From gardening to gaming

A few weeks ago I enjoyed the New Yorker’s article about video game designer CliffyB, presenting his opus “Gears of War” as an intriguing combination of close-second-person shooter violence and an emotionally nuanced backstory (though after actually watching the Gears of War preview, rather than just reading the prose, had me less intrigued: it’s still a pretty steep shooting-to-nuance ratio). Maybe I’d do better investigating the cultivation-games described in this profile of “the Walt Disney of game design,” Shigeru Miyamoto.

One day Miyamoto was tending his garden.  He was in awe at the process of planting, growing and harvesting and the general admiration of the beauty that can arise out of the garden.  This is when the crazy idea of making some sort of garden-influenced game came to mind.  As cheesy and boring as it may sound, he did not end up with a design reminiscent of literally watching grass grow on your TV screen.  The end result was Pikmin, a title where the player plants and harvests little flower creatures.  You play as Captain Olimar whose job is to keep all the Pikmin alive, safe from the large bugs and animals that inhabit the planet.  Quite a far cry from the shoot-to-kill mentality, eh?

A few years after bringing an evolved sense of gardening to gaming, Miyamoto oversaw the advent of Wii Fit, a new interactive way to bring health into the fold of non-traditional gaming.  So instead of playing a version of creation on screen, the player would literally be working out, which in and of itself isn’t new or innovative, but bringing it into the fold of interactive games is more than admirable.  Even the joy of playing music is made simpler, a-la Guitar Hero or Rock Band, in Wii Music – a simpler way to enjoy the beauty of making music than even the aforementioned blockbusters.

from “Choosing Creation Over Destruction,” by Matt Cox, The Curator, 7 November 2008

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