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A Miyamoto design pillar: Forget characters, focus on experiences

"We approach it not from, 'What is the next character?' But really, 'What is there within this structure of video games... from which we can create new play structures?'"
"We approach it not from, 'What is the next character?' But really, 'What is there within this structure of video games... from which we can create new play structures?'"
-Nintendo's irreplaceable Shigeru Miyamoto once again explains in a recent interview that he doesn't think of games in terms of IPs or characters, but in terms of how a player is feeling second-to-second. I've been working on a side project these last few weeks that involves reading every interview with Miyamoto I can get my hands on, going back 25 years or so, and a recurring theme through all those years is just how little emphasis the man who is more often than not referred to as "the creator of Mario and Donkey Kong" puts on his characters. "I try not so much to create new characters and worlds but to create new game-play experiences," he told Time in 2007. "If a new experience is better suited to a new type of character or world than one of our existing franchises, then we might create a new character or world around it." And this, it seems, has always been true of his design philosophy. When Toshihiko Nakago, president of Nintendo's longtime programming contractor SRD, recently dug up the earliest design specs for what eventually became 1986's The Legend of Zelda, he found them in a binder called "Adventure Mario." Miyamoto didn't start Zelda by coming up with an elf-like character and the princess he was trying to rescue, he started with the game itself, calling on his go-to "everyman" character to act in the starring role until he solidified how the game felt and then, by necessity, he designed a character that better suited it.

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