Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Nintendo’s Mario, has been designated Japan’s Person of Cultural Merit. The honor has been bestowed upon Kabuki actors, composers, and manga artists, but this is a first for video game developers.
Miyamoto said in an interview with Sankei News that he was “thankful that light is being shone upon the medium of games.” The Person of Cultural Merit accolade has been awarded to 576 people since 1999 but, until now, a major cultural award has never graced the gaming industry. “This is a job where you cannot do anything by yourself,” he added.
The only other country where videogames are officially a part of the cultural heritage is South Korea, the cradle of global esports, with its numerous, massively-multiplayer RPGs and memed-over Starcraft obsessions. Professional gaming there has a massive following, and million-dollar tournaments are regularly held on national television.
Though it feels long overdue for games to be recognized at this level, Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki, an icon of anime, was not awarded this same merit until a year before announcing his retirement in 2013. Miyamoto, who joined Nintendo in 1977, has no such plans: “I’m going to do my best to keep doing new things so I don’t get asked if I’m about to retire.”
Shigeru Miyamoto, who created Mario, now arguably video games’ most influential character, in 1981 as well as such iconic franchises as The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox and Donkey Kong, will be honored during a ceremony at the Japanese Imperial Palace on November 3.
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