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.
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."