Famed designer Shigeru Miyamoto seems worried that success and growth robs developers of their creative force.
“I think that in the beginning everyone felt responsible for what they’d made. But then we started calculating sales, and thinking about cost performance. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that, but somehow it all becomes someone else’s responsibility at that point,” Miyamoto said in the latest Iwata Asks.
Asked about his own “really intense sense of ownership” and insistence on perfection, Miyamoto said it dates back to his years as an aspiring cartoonist, in which the reception of his work was the ultimate metric of success.
Miyamoto spoke strongly against developers describing the progress of projects as “passable” or “okay”, preferring them to take ownership and work to their own standards.
“So sometimes when we’re presenting what we’ve made, we end up saying, ‘I guess it’s okay, right?’ And I think that’s really unacceptable,” he said.
“When someone asks, ‘How is it?’ I think that it takes more courage to answer, ‘It’s pretty good.’
“Compared to that, ‘passable’ doesn’t really tell you anything. Is it 10 percent out of 100? 80 percent? 60 percent? It doesn’t even tell you that. ‘Passable’ takes away everyone’s responsibility.”
Explaining further, Miyamoto drew a colourful analogy.
“I hate when someone’s like, ‘Well, at least I was able to save face.’ What good does saving face do you?”
“A long time ago, this pro baseball player popped out while his team was losing, but he was sort of smirking on his way back because the fly ball went far out to the fence. I couldn’t figure out why the coach didn’t yell at him for it. Because the viewers are bummed out that he was out. As a professional player, you expect him to feel sorry for getting out,” he said, explaining that the player felt his long hit was acceptable despite not achieving the desired result.
“I hate when someone’s like, ‘Well, at least I was able to save face.’ What good does saving face do you?
“Even within our company, once someone lands the title and position of Director, you have to start thinking about budgets and prestige and you lose some of that passion. I really hate that, the lack of desperation.”
Shigeru Miyamoto created Mario, Zelda, Pikmin, Nintendogs and half a dozen of Nintendo’s other top properties, and is considered one of the giants of the industry.
The full conversation, available through the link above, is a lengthy but worthwhile read for its insight into the working and creative practices of some of the people who have most directly shaped the games industry.