EDITORIAL: Miyamoto on Game Violence Conversation

Friday, March 15th, 2013

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By


Shigeru Miyamoto

In an interview published online yesterday, The New York Times asked legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto the following question:

What do you think of the conversation we’ve been having in the United States about games and violence since the elementary-school shooting in Newtown, [Connecticut], in December?

To this Miyamoto replied:

That’s a difficult question. As someone who creates games and understands that children play those games, it’s a subject that I’m very sensitive about. We’ve seen through a variety of media that when people see or experience violence on screen, there is a certain amount of entertainment that people get out of that.

Mario is a character that, I feel, doesn’t need to use guns. But when it comes to violence, you then have to ask, “So, if Mario doesn’t use a gun, is it appropriate for Mario to hit people?” And, in fact, when we were creating the game Super Smash Bros., we had very long and deep discussions about whether or not we thought it was appropriate for Mario to hit people.

That, to me, was a powerful statement. In an age when companies are desperately trying to “mature” their franchises to reach an adult audience, Miyamoto thinks about children first and entertainment’s effect on them. Originally this was simply going to be an article focusing on this one quote from Miyamoto, but at then end of the article I felt that I had more to say than just the news and was encouraged to delve farther into this.

Miyamoto

When I saw this quote, I concluded that Mr. Miyamoto thinks that violent entertainment can have a negative influence on the consumers of such entertainment, to the point that he doesn’t want his character to be seen to be violent in any context. Not even in the over-the-top fighting game, Super Smash Bros. However, this judgment was based on that quote exclusively. For most of my gaming years, I relied exclusively on Nintendo Power (RIP) for my gaming news and information. This has changed in the last few years, but I’ve missed most of Mr. Miyamoto’s other statements about violent games, so I decided to look them up.

In an interview with Talk Asia, Mr. Miyamoto had this to say:

As a kid, you were really into “manga” cartoons, but because of its violent content your parents saw some real cause for concern. As a father now yourself, do you think they had a right to worry?

Yes, I think so. I myself am careful about any excessive violent expressions in video games. But when I was a child, my parents worried about me reading too many comic books. I’m not sure that they knew the full extent of the comics I was reading. That is when I was young. But obviously, I know about the content of video games that are out today. So I do worry about my children. I think it is natural for parents to do so.

When you think about violent computer games , I guess the first thing that springs to mind these days is Grand Theft Auto , it’s very, very graphic in content, it’s also been blamed for inciting real life crimes but it’s also extremely popular amongst gamers. Why hasn’t Nintendo [ever] gone down that very lucrative road?

I think there is variety of ways to entertain people. Nintendo has many ways of entertaining people without the use of violent expression. So I do not have to worry in making such games.

My personal thought is, and I think it is the same with Nintendo, that before thinking about how to handle violence in video games, I think it is important to think about pain people feel. For example, you would not laugh at people with disabilities. There are bullying problems in Japan. Looking at the overall picture, it is important to understand and feel the pain that people might have. We make our games based on that philosophy, using means other than violence. But we also have to take a careful approach, even in the circumstances when we are not portraying direct violence. I think it is always important to give children a product with a careful approach.

I would say that this clearly shows that my initial conclusion was correct. Look at the paragraph above. “I think it is always important to give children a product with a careful approach.” In this statement, Miyamoto is saying that he feels the need to be careful about what he presents to children. Why would he say something like this unless he was aware that children especially are very receptive to what they see?

Shigeru MiyamotoYou’ll notice from above that Mr. Miyamoto is a father, and tries to be informed about the entertainment his children consume. Well, okay, I couldn’t find ages of his children, but the point still stands. You see, as a parent, it doesn’t take long to see that a child is influenced by what they see on television. I’ll use myself as an example. When I was very young, my dad was watching something that involved birds attacking people. As a result, I became terrified of the robins and other birds that landed in our yard. I’ll bet there are a few parents out there can share similar stories. I have no evidence to support this, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Mr. Miyamoto has tried to design games that he could let his children play without having to worry about what they were seeing.

Also, Mr. Miyamoto is a toy-maker at heart. As he did not come from a wealthy family, his parents couldn’t afford to buy him many toys. So, he made toys for himself. He initially joined Nintendo to make toys; however, his specialty in industrial engineering led him to create Donkey Kong. I think that some part of him has always seen video games as toys. Fun toys that anyone can play with, but toys all the same. And the target audience for any toy is always going to children first and foremost. Therefore, in any discussion of video games, is a discussion about children’s toys, at least for Mr. Miyamoto. Is it any wonder he doesn’t feel the need to make violent video games?

Frankly, I’m thrilled that someone as well loved and respected as Shigeru Miyamoto holds this view. I’m not the biggest fan of violent games. Now, not that I think that ALL entertainment should be aimed at kids (with that mentality, we would have never gotten something like Schindler’s List), but in the game’s industry, we aim all our attention at adults. While this makes sense, as adults have more disposable income, that either means that children will either not be playing games at all or will be playing games that they were never meant to be playing. Neither outcome is ideal, and for someone like Mr. Miyamoto to say, “Hey, I’m making games that ANYONE can play!” is a noble view to have.

