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Elden Ring boss Hidetaka Miyazaki reflects on how becoming a father might influence his future games

It's "very interesting to see a small human being discover or see the world"

Quelaana, Daughter of Chaos, a spiderlady from Dark Souls
Image credit: Reywan / Bandai Namco

With Shadow Of The Erdtree about to launch this week, From Software president Hidetaka Miyazaki has been doing a round of interviews discussing next steps for the venerated action-RPG developer, or at least, hinting at them in the manner of a Dark Souls NPC suggesting that you might want to have a poke around New Anor Londo. In one such chat, Miyazaki strays perilously close to airing the "themes or core elements" of whatever game or games FromSoftware are working on post-Elden Ring, commenting that he has been inspired, albeit perhaps in a "short-term way", by the experience of having a daughter.

"There are many elements that excite me when it comes to both video games and tabletop board games, and I think that there are many joys to be extracted from that," Miyazaki told Gamespot, when asked about game mechanics that currently intrigue him. "But for me, personally, what brings the most excitement comes while I'm making a game. Whenever I have a good idea and I can create a hypothesis and then test that theory against, "Hey, is this fun? Is this a good idea or not?" Those moments to me bring the most excitement. So perhaps through my work, I am constantly chasing that feeling and that excitement as I'm making games.

"One other thing that really excites me right now is watching my daughter grow," he went on. "And this might be a very short-term thing, but it's fascinating and very interesting to see a small human being discover or see the world; see how a human is constructed or built in a way, how the personality is formed, how they start to identify and build their own identity. And this might just be being a father, but I think that there's certainly something there that excites me."

Asked by the Spot whether that parental fascination might find its way into an art-or-entertainment work of some kind, and in particular whether "that more naive and idealistic perspective kids have could change how you see the world and thus the worlds you depict in games", Miyakazi added:

"I don't think about that too much and I am not against the idea of change. In a lot of ways, I think having a daughter can expand the possibilities, and that expansion is a necessary element of continuing to make great games - a stimulant of [creativity] if you will. And I don't mean to talk about my daughter as an object or anything, but in the process of making games, I think it is a necessary and important stimulant because it helps you see the world through a different lens in a lot of ways. And if that is causing worry for my fans or the gamers, I don't think there's much to worry about.

"For me, it's again, finding and discovering that fleeting moment of beauty in a lot of these dark, cold, harsh, grotesque worlds that I think allows it to shine even more," he went on. "That philosophy applies to how I design and direct video games. So if I find a newer, even higher or more stimulating beauty, that will just help make the worlds even darker, more grotesque, and harsher so that it can shine even brighter. In terms of a fantasy world, the brighter something shines, the darker the shadow it casts, right?"

Gorsh. I have at least three thoughts about all this. The sillier one is that I can totes imagine an Elden Ring patch which explicitly specifies that they've bumped up the grotesqueness by 25%, to compensate for accidentally setting the beauty values too high in the previous update and making all the Undead rosy-cheeked.

Another is that this sounds like round two for the Sad Daddification of videogames, made famous by the 2018 God Of War reboot - a loose period of introspection in which various prominent male game designers attempted to humanise action games with recourse to their own experiences of fatherhood. I'm not aware that there has been a corresponding Mommification of videogames, perhaps because the industry has not done a brilliant job historically of supporting and including game developers who become mothers.

Thirdly, the notion of the face of the Souls genre being inspired by his daughter is a complicated one, given the absolutely tortuous, hyper-Aeschylean, utterly self-annihilating way the Souls games and their offshoots think about family. There are no healthy families in the Soulsverse, I think (Quelaag's sister in the header image there is probably one of the happier daughters, which is saying a lot given that she's part-spider). If you've got a parent or child in these games, odds are you're trying to usurp them or murder them or eat them or enslave them or use them as fuel for your own immortality.

The games often draw parallels between progeniture and the very concept of a sequel, extending their mucky dynastic parables outward to encompass the circumstances of their production. I'm interested to see how that knotty worldview might evolve, as Miyazaki grapples with the act of being a dad himself. But perhaps he's tired of these sordid enigmas, and glimpses in the thrill of parenting an opportunity to reinvent himself as the creator of, I don't know, sunny slice-of-life games. Let's circle back to this thread in a few years. In other news, our own Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree review has just gone live and, surprise surprise, it's a humdinger.

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