Nintendo mastermind Shigeru Miyamoto thinks that many people are still intimidated by gaming technology when they really shouldn't be, and that developers need to help them overcome that fear.
Shigeru Miyamoto may not make as many games these days as he used to, but he is still arguably the industry's single most influential figure of all time - so when he says something, it's a good idea to listen. Speaking with Eurogamer in an interview conducted just hours before he received his BAFTA Fellowship, the creator of Donkey Kong and Super Mario said that he felt he and other developers had a responsibility to educate people as to how beneficial gaming could actually be.
"The fact is many people are afraid or scared of gaming technology," said Miyamoto. "Actually it's very convenient, useful technology and as long as you can have some time to get accustomed there's nothing to be afraid of at all."
"So my responsibility here must be to try to let people understand how convenient and useful game technology is and try to remove hurdles so that even your grandpa and grandma are waiting to turn on the power switch of your console easily without hesitation."
This was the philosophy Nintendo had in mind when creating the Wii, and it's a philosophy that has been tremendously successful for the hardware manufacturer in terms of branching out and expanding its audience. The controller can be a complex, intimidating piece of technology, but almost everyone understands "swing your arm to swing the tennis racket." It's also a philosophy that Sony and Microsoft have picked up on with their Move and Natal motion control technologies, slated to debut later this year.
Though Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime has previously pooh-poohed Microsoft and Sony's efforts as mere bandwagoning, Miyamoto thinks that it validates the mindset that Nintendo had entering this hardware generation. "We feel it's an honor that some form of entertainment style we created is now going to be taken for granted thanks to the attitude taken by the other companies," he said.
"On the other hand, Nintendo is a company that is always striving to create something unique and unprecedented," he continued, not wanting to just give props to the competition. "And if we can do that, if we can establish to the world that videogames have such huge potential for daily life, the existence of games will be even more highly appreciated by the public."
Unfortunately, he also thinks that there is a way to go on that last part. "Very frankly speaking, I have to admit videogames still have some way to go in order to reach the level of movies when it comes to social acceptance by the general public. We still have to carry on making a great effort."
There's certainly no doubt that videogames are largely misunderstood by the vast majority of people who don't play them, but the presence of Wii and DS platforms in the hands and homes of people who would never have touched a game before is evidence that Miyamoto - and Nintendo - are on to something.
Motion control may get a bad rap from gamers who feel that it's nothing more than a gimmick - and let's face it, when it's shoehorned into games for the purpose of having motion control, it is - but I still can't help but feel it's a good thing. As used as gamers are to our traditional interfaces like controllers or the mouse-and-keyboard setup, it's because we've grown up with them and they're second nature to us. But for people who haven't grown up as gamers, they're horrendously intimidating.
But whereas the controller is intimidating, there is no interface more natural than the human hand; you point at something, and you select it. The technology might not be quite there yet, but whatever hardcore gamers might think and say, I can't help but feel that Miyamoto has a point: Helping people get over the intimidating controller and technology is a very, very good thing.
If you're interested in the full Miyamoto interview - and you should be, because it's really interesting to get a peak into the mind of the influential game designer - then schlep on over to Eurogamer.