The Childhood of Hidetaka Miyazaki
Hidetaka Miyazaki grew up in a home that prohibits playing video games. What appeared to be a handicap for the future game director actually helped in getting him a strong foundation in RPG design and mechanics through the substitutes that he found.
Instead of playing video games, Miyazaki consumed the media format that is most available to him and most conducive to the growth of his imagination and creativity - the printed text.
No Video Games Allowed
Video games are popular in Japan, and it is a typical hobby for Japanese kids to play them, especially with hand-held game consoles made by Nintendo. Miyazaki didn't have that privilege, though, as video games were not allowed in his home.
Miyazaki: While growing up, I was not allowed at home to play video games. Only when I reached the University. This is one of the reasons why I find it difficult to share what video games I played a lot as a kid. However, I was able to play board games, and one of my favorites is Sorcery. I would open revisit and play that game. Though it is not a video game, it is definitely one of the games that impacted me.
Miyazaki Turns to Books and Board Games
As a young kid growing in Japan, it is expected that Miyazaki will get exposed and will become very familiar with Japan's own version of comic books, the Manga.
However, not only did he become familiar with mangas, but he also discovered western adventure-style books, resources that gave him the RPG exposure that he would have missed in not being able to play video games.
In addition, and something he will affirm multiple times in the future, reading books and playing the text-based RPG board games contributed to his unique sense of creativity and imagination. He would then try to replicate this experience and have his future players undergo the same discovery and adventure he had while playing the text-based games.
Miyazaki: I'm a big fan of stories that make you use some bits of imagination to understand the whole thing fully.
When I was a kid, I truly enjoyed reading books that were a little advanced for me, where I could only understand half the Kanji and had to use my imagination to fill in the gaps. My goal is to bring that kind of experience to video games, where you use your imagination to complete the missing parts.
Knowll Insight: This is the main reason why all of the games directed by Miyazaki follow the principle of environmental storytelling. It was something he experienced in his childhood, and he treasures this experience. Hence, the video game restriction he went through in his early youth actually contributed something very unique and specific to him as a game creator.
Miyazaki: I want to leave the discovery and interpretation of the world's lore and stories to the players. This is the main reason why I focus on environmental and subtle storytelling. Instead of the game automatically telling the story, the players will get more value from it if they themselves discover hints of the plot from items and people they encounter in the world.
Of course, we might get criticized that the players are not given enough explanations, but I will gladly accept that if so. The fun of imagining things for yourself is one of the core tenets I follow. I want to share the joy of exploring a really dark and mysterious place and then attempting to shed light upon it.
Miyazaki and His Lifelong Love for Reading
Like all the people who discovered something precious in their childhood, Miyazaki keeps his love for reading until today. In various interviews, he always refers to the printed text as the most potent catalyst to creativity and imagination.
Miyazaki: Many of the ideas and themes expressed in our games have their origins in the text, things that came to life in our imagination while reading, the interpretations within our minds.
My pool of inspiration derives from various sources, but if I have to choose one, in particular, I would say books, especially text-based books. I have shared this before, but my biggest pastime is to imagine and fantasize while reading text-based books. It is one of my inspirational sources for game development
Knowll Insight: Until now, Miyazaki prefers reading books for inspiration, over any other sources. If you wonder what you will see if you check the shelves in his office, you will find...
Miyazaki: First, you would see the manga shelf, containing Devilman and Berserk at the top. The adjacent bookshelf is filled with tabletop role-playing game rulebooks, with RuneQuest in front, together with the board game Dragon Pass. Another shelf is filled with novels, classics of fantasy and science fiction, highlighting George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire and Fevre Dream.
There would be a small library of gamebooks on an adjacent shelf. Foremost of them will be Sorcery! and the guides for Titan and Out of the Pit. Finally, you would find art and reference books, including works by Umberto Eco and McNeil, and Colin Wilson's The Occult.
The Restriction Gets Removed
The restriction on playing video games will not last long, though. Miyazaki will soon be able to do what he yearns and play video games upon entering the University.