The Don't Quit Podcast

What We Can Learn from Shigeru Miyamoto

Shigeru Miyamoto is most famous for being the mastermind of Nintendo, he helped create the most iconic characters in video game history such as Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, and Star Fox. Not only is he the beloved video game designer in the world, but he is the reason why video games exist.

How does he create all these different video games while being the face of the world's most successful video game company? Here’s some key tips:

Learn From Your Employees

Miyamoto trusts his intuition with his team so they can function on their own. Being a leader for over 40 years, Miyamoto learned that he’s not always right and he can't be a master at everything. He embraces this because he knows everyone has something to learn from.

“What I am trying to do is not to create an atmosphere where they feel like, ‘I will do better than Miyamoto does’ or ‘I will make a game just to please Miyamoto.’” he says.

“Based on my own experiences, I try to encourage directors to have courage and work toward the goal they set, and pose questions to them about whether the game is actually delivering the experience to the player as envisioned. 

I try not to get too deeply involved in the content of the games they’re developing.”

Miyamoto has always been more of a mentor than a boss. Instead of telling people what to do, he wants them to believe they can and reaches success through them.

Money Isn’t Everything

Being a creative professional there is a passion of creating experiences that overcomes the love of money in a business. Instead of chasing the dollar, Miyamoto chases the next experience, because he knows people would want that because people buy on experiences, not things.

What is peculiar about this business is that being creative is one thing, but having the mind of a marketer is another. 

This is the entertainment industry, so game designers have to have a creative mind and also have to be able to stand up against the marketing people at their company — otherwise they cannot be creative. 

There are not that many people who fit that description. But when we are strictly looking at creative minds, I think there are a lot out there. I think if they can have more freedom in their offices to make the games they want we would make much better games.

While every successful business values marketing, Miyamoto doesn’t allow it to dictate what he should do.

Gain Inspiration Everywhere

A problem creatives have also been looking for the next spark that will lead them to the next best creation. Miyamoto is always inspiring while being inspired, and he does this by looking outside of his medium. Instead of playing other video games, he looks to his passions:

When I was younger, I grew up in the countryside of Japan. And what that meant was I spent a lot of my time playing in the rice paddies and exploring the hillsides and having fun outdoors. When I got into the upper elementary school ages — that was when I really got into hiking and mountain climbing. 

There’s a place near Kobe where there’s a mountain, and you climb the mountain, and there’s a big lake near the top of it. We had gone on this hiking trip and climbed up the mountain, and I was so amazed — it was the first time I had ever experienced hiking up this mountain and seeing this big lake at the top.

To create a new standard, you have to be up for that challenge and really enjoy it.

And I drew on that inspiration when we were working on the Legend of Zelda game and we were creating this grand outdoor adventure where you go through these narrowed confined spaces and come upon this great lake. 

And so it was around that time that I really began to start drawing on my experiences as a child and bringing that into game development…

After I turned 40, I took up swimming and became very enthusiastic about swimming as a way of exercise. And right after that was when we made Super Mario 64, and I drew on a lot of my experience swimming in creating the underwater swimming scenes with Mario in that game.

Inspiration comes from everywhere and the only way to find is to experience it.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Nintendo’s success and failures were based on not doing what everyone else is doing. The Wii was built with motion detection, a technology that their compatition: Microsoft nor Sony used.

"I think when you talk about competing against others, the problem is that you refer to something that’s been done already and try to beat it."

"Rather than looking at what other companies are doing, the focus at Nintendo is on uniqueness. Providing new means of entertainment is the important thing."

It’s easy to compare others and a need to justify yourself over others. Miyamoto knows he’s on his own path of success and isn’t afraid to go against the grain.

What Can You Learn From Shigeru Miyamoto?


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