You may not know his name, but I’ll bet you your lunch money that you’ve encountered him at least once in your life. Okay, well, maybe not him, but his creations. In fact, you may have even played one of his games last night. And to gamers – casual or hard-core – he may be the reason why they started gaming in the first place.
So, who is this guy?
Well, let’s see. Ever heard of Mario Bros.? Donkey Kong? Zelda? All creations of Shigeru Miyamoto. Do you have a Wii system in your house? Also a Miyamoto invention. So yeah, this guy is pretty much the reason why video games still exist today.
And today also happens to be his 60th birthday! And as we all know, the Japanese take the 60th birthday very seriously.*
*Okay, so not all of you may know that. I only know because I married one.**
**Not a 60-year-old. A Japanese person. FYI.
Anyway, since it’s Miyamoto’s 60th birthday, I think he deserves a birthday toast post. Super Mario Bros. was the first Nintendo game I ever played waaaaaaaay back in the day when Atari was pretty much obsolete and the NES system was the coolest thing ever. I played the crap out of that game, changing the way I played it each time (do I warp right way? Do I warp to level 8? Should I just play every single level?) My favorite worlds were the ones that involved trees in the air that you had to jump on to get across (3 and 6). My least favorite were the ones that involved the spiky guys you could only kill with fire power (4 and above). The castle levels made me so nervous that I would break out in a sweat (until I managed to jump on that spiky dragon guy three times at the end).
Super Mario Bros. 2 was kinda weird and nothing at all like its predecessor, and I never got even close to beating the entire game. Of course the game was originally called something else – wasn’t even supposed to be a Mario game – but they slapped the Mario name on it at the last minute and it became a sequel. In this one you could pick what character you wanted to be, and I always made sure I was Princess Peach because she could fly (re: hover) for about five seconds, which was helpful when jumping over large areas. Too bad she was hella slow at everything else.
When Super Mario Bros. 3 came out (after its 90-minute commercial via the movie The Wizard), it sort of changed everything…and also made me never wanted to play the first two versions again because this third one was all kinds of awesome. The worlds were amazing (Giant Land! Pipeland! Iceland!), and Mario could do so many more things (like change into his Tanooki suit!), and there were games to play in between levels. The flying ship you had to get through at the end of each world made me even more nervous than the ridiculous castles from the first Mario game that my hands would be shaking the whole time.
In addition to The Legend of Zelda being, well, kind of adorable, it was one of the first games to use nonlinear gameplay that included riddles and puzzles for the player to solve. Honestly, I don’t remember much about Zelda except for how cute Link was – I was too busy trying to reach level 8 in the Mario games. But it was extremely popular, spawning numerous sequels and gaining a more roleplaying-type feel to the game, which is probably why it continues to be popular.
In 2006, Miyamoto introduced the world to the Wii system, which made people get off their butts and move their bodies, which was another way Miyamoto revolutionized the game industry. Suddenly your whole body was part of action, whether you’re playing the new Zelda games or challenging yourself to a game of bowling in Wii Sports.
I loved the Wii when it first came out (I still do – I just haven’t played it in a while). My husband and I spent hours playing Wii Sports, whether it was bowling or tennis or golf, and we enjoyed watching each other figure out our “Wii age” by how fit you are (I was always older than him). My husband even did yoga on the Wii for a long time, which goes to show you don’t have to sign up for a gym or classes. The Wii made gaming a physical activity, working both your mind and your body.
Miyamoto has been criticized in the past that his “casual” games don’t keep up with the “hard-core” games, but he’s said that there shouldn’t be a difference. Games are games, no matter how you categorize them. People are always going to play them no matter what. And Miyamoto is still putting out games, mostly now for the new Wii U, which will be released in the States THIS SUNDAY. Wii U will the first hi-def gaming console, and will still be compatible with the original Wii. It comes with a touchscreen and can be played on the TV or on the hand-held screen when the TV is off.
In other words, Miyamoto continues to spread his awesomeness everywhere.
So join me in raising a toast to the man of the day, who created a generation of thinkers and dreamers and strategists, and who still changes the way we play.
Happy birthday, Shigeru Miyamoto!