What's inside Nintendo's HQ
On his kids liking Sega gamesWhen you get past the reception area, does the environment help inspire the kind of creativity for which Nintendo is known?
Well, like I say, the building is simple. The staff can bring in any toys or action figures they like, but we have a system whereby designers switch desks according to whatever project they’re working on. Because there are no fixed placements, people don’t have that many personal belongings around them. I think, if a child were to visit and look at the space, it might seem a bit boring? The unique creative work takes place within each person. It doesn’t require a unique-looking environment. Obviously, we have all the equipment to do our work: motion-capture studios, sound studios. And we have a well-lit cafeteria, too, with good food.
Violence in video gamesWhich Sega games did they enjoy?
They liked the driving games. Out Run. They also played a lot of Space Harrier.
Now, the other day, I had the chance to play with my grandchild. He was playing a Nintendo game called Captain Toad, and his eyes were shining; he was really into the experience. So I could see how a parent might be concerned about how immersed their child can become in a game. But, in my game design, I always want to encourage a relationship between a parent and child that is fundamentally nurturing. I was helping my grandchild navigate the 3-D world inside the game, and I could see the 3-D structure being built inside this five-year-old’s head. I thought, This could help his growth as well.
On passing down the spirit of NintendoThere’s a story about you that’s been widely shared recently. It’s about the Nintendo 64 game Goldeneye, which was based on the James Bond film. The game’s director, Martin Hollis, told me that, when you first tested the game, you expressed sadness at the number of people Bond shoots down, and suggested to him that, during the end credits, he make the player visit each victim in their hospital bed. It’s a sweet story that says something about who you are, and what you believe games should be. How do you feel about the fact that the medium has come to be dominated by guns and shooting?
I think humans are wired to experience joy when we throw a ball and hit a target, for example. That’s human nature. But, when it comes to video games, I have some resistance to focussing on this single source of pleasure. As human beings, we have many ways to experience fun. Ideally, game designers would explore those other ways. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad that there are studios that really home in on that simple mechanic, but it’s not ideal to have everybody doing it just because that kind of game sells well. It would be great if developers found new ways to elicit joy in their players.
Beyond that, I also resist the idea that it’s O.K. to simply kill all monsters. Even monsters have a motive, and a reason for why they are the way they are. This is something I have thought about a lot. Say you have a scene in which a battleship sinks. When you look at it from the outside, it might be a symbol of victory in battle. But a filmmaker or writer might shift perspective to the people on the ship, to enable the viewer to see, close up, the human impact of the action. It would be great if video-game makers took more steps to shift the perspective, instead of always viewing a scene from the most obvious angle.
Nintendo existed long before you or I were born and will, I’m sure, exist long after both you and I are gone. What quality do you think Nintendo needs to protect in order to keep being Nintendo?
As the company has gained new competitors over the years, it’s given us an opportunity to think deeply about what makes Nintendo Nintendo. [President] Shuntaro Furukawa is currently in his forties, and [general manager] Shinya Takahashi is in his fifties; we are moving toward a position that will insure the spirit of Nintendo is passed down successfully. I am not concerned about that anymore. Now I’m focussing on the need to continue to find new experiences. This has always been what interested and excited me about the medium: not perfecting the old but discovering the new.