If we ask children to use their imaginations, they can transform a lone backyard birch tree into an imposing tower, ready to be besieged by sticks turned to swords or any other instrument from untold arsenals. In fact, they could spring all manner of townships, dark caverns, or space stations from any size space if they tried – if they’d learned to have fun with it. Then, well, everything around them could become interesting, could be novel, and wonderful.
Shigesato Itoi is a “cultural figure in Japan, known for his copywriting, essays, lyrics, Nintendo game creation, and his role as editor-in-chief of his popular webstie “Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun” (‘Almost’ Daily Itoi News)” (From wiki). He is best known in most western circles as the creator of “Earthbound”, a whimsical Super Nintendo game with quite the cult following.
Over at Nintendo.com, Mr. Itoi had some things to say about that little old video game that has won over the hearts of many. Haven’t played the game? That’s okay. Don’t care for video games? That’s okay too. What he has to say about it is such a curious and thoughtful thing, that it’s worth the trespassing into unknown territory.
What is the video game, Earthbound? Even today, it’s so hard to answer that question.
It was like a group of children taking dolls from a toy chest. Old dishes no longer used in the kitchen. Nuts and bolts found inside a toolbox. Little flowers and leaves from the backyard. And they were all laid down on the carpet with everybody singing made-up songs. Ready to talk all day about that world they just made. That, I think was how Earthbound was made.
Well, I’m a grown-up too, so I didn’t hold back in adding things here and there, like putting more angles here, hiding a secret there, and sometimes slipping in little mean things.
Then a whole lot of friends came over to play. And they helped it grow as they were having fun as they pleased. They gave it branches, leaves and flowers, to what was once a simple story of just root and trunk. For every person that played, there are that many iterations of Earthbound.
As I met different people on unrelated occasions, they told me “I found out about you by playing Earthbound.” This was not only right after the game was out. People were telling me this after it’s been out for quite some time.
All sorts of people tell me about their memories, about all the things I left in the playground called Earthbound. From the tiny safety pins, broken pieces of colored glass to the withering leaves. When I ask them, “how do you remember so much?” With their eyes gleaming, they say, “I love that world so much I remember everything about it.” I reply right away saying “me too.”
Ah hah! That may be it. Maybe I wanted to make a playground. A playground filled with things no matter how small or unwanted, they would all be kept dear in people’s hearts…
The best memories are of times we had fun aren’t they?
Earthbound invites us to have fun. Everything in the game is already interesting because it was born by what feels like unbridled creativity, ever present at the fringes of the adventure, and woven carefully into the story line, colouring even serious themes in a unique way that gives surprising depth.
Story has the power to connect with others, to heal ourselves, to make an impact. It can be all kinds of serious and solemn. But there is also a wonderful potency when it is mixed with the disarming whimsy that invites us to have fun, and feel the freedom of being back at a playground.
Some kids can play make-belief better than others… so can adults for that matter. And if they are skilled enough, they can disarm others of what is holding them back. Too, the creation, when done just so, is so alluring that it can do that on its own. It’s never any bigger a plunge if we choose to dive into an adventure that’s unfamiliar and exciting.
That is exactly what Mr. Itoi and the EarthBound team does in their work on the Super Nintendo title "EarthBound" (and also, how they’ve endeared their audience to the other two parts of the trilogy known as the Mother series in Japan).
The result is an experience that is memorable and even invigorating, as any of those members of the earthbound cult following will attest.
Maybe it's time you tried 'EarthBound'
The whimsical, the wildly creative, should be no more dismissed than its serious counterparts. It’s those fun adventures that have such potential to leave its mark and at the very least remind us of how recharging it can be to invite fun into our lives.
For the complete thoughts of Mr.Itoi on Earthbound, please click the link HERE
You won't regret it!
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