Shigeru Miyamoto has always been one of the more inspirational figures in the gaming industry. An interview with him from 1998 has recently been translated, and it reveals a lot about Miyamoto's philosophy on games. In the interview, he states that his teams won't aim for 100% graphical realism because it allows the creators to more freely express their style, instead of worrying about realistic constraints.
Now remember that in 1998 three dimensional graphics were only just beginning to be implemented by Nintendo. The Nintendo 64, Nintendo's first 3D capable console, was only a year old at this point, so naturally the topic of graphics came up in the interview. When asked about how hardware was advancing to allow more detail in graphics, Miyamoto responded with the following:
Interviewer: Speaking of precision, hardware today is forcing developers to create and show things to players that wasn’t necessary with earlier technology.
Miyamoto: Yes, it is true, that now with 3D and the like, there’s a lot more to create in these worlds. But no matter how advanced the technology gets, we won’t be trying to make 100% real visuals.
Miyamoto: Yes, intentionally. And if the technology does end up progressing to that level, then developers won’t be able to make something unless it’s perfect, will they? And that’s one reason why we use a representational style, like the deformed polygons, for instance.
Interviewer: Right. Even if the scope for expression increases, there will always be a need for humans to act as intermediaries.
Miyamoto: If you say you’re creating something “real”, then suddenly everything becomes a technical contest: and the winner is the one who can create the most “realistic” depiction, right? Except that I don’t think that’s true. Because here is where one’s individuality as a creator, one’s style, really comes out.
Miyamoto's prediction about a technical contest has already come to pass, as a quick peek at any social media post about the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 should make quite clear. And while many games aim for "realistic" graphics, the ones that are popular are still the ones with that individuality. Games like Splatoon and Super Smash Bros. still sell relatively well despite not being the most graphically advanced. Nintendo has embraced Miyamoto's idea of individuality over graphics wholeheartedly, and it remains one of the major things that sets the company apart.
If you're interested in reading the rest of this intriguing interview, you can check out the full translation by Shmuplations.