About Guy Rainey

I’m Guy Rainey. I’m a hardcore Nintendo fan, a PC enthusiast, and a Sony sympathizer. Also an amateur/aspiring game creator. I love any game that puts story as the main focus of the game, so that means JRPGs are my favorite genre almost by default.




  • This man is amazing in how he manages this question directly. There are so many people, myself included, who would be more aggressive in when dealing with this aggravating repetitive question. He is honestly one of the few things that makes me enjoy nintendo so much!

  • He’s a great man. Always thought that.

  • dubaloseven

    As someone who plays alot of ultra-violent games, I really appreciate Miyamoto’s stance. Too many kids get their hands on violence. We need companies making age appropriate games for kids, and Sony / Microsoft sure aren’t stepping up to the plate.

    • Xx_Kares_xX

      There are plenty of video games out there that are made and marketed towards kids, they just aren’t all that well advertised most of the time. Despite that, this all still comes down to people not taking responsibility for their OWN actions. The games industry is doing a lot of bad things to it’s consumers, but the whole violence issue isn’t a problem with THEM it’s a problem with parents. Even if playing a violent video game was capable of literally and physically making you pull the trigger of a gun in the real world, it wouldn’t be an issue if PARENT’S DIDN’T BUY THE CHILDREN THE VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES! For the love of god people use your brain and take responsibility for yourself instead of constantly pointing a finger at someone else. And don’t give me that crap of ‘I can’t monitor my kids 24/7’ because that’s true if they are past a certain age, but if you’re a good parent what little exposure they are getting by being rebellious (which is actually an important part of child and mental development by the way) won’t be enough to suddenly warp their minds into that of the joker from batman.

    • dubaloseven

      No, I definetly agree. Parents are definetly not monitoring their kids enough. I’m simply praising Nintendo for meeting the parents as far as they possibly can.

    • Xx_Kares_xX

      I agree nintendo is a great company that makes great games that are usually appropriate for kids but also very fun for adults… this whole violence debate is just really getting on my nerves because so many people don’t know what they’re talking about (not saying you don’t, just people in general). The whole ‘violent games are the downfall of our society and they should all be banned’ mentality is getting old really fast for me x.x

    • dubaloseven

      Yeah, but that’s mostly because gaming is a medium relatively new to the mainstream. People will rag on it for whatever reason they can. It just happens that tragedy has given fuel for the haters, which while utter disgusting, will pass. It always does.

      And it gets on my nerves too. I feel you bro.

    • John Ellis

      Sony has plenty of child appropriate IPS, Sly Cooper, Ape Escape, Little Big planet, The Unfinished Swan, LocoRoco and Ico. I don’t get why people are always claiming Sony makes nothing but violent shooters.

    • Xx_Kares_xX

      I know! it’s Microsoft that does that! Tololololololol (Seriously guys… I’m just kidding, calm yourselves)

    • dubaloseven

      Ico and Unfinished Swan aren’t made for kids. Technically appropriate, yes, but not for kids. Ape Escape definetly during the PS2 era, but not much at all this generation. You are right about Sly Cooper and Little Big Planet (probably LocoRoco too but I don’t know what that is). But outside of that and Playstation All-Stars there isn’t much else though.

    • Hietala

      I didn’t see Nintendo blocking Black Ops 2 from being released on the Wii U. Really, most major violent games come from a 3rd party source… 2 of the biggest for consoles being Call of Duty & Battlefield. Halo is the other major one that comes to mind, but it is a first party IP. While I agree there should be more games aimed to be less violent, some blame needs to be tacked onto the parents. For instance, my best friend bought her some Black Ops 2 as a ‘reward’ for doing well in school and he wanted it because most of his class (he’s 6 mind you) has the game and he wants to be able to play online with them. It’s that knowledge which bugs me… she knows it, because she made a remark about me being able to tell her ‘told you so’ when she revealed said purchase.

    • dubaloseven

      I tack all the blame on the parents. I’m praising Nintendo for meeting parents as far as they can without being completely for kids or censoring their console.

  • MusubiKazesaru

    He’s a great man and this is a great article.

    • TwinTails

      Who would vote this down?! Miyamoto speaks gospel!

    • MusubiKazesaru

      no idea, some people are idiotic haters and others are idiots who just want to hate what everyone else likes. I’m guessing that it’s either of those kinds of people

    • TwinTails

      Sadly it’s more or less 12 year-olds that don’t know their history and refuse to do the proper research before spreading ignorance.

  • This is kind of funny because his games are actually violent as well: killing thousands of turtles (Mario), slaying all sorts of demons and a dark-skinned man (Zelda) — and let’s not forget his involvement in games like Killer Instinct. I’m just pointing it out. And to be fair, Super Smash Bros. Brawl ain’t that violent compared to other games. It doesn’t have any realistic aspects such as gore and brutality, so in the end it comes more across as slapstick or cartoony action than some brutal bloody deathmatch.

