Nintendo’s Four I Standard

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I was digging through some older GDC related posts during the course of some research yesterday. In a keynote that Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata delivered to a packed house at this year’s Game Developers Conference. He mentioned the “Four I’s” that Nintendo uses as a standard for the games it develops.

“The reason, I believe, is that it meets the standards we set for all software we develop. We call these standards the Four Is.
First, is it truly innovative – something different from what has come before?
Second, is it intuitive? Do the control of the game and the direction of gameplay seem natural?
Third, is it inviting? Do you want to spend time in this world?
And finally, how does it measure up in terms of interface? Can the player connect in new ways?”

My immediate reaction was to go back to all those games I played and continue to play. I realized that those are four elements that are essential to a successful gameplay experience. Core gamers demand games that are ‘innovative’ – games that push the boundaries beyond what has existed till that point in time. They’re willing to spend the time to learn to play a game and master its mechanics, but that’s only if its intuitive. There is a long list of games that failed simply because the game wasn’t intuitive enough, the one that springs to mind is Spiderman: Web of Shadows. Goes without saying that it’s got to be ‘inviting’, gamers won’t spend time in a environment they don’t feel comfortable in. It’s almost paradoxical that in some commercial games these are imagined, rule bound, and in cases violent and explosive environments; yet they seem inviting to core gamers.

The next was to relate those “Four I’s” to learning games Instructional Designers create in the course of delivering solutions to customers. Sadly, we fail miserably on all fronts. Over the years, we’ve seen games that have been innovative, intuitive, inviting and having great interfaces; these have been individual qualities. However, I’ve not seen a SINGLE game which embodies all four qualities at the same time. I wonder if the designer’s failings were a result of inability to think as game designers and NOT instructional designers.

It’s simply because game designers and instructional designers ascribe to different philosophies; have different training and lean differently when talking about the same thing – games. Game design and instructional design are as different as chalk and cheese. The Learning Circuits blog makes a similar comment about this difference between the values of Instructional Systems Design and Computer Game Design.

In his post on Learning Circuits, Mark makes an interesting closing “What is the answer? I don’t know. I know enough to listen though when a man speaks who has a set of design principles flexible enough to produce both Super Mario Kart and Brain Age.” Makes much sense to me; there is much wisdom for Instructional Designers seeking to design learning games in Nintendo’s 4I’s standard. We must attempt to appropriate and adopt these standards to apply to all eLearning.

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