7 Life-Changing Lessons From The Genius Creator of Mario Bros: Shigeru Miyamoto

Joe Donan


Image source: NintendoLife

Mention Mario to an average person, and most likely, they’ll tell you exactly who he is and what he looks like, even though he doesn’t exist in real life. Now, ask the same person if they know Shigeru Miyamoto, and chances are they will have no idea who you’re talking about.

Veteran gamers, however, know Mr. Miyamoto is a prominent and respected figure in the video-game industry, and the chief developer of some of the most renowned franchises of all time, including the Super Mario Bros and The Legend Of Zelda series.

For over forty years, Shigeru Miyamoto has worked tirelessly and loyally for Nintendo, developing, producing, and directing video games since he was hired as their first artist in 1977. And even now, the 68-year-old genius doesn’t seem to be planning to retire anytime soon.

Miyamoto’s work is based on his philosophy to deliver only the best playing experience to customers so that games can be enjoyed by everybody, young and old. These views have allowed him to make remarkable breakthroughs in the history of video games, making him an authority in the world of home entertainment.

And as there is wisdom in both his achievements and words, here are seven quotes that reflect this philosophy perfectly, accompanied by a short takeaway to add to our repertoire of life lessons.

1. “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”

Miyamoto’s most famous quote is perhaps his most powerful one, as it combines the values of patience, hard work, and commitment.

We often find ourselves rushing to be the first to get something done, to meet a deadline, or simply impress others by our speed, often forgetting about the overall quality of our product or service.

A study by Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University reveals that rushing to complete work on deadlines often leads to more mistakes in the process. As a result, what could have been an excellent piece of work often ends up being average at best. And as we all know, in this world of top-tens, average just doesn’t cut it.

Back in the mid-90s, Miyamoto delayed the release of the Nintendo 64 to allow his team to finish one of its games so that it could meet his strict quality standards. He didn’t care about meeting a deadline. What mattered to him was meeting players’ expectations.

Quick takeaway:

Never compromise the quality of your work for the sake of punctuality. It’s better late and well-made than rushed and poorly-crafted.

2. “I enjoy thinking about ways to create something that other people have not even thought about, something no one has managed to achieve.”

One key to success is the development of something innovative, something that the public hasn’t seen or even imagined before, rather than following in everyone’s footsteps.

This has been a staple in Shigeru Miyamoto’s way of thinking, as he is a man of breakthroughs: He pioneered the development of video games with a plotline, the first of which was Donkey Kong, back in 1981. He also co-directed and produced The Legend Of Zelda, which popularized open-world exploration in video games, making it one of the most influential titles of all time.

Miyamoto knows it’s not all about making money and becoming successful. For him, it’s about fueling work with a passion for innovation, and as a result, he has been able to come up with ideas and technology that have revolutionized the video game industry and the world of entertainment in general.

Quick takeaway:

To stand out and give the public something they’ll love, you have to come up with an innovative idea: something that differentiates you from the rest. Constantly imitating the success of others will get you nowhere.

3. “I think that inside every adult is the heart of a child. We just gradually convince ourselves that we have to act more like adults.”

Back when we were kids, we didn’t care much about the opinions of others, as long as we had a good time doing whatever it was we enjoyed, like playing in the backyard and riding a bicycle. And we didn’t engage in those activities because they would make us rich, or because they made us more popular. The activity itself was its own reward.

Miyamoto firmly believes that play, fun, and entertainment are a natural part of ourselves, one we often forget under the pressure of adulthood. This became quite evident when a middle-aged Miyamoto revealed himself at E3 2004, armed with a sword and a shield. That’s when you know the inner child is there, and that he’s having a great time.


Shigeru Miyamoto at E3 2004 — Source: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Quick takeaway:

Growing up doesn’t mean you have you give up on what makes you feel alive. It merely means you have to rearrange your routines and newly-acquired responsibilities to become who you’re meant to be without putting aside who you’ll always be: a fun-loving child at heart.

