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The uphill battle of getting Katamari Damacy noticed by Namco

In an excerpt from the upcoming book Katamari Damacy, Keita Takahashi discussed the uphill battle of trying to get his pitch accepted at Namco.
“But I felt that it was so much better than joining boring other projects, so I decided to join this project as game designer.”

- Katamari Damacy's creator Keita Takahashi on taking a professional risk to pursue creatively fulfilling work.

Japanese business culture runs deep within the Japanese games industry, where the hierarchal structure is deeply rooted in tradition. It was safe and generally expected for employees to stick to the norm-- and that applied when it came to pitching video games. 

In an excerpt published to Polygon from the upcoming book Katamari Damacy, author L.E. Hall (and accomplished escape room designer) spoke with Katamari Damacy's creator Keita Takahashi to discuss the uphill battle of getting the higher-ups of Namco to accept his game idea.

Takahashi's desire to create a new type of game was hindered by the fact that at the time, Namco had no real internal process for pitching a game design from his position or the department he was in. It was an internal roadblock with no clear solution in sight. 

Unsure of where to start, Takahashi spoke with his boss Mitsutoshi Ozaki on how to move the idea forward into actual internal production. 

“Usually game ideas were proposed from the game design department at Namco, but we both worked in the art department," Takahashi explained.

"Also, technically Ozaki-san was not my actual boss at that time. He had moved to another department, so I had to talk to my current boss about my idea first—but he was not a manager of game designers, he was a manager of artists. He seemed to not have a bad impression of my idea, but he couldn’t make a decision about the game itself.”

Despite the setback, Takahashi remained resilient in getting his pitch to stick. 

“It sucked, and I was stuck, but Ozaki-san had suggested a very unusual method for moving forward to me," Takahashi said.

"At that time, I think he worked in the ‘new business department’ where they explore new business models. And that department was going to establish a specialized school for making video games for Namco by collaborating with a school for learning computer graphics called Digital Hollywood.”

The Namco Digital Hollywood Game Lab was a six-month course aimed at helping developers learn the necessary skills to create games for the PlayStation 2, with the goal being that their program would spit out different and interesting work while turning graduates into new hires.

“Ozaki-san said that Masaya Nakamura, then president of Namco, was interested in being a school principal, and that is one of the big reasons for this business,” Takahashi noted.

“And this game class had a curriculum where they actually make a game. But the students of this school [were] learn[ing] to be CG artists. So Ozaki-san needed a game idea that was easy to collaborate on with very junior artists, and my idea was selected. Ozaki-san thought the students could make objects that a katamari can roll up."

Thus began work on the Katamari Damacy prototype.

The entire excerpt is well worth the read and offers more detail into the prototyping stage of Katamari Damacy's development, so be sure to check it out over at Polygon

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