A rare look at the compassionate game design of Shigeru Miyamoto

“I try to insure that nothing I make wastes the players’ time by having them do things that aren’t productive or creative.”

– For Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto, designing engaging games starts with respecting the player experience.

As noted in the opening paragraphs of The New Yorker’s recently published interview with Shigeru Miyamoto, its not often that the elusive designer sits down for a candid conversation like the one captured in the story.

In it, Miyamoto shares a rare look at how moments with his family reflect what’s important to him as a designer, offering fellow game makers a peek at how kindness, respect, and warmth inform the design of some of Nintendo’s most iconic games.

Following his own experiences as a parent, Miyamoto muses on the designer’s responsibility to create an engaging game without demanding too much of a person’s life. For him, creating that experience boils down to designing to provoke a player’s innate curiosity without taking advantage of it.

“It’s kind of hard to build a game where the player can quit anytime. Human beings are driven by curiosity and interest. When we encounter something that inspires those emotions, it’s natural to become captivated,” Miyamoto tells The New Yorker.

“That said, I try to insure that nothing I make wastes the players’ time by having them do things that aren’t productive or creative. I might eliminate the kinds of scenes they’ve seen in every other game, or throw out clichés, or work to reduce loading times. I don’t want to rob time from the player by introducing unnecessary rules and whatnot.

“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.”

Find the full interview on The New Yorker for more from Miyamoto on his leadership style, design considerations, and desire to foster kindness in the world.

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