Shigesato Itoi talks about the connection between real-life experience, human emotion, and video games.

Some titans of the video game industry built their legacies through a lifelong dedication to electronic entertainment, and have the lengthy resumes to match. Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto’s touch can be found in Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Star Fox. Over at rival Sega, Yuji Naka created Sonic the Hedgehog, Night into Dreams, Samba de Amigo, Out Run, Virtua Fighter, and Shenmue, and Hideo Kojima crafted Snatcher, Policenauts, and a whole bunch of Metal Gear games for Konami.

But EarthBound (or Mother 2, as it’s known in Japan), one of the most deeply respected games in today’s fan community, was created by someone with almost no prior or subsequent involvement with the video game industry. Shigesato Itoi is primarily a copywriter and essayist, but he wrote and directed both EarthBound and its predecessor Mother, and also wrote the script for Mother 3. That’s the entire extent of his work with video games, though.

Perhaps because of that, Itoi has a very unique perspective of what the purpose of games is, as shown in this quote from the director that appeared in a strategy guide for Mother 2, a photo of a page of which was shared by Japanese Twitter user @vjoe.

Itoi says:

“If someone says, ‘You’re lying, aren’t you?’, the only people who will feel nervous are the ones who’ve ever lied about something.

If you’ve ever been hit by a hardball traveling at 140 kilometers [87 miles] per hour, when you see a batter bravely stepping in close to swing at an inside pitch, you think ‘Wow, that guy’s amazing!’ But people who’ve never experienced getting hit by a pitch just say “That’s not so impressive.”

Basically, the world outside of video games is packed with things that make games interesting. Games are like a shovel that helps you unearth those treasures.”


“I read Itoi’s words when I was in elementary school,” recalls @vjoe, “and they’ve been in my heart ever since. I seriously believe that the people who get the most enjoyment out of fiction stories are the people who have a wide range of real-life experiences.”

The idea that authentic experiences are the best thing for creating compelling make-believe is something we’ve heard before from Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino and Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki. Itoi’s unique way of thinking, though, spins things around to the other perspective, asserting that consuming fiction through games becomes a more emotional endeavor when we have real-life experiences to draw from, and also that games can make us more attuned to the excitement and suspense of the world around us, and so maybe the reason he hasn’t made a game since Mother 3 is because he’s off having some of those non-game experiences himself.

Source: Twitter/@vjoe via Hachima Kiko
Top image: YouTube/Nintendo
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he can still remember the funk of those EarthBound scratch and sniff stickers.