Famed video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto did his best thinking in the Nintendo company bath

Creation station
Creation station
Image: Flick/Potoro Bay Hotel & Resort (CC BY 2.0)
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It turns out Archimedes wasn’t the only inventor to do his thinking in the bath.

Shigeru Miyamoto, the famed Nintendo video game designer, said he found inspiration for Donkey Kong while luxuriating in the company bathtub. Miyamota was interviewed in Japanese for Nintendo’s website, which was translated by Wired.

“It totally saved me,” Miyamoto said of the bathtub. “It was really effective at letting me put my ideas in order.”

Wait, company bathtub? Is that the missing ingredient of the creative workplace? Will bathtubs join ping pong tables and Foosball as the must-have office toys?

Probably not. It turns out the Nintendo bathtub was tied to the company’s history as a maker of hanafuda, a traditional form of Japanese cards. Nintendo made hanafuda since 1889, and it was still a big part of the business in 1981. At the time, Miyamota lived in company-run dormitories near the card factory. As he explained:

There was a water boiler that was used to make the hanafuda, and the water from this boiler was also used for a bathtub. The employees making the hanafuda could wash their sweat away in the bath after work, and at night when nobody was around, you could hang out there for a long time.

Shigero said he was under intense pressure to come up with Donkey Kong, because Nintendo of America desperately needed to replace a failed arcade game called Radarscope. It took him four or five months of feverish work, soothed by long soaks in the bath, to finish the game. The game’s breakout star was a certain mustachioed plumber, who only later was named Mario.