    To Guy Rainey: Video games aren’t really catered to adults, but more to action-oriented or the brainless adult ones. That’s why a lot of mature video games tend to kick the sex and violence up a notch as much as they can – one of the few exceptions are the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona games, but those are games that thrive when it comes to bringing mature concepts, such as suicide and gender roles, and philosophy, mainly existentialism and fatalism, on the table.
    While I don’t mind over-the-top violent games all the time, but I do hope that if the game industry keeps catering to the mature audience, that they will try to make it more intellectual or enthralling and less glorifying the violence.

    • TrollingForColumbine2.0

      Your idea of violent:
      “…killing thousands of turtles (Mario)…”

      Your idea of non-violent:
      “…Super Smash Bros. Brawl ain’t that violent compared to other games. It doesn’t have any realistic aspects such as gore and brutality…”

      Are you saying regular Mario games are gory and brutal and are therefore more violent than Super Smash Bros. (a video game built around violence)?

    • Read: “Violent compared to OTHER games”

      No, Mario games aren’t gory – but they aren’t non-violent as well. When we talk about violence in video games, there’s – let’s say, different levels to it. When it comes to violence in video games, Mario ain’t that violent compared to CoD or GTA, but it still is violent, however just like in SSBB, the violence is “water-downed” or “de-amplified” by making the game less gory, no blood or plain slapstick and cartoon violence.
      Both games are actually built around violence. SSBB, obviously a fighting game, and in most Mario games you’re required to at least beat up certain monstrous beasts and next to that, you have the option to destroy countless creatures on your way.
      So yeah, the thing that sets these games apart from hardcore shooters and GTA games is that the former are far more cartoony and/or less realistic.

    • BlackOwlDog

      I’m sorry to say this, but you seem quite confused…
      It’s not a question of whether violence is portrayed in games of not, the problem is “do games incite violence and/or aggressive behaviour through the portayal of it?”.

      Let’s take an example: I recently played Hana Samurai (Sakura Samurai in some versions) and was quite shocked by the fact that such a cartoony game could portray feudal japan in such a cold way. The main character is just a kid but has a sword on him, as everyone else, and gets constantly attacked by mobs(samurai people, not monsters) roaming the streets; he doesn’t hesitate to cold-bloodedly cut them all in a single blow, it’s like the japanese equivlent of the wild west.

      But does this game inspire violence? It does the opposite of that. There is no blood nor gore and the gameplay brilliantly forces you to think before swinging your sword as every hit counts. Most fights end with a single slash (which, quite frankly, is more realistic than most fights in videogames) and slicing randomly will always result in your loss. Compare that to most game that aren’t just violent but also make violence more desirable by overpowering the player (thus turning blood into a reward)
      tl;dr It’s not the subject that matters, it’s how you portray things that make a difference in how the audience percieves certain things.

      Sorry for the poem

    • But that’s what I meant to address. However, the article implied that it was about violence in video games in general, while I tried to explain it depends on how the violence is PORTRAYED.
      I think we are on the same page, really.

    • TrollingForColumbine2.0

      “water-downed” xD

      Oh, how I love it when people load their sentences with idioms in an attempt to look witty, and then fail horrendously when they completely misspell said idioms.

    • English is not my native language. Also, why are you know resorting to throw an ad hominem towards me? That’s quite weak.

    • TrollingForColumbine2.0

      Because you’re a smelly foreigner AND YOU TOOK MAH JAWBS.

    • you don’t kill turtles, you STOMP koopas and they don’t die, they just leave the screen

    • So, what happens to the Goombas then?

  • I can appreciate violent video games. I recently finished playing ZombiU, and I must say I really liked the dark, horror atmosphere the game had. However, I am glad to see that there is someone who isn’t afraid to use pure, unadulterated whimsy, so that their work can appeal to all ages. We need Toy Story as much as we need Schindler’s List.

  • TrueWiiMaster

    I have one problem with this article. “…will be playing games that they were never meant to be playing”. I don’t think that’s really the case. Though I’m sure the publishers/developers would say they make their games for adults, they wouldn’t want to lose the many, many sales they get from kids. They make the games hoping tons of kids will buy them.

  • Gemnist

    Personally, I’m kind of iffy on this subject. If Miyamoto PERSONALLY doesn’t want to go mature, that’s fine. But this question isn’t about WANTS. It’s about NEEDS. Nintendo NEEDS mature games to be able to catch up with Microsoft and Sony. That, along with the limited graphics, brought the Wii and the rest of the company down in terms of third-party support. The Wii may have won the 7th generation in terms of sales, but it lost with lasting appeal, and the 8th generation will most likely have them going to the dogs. If Nintendo doesn’t WANT this to happen (and they certainly don’t NEED it to happen), it has to improve with titles that go for the adults while still giving the casual titles Miyamoto has been long beloved for by many (me included, in case you thought otherwise).