Electioneering

I haven’t had much time to blog lately because of work and some other commitments, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the election, and who I really like now that its shifting into full speed ahead.

I was going to start researching into them to start thinking about who I'd like to choose when I stopped myself and realized that I know nothing about their politics, you know, besides which party they belong to.  What’s interesting about that is that I watch and read the news much more than the average person.  Even more interesting is that I live in Boston, which was caught in the blast radius of the 500 megaton TRP carpet bombing of political ads coinciding with the New Hampshire primary a couple weeks ago. 

So here’s the problem:  they’re spending a lot of time and effort on buying ads and inserting ready made sound bites into their speeches, but I have no clue what any of them a actually stand for.      

Unlike most Americans, I plan on finding out before I vote, but many voters are not going to go digging for information, which means they are going to be voting not based on politics, but on whichever romanticized version of a real life candidate they “like” the most, or maybe based on whatever party they follow like a football team. 

It seems to me that something is horribly broken; especially given the incredible array of communications methods campaigns have at their disposal.  Maybe this is all part of their plan.  Maybe they don’t care if people like their candidate’s politics or if they think he’s a sharp dresser … so long as they get elected.  Which is fair, they’re just doing their jobs, but then that points a finger squarely at the voters for allowing emotional electioneering at expense of any sort of rational platforming.  This could mean that the thinking of elections being popularity contests is true.  And if that’s the case, even in these menacing times, I can't help but feel a little bit alarmed. 

Nintendo ‘ s Visionary of Design

Shigeru_miyamoto

I've been playing Super Mario Galaxy and reminiscing on the original
Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong before it…and then I remembered
some old survey results showing the Mario was more popular world-wide
than Mickey Mouse.  He's also recently been found to be more recognized
than Paris Hilton, Justin Timberlake and the Prime Minister of Canada
(but who isn't?). 

Mario was created by video game pioneer Shigero Miyamoto.  Not only did he create the Mario franchise, but he's created a huge number of legendary titles such as Donkey Kong and the Legend
of Zelda series.  His knack for building the game franchises that keep
Nintendo competitive have led to him being called the father of modern
video games, earned him a spot on Time's list of the most influential 100 people,
and be the first inductee into the Academy of Interactive Arts and
Sciences' Hall of Fame.

I've had a mixed experience with Nintendo.  I was always a Nintendo fan
as a kid, but after buying the Nintendo 64 and watching all of the
really great games appear on Playstation, I sat the GameCube out.
Nintendo always seemed like they were catering to little kids while the
other guys were cornering the teen and adult market with games like
Grand Theft Auto and the Metal Gear series. I used to think they were
just making bad mistakes, that the industry had passed them by, but
after reading through a bunch of old Shigero Miyamoto interviews, it
is apparent that they are the only one of the three big console players
with a clear brand direction.  It has caused some setbacks for them, but overall its been a tremendous help for their business moving into the future.  And while Built to Last suggests
companies don't need a visionary leader, I think in the case of
Nintendo, they're brand is very much tied to the vision of one man. 

His interviews are full of insightful nuggets that I think transcend
his industry and could prove to be surprisingly applicable to the ad
industry as it exists today.  Here's a lazily assembled list of those
that I thought were the most poignant, especially in this age of agency
commoditization and new media: 


On designing with the player in mind, and innovating for them rather than making what they already want:

"I could make Halo. It's not that I couldn't design that game. It's
just that I choose not to. One thing about my game design is that I
never try to look for what people want and then try to make that game
design. I always try to create new experiences that are fun to play."

"Customers
want unique experiences. However, people tend to flock to things which
are easy to understand. It isn't always easy to make something that's
both unique and easy to understand. The current situation is that games
are everywhere now. Games themselves aren't unique anymore, so you
can't sell on the simple basis of being a video game anymore. We've
constantly had to abandon things we've done in the past. Unless we can
change ourselves repeatedly, we can't create anything new and
interesting"

"But most of all, the Nintendo creator tries to imagine "the face of the
player while he or she is playing the game," and in making the
experience happy – entirely a positive feedback loop. Titles such as
Wii Sports are the latest versions of Miyamoto's vision along those
lines. He particularly referenced Wii Play, which has received some
poor reviews in the West from some, charging: "Game reviewers out there
need to add a new category when scoring games… how fun it is for
people who don't play them."


On technology as a means of expression rather than just an end in itself:

"Game designers are apt to boast of the technical aspects of their
games, and I, too, have fallen into this trap. Speaking of my own case,
I tend to highlight new technologies when I am less confident about the
new ideas I am putting forward in the game, and later, I always regret
doing this. It is important for us to remember that technology can
inspire new ideas and help us realize those ideas, but it should do so
from the background."

"I want game designers to be the designers
who make technology their tools, and use it to express their own
individuality, their own unique-ness and their own rhythm, as well as
the entertainers who make this world a more enjoyable one."


On the importance of Nintendo being a unique company:

"As far as the idea that maybe Sony is doing things similar to Nintendo,
to be honest, I would be happy the more companies that I see that that
tried to do like Nintendo is doing and break out and do something
different. I'd been very worried that the videogame industry had been
progressing in too much of a straight line, all in the same direction.
So the more that other companies can get out and try to break beyond
that and move in different directions, that makes me happy for the
industry as a whole."

"Well, this is something that struck me at this year's E3… but
I've been to Japanese game expos in the past. And it's been the same
exact thing for 20 years, but for some reason the game industry always
puts out the same stuff it's released before at events like these. It's
totally normal for them to put out things that are the same as last
time. American companies are definitely getting good at game creation,
but to me it's the exact same as last year. I wouldn't let stuff like
that pass. U.S. games from an era or two ago weren't so well put
together, but they were interesting because there was so much variety
in what they made."

"There are many companies today that can be compared to Nintendo.
But I think that Nintendo should be unique and become a company that
cannot be compared with the other corporations. I believe that Nintendo
will loved by the public if it can maintain that philosophy."


On inspiring designers:

"Miyamoto, says Koizumi, is intentionally vague because he wants to
inspire creativity in his designers. "I feel like he's making us work
to solve these puzzles on purpose, because it's a process that unlocks
the creativity on our side."

"Koizumi's role in this process is
to "cut down that abstraction by giving a few examples of different
solutions, then sending them over to Miyamoto to see what kind of
reactions they get."


On the importance of innovation in the entertainment industry today:

"Video games have become far more popular than in the past, but I
feel that we have just been repeating the same events
again and again in this unique market. Even with Zelda
I did not feel that sense of freshness that I had with the original
Super Mario Bros. I want to make efforts to convey the charm of video
games to the general public that is currently outside the reach of the
industry in which we do business. This is because I really want to feel
the unique zest of the entertainment industry, where one simple idea
can create an unexpected social phenomenon."

"If we don't take risks, we
can't innovate and create new forms of entertainment. If we challenged
the established norm, meaning ourselves as well as others, but didn't
wholly succeed, we don't consider it a mistake."

"Yes. After
all, the entertainment business has to keep reinventing itself or it
will not persist. When we speak from the viewpoint of the customer,
they always want something you can't get from anyone else. I just
talked a moment ago about our fine-tuning processes. We used to be able
to do this to cater to the veteran game players. But, when we say
fine-tuning now, we have to make sure it's accessible to both the
veterans and the novice players who are just getting into gaming. It's
become very different nowadays from when we could sell massive amounts
of games of any sort."