“Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning, I’ll come following you
Take me on a trip upon your magic swirling ship
My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip
My toes too numb to step, wait only for my boot heels to be wandering
I’m ready to go anywhere, I’m ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way I promise to go under it”
On “Mr. Tambourine Man”, Bob Dylan used all of his song-writing skills to talk about the power music has over us, and how it is capable of enchanting the willing human heart and taking it on a journey to some far away places where there is nothing but the magic of the materialization of the delightfully impossible. Most importantly, though, it sends a message on how any good artist can use his skills to lift up the spirits of his audience, and how art can fill up our souls with life and free ourselves from the shackles of boring reality.
Musically, there is not much that can be done with a tambourine in hand, therefore Mr. Tambourine Man does not captivate its followers solely because of his music, but because he is a free spirit who, indifferent to the expectations and rules of the world, manages to live life to its fullest, have fun, and lend a glimpse, to those who are inclined to follow, into a fantastic beautiful land.
Maybe it is not our intent to be exactly like him, because that takes too much courage, but just watching him play and simply be for a few minutes, fills our hearts with the happiness of knowing that there is more to life than rowing in favor of the current; that there are always interesting life-changing discoveries to be made somewhere out there.
While it is clearly questionable whether or not gaming deserves the stamp of being an art form, it is an industry that has certainly been blessed with a select number of very brilliant minds, a few of which will do everything in their power to take us to alternative realities that are as far away from earthly grounds as possible.
Our Mr. Tambourine Men abominate the hungry chase for reality that is evident in the ever-growing graphical specs. They choose, instead, to capture things and places we have never dreamed of visiting in the form of polygons and code. They want to be outlandish, outrageous and uncanny; and in the middle of that impossibility they want to sculpt something that is believable enough to lift our feet out of the pavement and take us into a journey that, for the short time it lasts, aims to imprint a few unforgettable moments or scenes in our brains.
Shigeru Miyamoto is certainly the most prominent figure in that breed of game developers. His and Nintendo’s image are so tied up together that it becomes impossible not to talk about one without mentioning the other. They have virtually become the very same entity, and rightfully so, because if Nintendo made its name a powerful brand after becoming a respectable gaming company, Miyamoto, with his Donkey Kong arcade game, was the main brain behind that jump into stardom.
If Nintendo is seen as a family-friendly company that produces games for all ages and has enough great recognizable franchises under its belt to build a software and merchandise empire, it is because of Miyamoto’s ability to think outside the box without fear of failing or being judged; his insistence in betting in simple but surprising game design, especially in an era where games have grown to be almost as expensive as a Hollywood movie; and his extremely alert mind that is able to capture ideas out of nowhere.
There is a lot that can be said about artists whose works are still widely admired even long after they have come to life, and in an area where technological advances are made on a daily basis, constantly changing the way the works are perceived and built, that feat is even more impressive.
If Nintendo is still able to unleash Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong into the world, and be praised for it even if over two decades have passed ever since those characters have been introduced to us, it means that, in its lunacy, our Mr. Tambourine Man has infused his games with something that cannot be planned, calculated or constructed; something that only comes to the surface in pieces that are so natural, organic and well-built that their brilliancy becomes clear from any context of time and space. And that is timelessness.
Just like the biggest fantasy works directed by Walt Disney or coined by the Brothers Grimm, the children of Miyamoto’s work still manage to captivate, whether they are being handled by their creator or by some dedicated disciple that in loving and learning about those franchises has acquired the ability to constantly restore them without causing any damage.
Miyamoto’s leadership and influence is so strong that its ripples can be seen all throughout everything Nintendo releases. Mr. Tambourine Man has always been all about thinking differently, rowing against the current and being free to create and build whatever it is that he thinks is right, and Nintendo has adopted that philosophy so strongly that in recent years it has obviously distanced itself from its peers in the market with its two-screen handhelds and consoles with unique control systems; changing the way we play games, instead of simply going with the flow and investing in changing how games look.
Miyamoto played his apparently crazy song, Nintendo sat and listened closely to it, and when they chose to fully embrace it, instead of partially accepting it, was the exact point in time when the company reached its full wide-scale potential and transformed the gaming market into something bigger, more light-hearted and more accessible than it had ever been, allowing thousands – probably millions – of people to listen to what Mr. Tambourine Man had to say, and promptly follow him into the Mushroom Kingdom, Hyrule, DK Island and other amazing locations.
Alongside the company, Miyamoto has created somewhat of a “Nintendo difference”. The company’s games can be recognized in a fast glimpse, whether due to its worldwide famous characters, or simply because whenever Nintendo games are run by one of their machines they emit some sort of fantastic joyous vibe that triggers an identification mechanism in our brains.
Just like Disney, a long time ago, turned into a synonymous for family fun, whether in the form of theme parks or great animations; Nintendo has transformed into a dictionary entry whose definition can be summed up as a friendly fun product filled with content to please people from all ages and packing a level of quality that is, more often than not, guaranteed to earn some level of praise even from the most demanding fans or vicious critics.
It is hard to pinpoint exactly how fat mustachioed heroes in a land of talking mushrooms, a lazy monkey going after his stolen bananas, a team of intergalactic animals in powerful space ships or armies of ant-like creatures could be so fun, but in his insanity, and in our wish to listen, our Mr. Tambourine Man has guided us there and we have discovered something utterly fascinating.
Ultimately, as awfully clichéd as it sounds, that is what is so special about this team of man and company; in an era where the market is dominated by action shooters, RPG shooters, adventure shooters, sports shooters, party shooters, puzzle shooters and others, Nintendo and Mr. Tambourine Man are absolutely lunatic.
They come at us with light-hearted sports games; insane micro-games collections; mind-blowing platformers of plumbers running through space and pink puffballs exploring a world of yarn; a party fighter with four competitors and items that cause hilarious outcomes; racing games that go through scenarios as bizarre as something taken out of Alice in Wonderland; a kingdom constantly threatened by a pig wizard that must be stopped by young boy dressed in some elaborated green pajamas; a town ran by a greedy raccoon and inhabited by goofy animals; a female bounty hunter carrying the weight of the galaxy on her shoulders; a humanoid that controls carrot-like aliens with a whistle and much more.
While the world seems to be concerned with simulating, Mr. Tambourine Man just wants to keep playing his tune. A song that, by being unharmonized and completely out of tune with everything else that goes around it, catches the eye and lifts the heart.
“Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow”