradually, as video games have evolved, the controllers have become more evolved and they’ve added more buttons because we want to allow the players to do more and more things. With the motion-sensing and the pointing and these new types of interfaces on the Wii and the nunchaku, we’re able to give players the freedom to do the types of actions that they want to do in video games without so many complicated buttons — thereby making it both intuitive for longtime game players and for people who have never played video games before.
MTV: How did the idea for having a speaker in the controller come about?
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Miyamoto: The Wii remote requires people to use gestures to play video games. For those gestures, you have to give the player feedback so that they understand that what they’re doing is causing a reaction. One of the ways we’re doing that is the built-in rumble feature in the Wii remote. Additionally, we thought by adding the speaker we could continue to give the player more feedback. With “Zelda” you can hear the sound of the bowstring draw back [from the controller]. It gets kind of a [string-tightening] sound and as you release [an arrow], you hear the “thwip.” And then you hear the sound travel to the TV. And so depth of sound is another way to give the user the feeling that their actions are having a direct response in the game.
MTV: You’ve talked about the gamer stereotype — a solitary figure in a dark room with only the reflection of the TV screen illuminating their faces — and your intention for the Wii to change that image (see “Nintendo Fans Swarm Mario’s Father During New York Visit” ). You’ve been in the gaming industry a long time — when did that stereotype start to concern you?
Miyamoto: I’ve actually been concerned about that image for a long time because we’ve been seeing it for a long time. You may recall a book [about Nintendo’s history] called “Game Over” that came out many years ago. That may have been when I first started growing concerned about that image because in the beginning there’s a photo of a child playing a [game on a] TV in kind of a darkened room. We’ve been looking at that image since the days of the NES and I think it’s important we break out of that image … I think it’s time to break free from that stereotypical definition of what a gamer is, because until we do, we’ll never truly be part of the national or worldwide culture.
MTV: What would you like the new image of the gamer to be?
Miyamoto: It would be similar to some of the photos we’re showing of people playing the Wii here at the show — which is people of all ages kind of standing up, having a lot of fun and moving around. It’s a very active and fun-looking image and that’s the type of image I would like to see video gaming viewed as.
MTV: Last year at E3, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata promised us that you were working on some new games for launch. When will we be able to see them?
Miyamoto: This isn’t [a new original game, but] I’m directly involved in “Super Mario Galaxy.” Apart from that, I am involved in the “Wii Sports” series. Although these really aren’t new characters so to speak, the “Wii Sports” series features these little models which you can put your own faces on … and then you may start to see those characters, with faces you’ve created, appearing in different games on the Wii system. Beyond that, it’s true that I am working on some different ideas. It’s just a little bit too early for me to show those off yet.
MTV: What is the basic experience you’re trying to convey with “Super Mario Galaxy”?
Miyamoto: Our biggest focus with “Super Mario Galaxy” is having different spheres or planets Mario can visit, with the idea being if the planet gets very, very large the scenery will look more like he’s running across a plane. But if the planet is very small it almost looks like he’s running around a ball. You can essentially run over the spheres almost endlessly. But when you do that you’re moving in a 3-D space but without the typical camera issues that we’ve had in 3-D games in the past. What that allows us to do is take a game like “Mario” that has been a very jump-based game in the past, and turn it into a game that is more [about] Mario running around a lot and going to different places and kind of enjoying that. [The game will also] take advantage of the Wii remote’s pointing capabilities to allow you to directly interact with things on the screen by pointing at them or clicking on something to get Mario to go exactly where you want to go. In that sense, I think it’s going to allow for a much more intuitive camera system and much more intuitive control scheme that will allow people who have never played a 3-D “Mario” game before to feel comfortable enjoying “Super Mario Galaxy.”
MTV: In the past you’ve talked about some of your influences — for instance, your garden influenced you while you were working on the GameCube game “Pikmin” — and you’ve talked about music inspiring you, as well. Do current events affect your work, things like the war in Iraq or the environment or anything you read in the newspaper?
Miyamoto: There haven’t been very many examples of anything like that that I can think of. Generally, I’ll have a different or unique idea and then somehow find a way to relate that back to experiences that I had, and then draw from those experiences to kind of flesh the idea out. But I can’t think of any instances recently where current events have given birth to a unique idea that I’ve had.
MTV: Are you a political person?
Miyamoto: I don’t read the newspaper from front-to-back but I am very interested in current events and what’s going on.
MTV: In the new trailer for Hideo Kojima’s “Metal Gear Solid 4″ the lead character, Solid Snake, appears much older than he used to be. It’s clear that aging is on Kojima’s mind and influencing his approach to games. As your career progresses, has getting older affected your tastes and approach to making games?
Miyamoto: Not really. Not anything I can think of in particular, maybe because I don’t necessarily feel like I’m growing older all that much. Maybe as I’ve grown older my desire to create software that appeals to a much broader audience has increased.
For more E3 coverage from MTV News and MTV Games, check out e3.mtv.com.