He was the Japanese equivalent of an indie rock star, the kind of guy who made an album because he thought it would be fun to do only to find out everybody else loved the same things as he did. His game had just been bought by a major publisher, money was surely rolling in and he had cool points from all over, but inside he was that geek trying to show people how neat he thought it was to roll over a cow with a giant sticky ball. The cow mooed.
He only spoke in Japanese so one of the staple speakers at the Experimental Gameplay session, a white guy with long blond hair who had been so in love with the game when he saw it in Japan that he asked its creator to travel to San Jose, California to show it off, provided the translation as he went. Surprisingly, despite the game being in Japanese as well, very little translation was needed; he really spoke mostly in laughs and excitement as we were taken through a couple of levels, skimming through as much of the story as possible.
Just as Kottke said, it is refreshing to have a game that doesn’t take itself so seriously, likewise it was refreshing to have a game designer who didn’t either. Most of the questions about the game, things like “how did you get the idea for this” and “what did it take to get such a big company to purchase a game as different as this”, were met with laughs and shrugs, a firm conveyance that everything had just sort of “happened.” His game was made on the premise of enjoyment, decisions about game mechanics and story points were based on what he thought would be fun. It was exactly what every developer in the room wanted to see.
The room for this session of the GDC (Game Developers Conference) was generally packed, this particular year was no exception, and by the time the designer and creator of Katamari Damacy had come on stage it was standing room only. Jeff and I had made sure to arrive early, expecting a crowd of this size and wanting to get a seat for the 2 hours of independent games and innovative ideas. This session was one of the main reasons why we made sure to get passes to this conference every year. Katamari Damacy was the last game presented.
At the time, the game was completely unknown to American eyes (that has sure changed), having only existed for a short time in Japan. We were all locked in awe throughout the presentation. As he was coming to the end, the time for the session had run out but he held us all transfixed by saying, “wait, wait, there’s one last thing I want to show you.” We stood eagerly as he loaded up a save game where everything had been completed to show us the fun thing that awaited us at the end of the game because he didn’t think the game would ever be released to American markets. By the time he was through those of us who had previously been sitting down, half a room of gamer-types, stood up to clap and cheer.
This modest man from japan had bowled us all over with his weird game about a little prince and a really big ball. And I saw it first.
Tags: [tag:games], [tag:gdc], katamari damacy