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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Creator of Mario Bros. Gains Top Score For Humanities

For those of you who have ever played a Nintendo video game, chances are you've played a creation by one of the 'gods' of video game industry.

Miyamoto Shigeru, 59, created the now simplistic yet highly addictive Donkey Kong video game that would have bankrupted me if I hadn't figured out how to do the old quarter-on-a-string trick on the coin-operated games at arcades and local convenience stores.

Ahhhh... the countless hours spent staring at a screen leaping over barrels tossed by a big ape on top of a construction site, while my little Italian-American carpenter, Mario, tries to rescue the kidnapped blonde (Princess Peach) with the huge knockers. I was a lonely, teenager - I imagine her the way I want to imagine her. 

Born in Sonobe, Kyoto-ken in Japan, Miyamoto joined Nintendo in 1977 after studying industrial design.

Miyamoto took Donkey Kong and made the poor ape's antagonist a video game legend, first with Donkey Kong Junior involving the Ape's son trying to rescue his caged papa from Donkey from the evil Mario.

I figured Miyamoto killed the franchise with horrible third Mario-related game, Mario Bros., that now had Mario and his freshly introduced little brother Luigi as plumbers going down into the sewers.

Luckily Miyamoto helped bring Mario into everyone's homes when Nintendo brought out the Famicon video game system for the home  back in the 80s. He then created such stand-out games as the Zelda series, Star Fox, F-Zero... and apparently Wii Fit and Wii Music.

Anyhow, on May 23, 2012, Miyamoto was presented with Spain's Prince of Asturias Prize for his role in revolutionizing the video game industry. Actually, the prize is a communications and humanities award, and the award's committee honored him for: "excluding violence from his creations" and turning video games into "a medium capable of bringing people together regardless of sex, age or social or cultural status."

Says Miyamoto, "I will continue my efforts so that video games will continuously be able to offer fun and joy to people of all generations all around the world."

The selection jury adds in a statement: "With these creations, he has converted the video game into a social revolution and has managed to popularize it among a sector of the population that had not previously accessed this kind of entertainment.

"Noted for excluding violence from his creations, Miyamoto has revolutionized the industry."

This comment about a lack of violence in his creations is a bit of a stretch if one has only ever played the Wii games or the Super Mario World series... Star Fox involves shooting the crap out of other spacecraft; Zelda is killing things all the time even though he plays a calming ocarina - he has a sword for god's sake! He kills people with his sword! F-Zero was a race car game series - and even though I haven't played it in 15 years, I'm pretty sure I got to run or blast other cars off the road. Heck - have you ever played a Mario race game? You are expected to cheat to win... blasting opponents, dropping oil slicks... and look at the original Donkey Kong... collapsed buildings... Donkey Kong Jr. has Mario taunting and teasing a young ape with the capture of his dad... and dude... if you've ever played a Mario World game, you know that when you eat a mushroom it messes with you giving you a PCP high.

Whatever. His creations have created a lot of fun for kids and adults alike...

The Prince of Asturias Prize comes with an award of 50,000 gold tokens (E50,000 or Cdn/US $64,000).

As an added bonus, eight hours after publishing this, I shall post my homage to Miyamoto with a short story I wrote about 20 years ago while living in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. You lucky, lucky bastards.

Andrew Joseph

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