LONDON — Could Nintendo's Mario be swapping his world of magic mushrooms and ravenous dinosaurs for the staid confines of the classroom?
The man behind the massively popular video game franchise thinks so, saying he's working hard to turn Nintendo Co.'s brand of handheld consoles into educational aids and teaching tools.
"That is maybe the area where I am devoting myself (the) most," Japanese video game guru Shigeru Miyamoto told The Associated Press in an interview.
Speaking through a translator, Miyamoto said that Nintendo's DS console was already being used in Japanese museums, galleries, and aquariums, and that his company was beginning to roll out the Nintendo DS system "in junior high and elementary schools in Japan starting in the new school year."
He framed the project as part of his company's effort to broaden the audience for gaming consoles.
Miyamoto's design credits include "Super Mario Bros.," "Legend of Zelda," and "Donkey Kong." He also played a pivotal role in designing Nintendo's popular new motion-sensitive console, the Wii, which has consistently outsold rivals by attracting nontraditional gamers such as women and seniors.
But the 57-year-old was cagey when asked about his competitors, saying only that he was "honored" that others – including Sony, which has just recently unveiled its PlayStation Move – were following suit with motion-sensitive controllers.
He also declined to go into detail when asked what was in store for the best-selling Wii, saying only that "new technologies are always emerging." He did note that Nintendo was hoping to increase the number of Wii users connecting their console to the Internet.
Miyamoto was in London to accept a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Fellowship at the GAME British Academy Video Games Awards later Friday. The title is the academy's highest honor for creative work and has previously been bestowed by on film greats such as Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick.
"It's a great honor that my name might be listed as a fellowship member along with such a great director as Hitchcock," he said. But the designer – whose video games have a large and devoted following – batted away suggestions that his work was in the same category as a classic film.
Miyamoto said he primarily saw himself as an entertainer. "I have never said that video games (are) an art," he said.
The BAFTA ceremony will see games such as "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" and "Streetfighter IV" battling it out for awards in various categories. Three of Miyamoto's titles, including the newly released "New Super Mario Bros. Wii" are in the running. The ceremony is due to be broadcast live online.
On the Net:
BAFTA Web site: http://www.bafta.org