So the three of you were brought together in 1984 and you’ve been working with each other for a quarter of a century. What kind of conversations do you have day-to-day?
Well, I think we started out as a kind of hobby group.
A “hobby group”?
It’s something that I used to say all the time: “We’re not really pros.”
Hold on a minute! Are you saying that the team that has come up with games that people all round the world have taken to their hearts are not pros, but are just a kind of hobby group?
Well, I didn’t originally join SRD because I wanted to make video games.
And I didn’t even know who Pac-Man was!
But that hardly makes you a hobby group!
No, but we still eat lunch together discussing what we got up to at the weekend, and Tezuka-san always shows us the pictures he’s taken on his mobile phone. It just feels like a bunch of friends having a normal, everyday conversation. (laughs)
So you report back to each other if you've had some interesting experiences over the weekend.
Right. That’s what our conversation is generally like. The other day we were talking about how much we enjoyed going to work. Normally, you’d relax at the weekend and dread the thought of going to work on a Monday morning…
I’m exactly the same. If I have a good idea over the weekend, I actually quite look forward to the thought of going in on Monday and saying this or doing that. (laughs) Miyamoto-san is clearly the same and Tezuka-san, you can tell from your face when something interesting has happened at the weekend and you’re dying to tell everyone about it.
But ideas for games can grow out of that kind of conversation, can’t they?
That’s true. If that wasn’t the case, then we couldn’t call it work!
As you can imagine, a lot of things do get decided over lunch.
We decide some pretty important things, don’t we? We’ll often ask each other over lunch: “Which way shall we go?" We also often talk about the things that we loved doing as children. Well, I'm just a regular guy, so I didn't do anything out of the ordinary. But Miyamoto-san got up to all kinds of things…
You can’t say that there’s no connection between Super Mario and the fact that Miyamoto-san spent his youth wandering around the fields in the countryside around Kyoto City.
But the man himself will tell you: “There's absolutely no connection!"
I’m absolutely convinced that it’s connected.
I think so too.
Needless to say, Miyamoto-san didn’t spend his youth thinking that he would end up creating Super Mario Bros. But what he did back then became the inspiration for ideas in the game.
He is someone who can find material to use in games anywhere.
Wii Fit27 came about from Miyamoto-san weighing himself and recording his weight every day, for instance. 27 Used in conjunction with the Wii Balance Board, Wii Fit is a title that aims to encourage users to lead healthy, active lifestyles. It was released in Japan in December 2007 with an enhanced version called Wii Fit Plus released in October 2009.
Tezuka-san also shares this characteristic. He'll find inspiration for ideas for games in all sorts of places.
Does that just come naturally?
It’s not something that I’m actually that aware of myself! (laughs) I forget a lot of things as well… I’m often left thinking: “Is that right?”
You’ll also forget things you’ve said and say: “Did I say that?” (laughs)
(laughs) Speaking of which, I remember that while we were making New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Tezuka-san and I had a discussion about coins.
Is that right?
There! That’s exactly what you’re like! (laughs)
We had included wind in the game and I initially suggested that we make it so the coins blow through the air.
Oh, I know what you're talking about! (laughs)
Players will think of wind as something negative because it blows them around and makes it hard to play, so we thought that we needed to come up with something extra. That's why I suggested that if there were coins flying through the air, the player would be pleased. So that’s why we made it so that when the wind blows, coins fly across the screen.
Coins are flying through the air like rain, and you can grab as many of them as you like. There’s no limit. It doesn’t get better than that!
It doesn’t get any better! (laughs)
But then Tezuka-san resisted this and we made it so that if you hit a POW Block, the coins all fall down . Then I had to agree by saying, “It’s surely better that way". (laughs)
So you create software by discussing things with each other and gradually building up a stockpile of ideas and material.
Would you be able to logically analyse the relationship the three of you have?
Umm… I wouldn’t really know about that.
I’ve been observing you all for many years, but I still feel that I've never quite cracked this mystery.
If I had to put my finger on it, I'd say that the image I have is that Miyamoto-san starts off by digging a hole. Tezuka-san then finds some way to fill this hole. Then, right at the end, I make sure it’s smooth and solid by pushing a roller over the soil.
Ah, I see.
That’s how I feel about it, anyway.
So that’s how the division of labour works out. What do you think, Tezuka-san? Does that sum it up?
From my perspective, it seems like this division of labour has come about completely naturally. The best comparison I can make is with a manzai comedy trio from the Kansai area28. 28 Manzai is a popular kind of slapstick comedy particularly associated with a region called Kansai, which is located in a western part of Japan where the Nintendo headquarters are also located.
Yes, I can see that! (laughs)
There's definitely something in that! (laughs)
You’re always talking with each other: “If we do this, aren’t people going to burst out laughing?" (laughs)
So you think about how you’re going to win the audience over at the weekend and then you unveil your performance on Monday! (laughs)
After all, our goal is to win that audience over! (laughs)
I get the really strong sense that between the three of you, you’re always unfolding and expanding ideas: “Well, if you do this, I should make this work like that..."
So basically you’re saying that we’re a manzai comedy trio who have managed to survive for twenty-five years without splitting up. (laughs)
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