4. “Nintendo’s philosophy is never to go the easy path; it’s always to challenge ourselves and try to do something new. To create a new standard, you have to be up for that challenge and really enjoy it.”

Whenever there’s a challenge ahead, we react to it in two different forms: either we fret, cry, and complain until we get it done — usually with subpar results — or we launch directly into it, do our best, and remain excited the whole way through. That’s when we get the best possible results.

This is what Miyamoto has done all these years, and it’s perfectly exemplified with the development of Super Mario Bros. 3. It took him and his ten-man team two whole years to complete, at an unusually high budget of $800,000. It proved extremely challenging to improve on virtually every aspect of the first two Super Mario Bros games, but he and his team pulled it off, creating one of the highest-rated video games of all time.

Quick takeaway

Life is not about being the best or making the most money. It’s all about rising to the challenge and enjoying doing so. Only then do we get the results we’re hoping for.

5. “I’d like to be known as the person who saw things from a different point of view to others.”

During the mid-2000s, Nintendo was busy conceptualizing and developing a 7th-generation video game console, a product that would compete with Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360.

It was then that Miyamoto suggested a strategy to come out on top of the competition. Instead of centering on superior graphics, he proposed focusing on broadening their target audience by shifting the way they played games, an idea that resulted in the implementation of intuitive motion controllers.

The result? The Nintendo Wii was born, and became the most popular 7th-generation video game console, outselling both its competitors and demonstrating that more isn’t always better.

Quick takeaway

Perspective can change the course of our projects and reveal information on how to make them better than we originally conceived.

6. “It would be a joy for me if someone who was working with me became a big success.”

I love seeing people become successful. It gives me the idea that I too, can do it if I’m willing to commit myself to a goal. Some others, in contrast, can’t stand seeing their peers pursue their dreams and fulfill their aspirations.

Psychology calls this Crab Mentality: just like crabs instinctively pull each other down when they’re trying to escape a bucket, some people do all they can to conspire and sabotage their peers’ progress, just because they feel incapable of being successful themselves.

Throughout his career, Shigeru Miyamoto has worked with several people who have become prominent names in the video-game industry. An example is Takashi Tezuka, who joined Nintendo in 1984 and started working directly under Miyamoto’s direction. They teamed up to develop several video games, with Tezuka eventually taking directorial roles for several Super Mario Bros and The Legend Of Zelda titles, both franchises created by Miyamoto.

Quick takeaway

We often focus so much on our gain that we forget that we are all part of a community, and therefore, the win of one is the win of all.

7. “I don’t really think of things in terms of legacy or where I stand in the history of Nintendo or anything like that.”

Last, but not least, here’s a lesson on modesty. According to The New York Times, “Miyamoto still approaches his work as a humble craftsman, not as the celebrity he is to gamers around the world.”

When you think about it, he’s long had the experience and the technical knowledge to start his own video-game company, yet he’s content to stay at Nintendo as an employee. It seems Miyamoto doesn’t care about his status but what he can bring to the company he’s in. His philosophy centers on the end result of his efforts, not on the personal gain he will get from them.

Quick takeaway:

Although there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being ambitious, a job well done will always top fame and earnings.

Bottom line

Shigeru Miyamoto has made a name for himself by sheer force of commitment, hard work, and perseverance. He’s never been interested in personal gain, but in delivering the best possible gaming experience to the world.

Focusing on the end result, the fun Miyamoto has brought to the world is his reward. And here’s a good opportunity to learn from the grandmaster of the video-game industry: To get the best possible results, we must passionately commit to our endeavors, embracing the challenge, and doing our best to deliver and go the extra mile.

Who knows, at the end of our journey we too can smile ear-to-ear like Shigeru Miyamoto, while we wait for our Game-Over day, in the knowledge that our efforts have made a difference.

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Salvadoran writer, father, husband, educator, and artisan. I write about love and relationships, family, life lessons, and personal growth.


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