Are games art? Many gamers and I would like to think so, and the American Smithsonian Museum and the New York Museum of Modern Art would probably back us up on that. Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata says that games may be art, but at his company, his game designers are more focused on creating games that “resonate” with players than creating “art.”
In an interview with Japanese news outlet Toyo Keizai Online (translation via Kotaku,) Iwata explained Nintendo’s design philosophy and why he considers the company an entertainment studio and not an art house collective. “Nintendo developers are extremely insatiable when it comes to whether what they make resonates with customers or not. They’ll do anything to achieve it.” Iwata said. “Both [Mario and Zelda creator Shigeru] Miyamoto and I repeatedly say, ‘It’s not like we are making pieces of art, the point is to make a product that resonates with and is accepted by customers.”
“Creating is like an expression of egoism. People with a strong energy to create something have a ‘this is the strength I believe is right’ sort of confidence to start from. Their standpoint is that ‘this is the right thing to do, so this must be what’s good for the customer as well,” Iwata explained. “But the final goal of a product is to resonate with and be accepted by people. You can’t just force your way through. By saying ‘the point is to be accepted’ I mean, if you go to a customer with your idea and you realize they don’t understand it, it’s more important that they do and you should shift your idea.”
The interview also discussed the Wii U’s dire sales situation. While sales have slowed to a crawl in the last few months (the system is even lagging far behind the sales numbers of the Gamecube, which was previously Nintendo least popular home console,) Iwata is confident that the system’s line-up in the next few months, which will continue heavy hitters like Mario, Zelda, and Smash Bros., will be enough to renew interest in the platform.
I know a lot of gamers are going to see headlines like “Nintendo doesn’t believe games are art,” and are going to post angry knee-jerk reactions without actually reading Iwata’s explanation, but what he says isn’t actually all that controversial: he’s simply saying that Nintendo is concentrated on creating fun and entertaining products; if they happen to end up being art (or not,) is a secondary concern. Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima espoused similar sentiments when he was asked about the whole “are games art” debate a few years ago.