I don't usually find the sort of "genesis moments" that game developers talk about to be all that interesting, but this one is special. Partly because it's about Pikmin, but mostly because it's so good.
The Telegraph recently this interview Shigeru Miyamoto that explains how the legendary game designer first came up with the idea behind his unique real-time strategy series:
When Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of the Super Mario Bros. series of video-games, celebrated his 40th birthday, he put away unchildish things. He quit smoking and pachinko, a form of gambling game that combines the brightest, noisiest parts of pinball and fruit machines, took up swimming, and vowed to spend more time in his garden.
One day, around 15 years ago, Miyamoto was relaxing on his patio and saw a line of ants marching past his feet and off into the grass, carrying leaves towards their nest. Then he imagined for a moment — because this is how the Miyamoto mind works — what the scene might look like if they were tiny people.
"Ants, as you know, always have a leader, and tend to be carrying things, and as they move they create a kind of rail," he says. "And I started thinking about a game about lots of small people carrying things in a line, following a leader, with everyone going in the same direction."
The idea struck him as something he'd never explored before in his work. More importantly, it also sounded like fun.
"When we think about video games, we always have the idea of a start and a goal, and it's like a race between individual players: who can make it and who won't?" he says. "And I thought, 'Why does it have to be a competition? Why can't everyone just move together in the same direction, carrying things as a team? Who made these rules in the first place, anyway?'"
I've always thought of playing Pikmin as being more like herding cats than commanding a small army of ants. But, hey, I'll take it.