[Daisuke Amaya (a.k.a. Pixel), creator of Cave Story, celebrates his birthday today. Fan art and some chatter about why Amaya-san matters.]
For the uninitiated, Cave Story is a free platformer released for Mac and PC a few years ago. Boasting a relatively lengthy (and melancholy) story, charming art and wonderful music, Cave Story quickly became one of the most prominent and well-loved indie games of all time.
For me personally, Cave Story is still the most important indie game ever developed. This is not because it tells a special story, or because it creates a new genre, or even because it re-invents a genre; because it does none of these things. The art is flawed, and the gameplay is sometimes confusing. So why does this game (and its creator) matter?
Cave Story is important as an ambassador to the mainstream. Cave Story is important as an example of the power of a really wonderful evocative soundtrack. But I think Cave Story matters the most because of its ability to draw people into creating games as a personal and artistic endeavor.
Maybe that's just me though; I could be the only person that officially gave up ideas about commercial game development about halfway through Grasstown. But I have a hunch that I'm not the only one, as we sail past 60 heartfelt birthday wishes over on the Cave Story Wii dev blog: http://tinyurl.com/happybirthdaypixel
And maybe it was nothing to do with Cave Story in particular, and it was just the right game at the right time. But it is hard to play through this labor of love and not be overwhelmed by the responsibility and power inherent in the ability to create these virtual experiences.
The hermit who creates the gun you use throughout the game talks to you when you return to his shop late in the game, and he tells you how he is going to dedicate his life to creating things, because he can see how much they matter to other people.
If Cave Story has an over-arching theme, I think that pretty much nails it. It's an odd theme, in that it comes not out of the gameplay but out of the game en culpa and the knowledge that one man labored on it (part-time, to be fair) for almost five years, only to give it away.
Anyways! Fast forward a few years; Nicalis begins working with Amaya-san to bring Cave Story to the Nintendo Wii, and circumstances fall out in such a way that I get to do all of the high-res environment art for the optional "high res" graphics display.
It was a fairly boring job, but one that I will never regret taking. When Cave Story comes out in the Wii Shop, and begins to reach a new audience, I will have played some small part in helping it get there.
And maybe, somebody else will pick it up, and halfway through Grasstown start thinking really hard about their day job and their priorities.