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GO3: Mizuguchi Says Through Games, 'Everything Can Change'

During a presentation at Perth's GO3 Electronic Entertainment Expo, Tetsuya Mizuguchi elaborated on the path his game career has taken, from classic racing title Sega Rally to his later, synaesthetic works Rez and Lumines, and how gam

David Low, Blogger

March 30, 2007

5 Min Read

In his 17 years in the business, Tetsuya Mizuguchi has produced a portfolio of games almost unrivaled in it's variety. From the ground-breaking 3D racing of Sega Rally through to his second coming as a music game maestro, Mizuguchi is constantly driven by visions he has of things yet to be done, and also a fear of boredom if he keeps doing the same thing over and over. In his speech at the GO3 conference in Perth, Mizuguchi gave us a whirlwind tour of his career, as well as some insight into the vision that drives him to innovate in the field of interactive media, and effort to "change many things" - not just games, but the world as well. When he was 11 years old, Mizuguchi went to friend's house, and was introduced to a strange device that allowed you to move objects on a TV screen - his friend told him it was "a video game - it was Pong." At around the same he was also discovering music, "especially the Beatles." He said these were powerful influences on him in his later life as a game designer. Another important step was his degree at Edo University in aesthetics and art, and while this didn't immediately lead to a career, it was influential in him understanding how humans react to stimuli. He couldn't decide his future, until one day he saw a Sega arcade game in town, and was very impressed ("Wow"). He decided then and there he would work for Sega. He didn't start at the top, but "watched the industry while making CG movies" in his early days at Sega, until the opportunity arose to work with the fledgling texture mapped 3D technology. Mizuguchi traveled the world and took pictures, and thought that these new 3D games would be able to capture that feeling. He realized that a driving game would be perfect to show off the 3D graphics that could be created, and create the feeling of traveling and seeing "many landscapes, such as the desert." Approaching Toyota about licensed cars in the game, the company initially rejected the concept outright because they thought games couldn't do their cars justice - until they saw Mizuguchi's Sega Rally demo - and they said "Wow!". Mizuguchi compared this to today, where many companies specifically "ask to put their cars in games" like Gran Turismo - citing for the first of many times his career slogan that "we can change many things." After producing more racing games, each trying to innovate in other areas (such as the advanced input devices of Sega Rally Deluxe and Manx TT Superbike, which used hydraulic arcade cabinets to more accurately simulate the experience), Mizuguchi decided to move on from the genre, since the advancements, primarily in "graphics, which were getting more gorgeous" were "in engineering, not creativity." He liked musical shows, especially the rhythm show Stomp, and thought about how to make such a performance into an interactive product. By breaking down the elements ("movement, passion") he came up with a scenario that was suitably ridiculous and dramatic - aliens attacking that force everyone to dance! Space Channel 5 rewards the player with constant visual stimuli for correctly playing - while still following a traditional game archetype: beat aliens, save people. Mizuguchi was flattered when Michael Jackson asked to be in the game (even though it was three weeks from completion!), and cited this as "another thing that could change - real music artists asking to be in my game?" In the past he couldn't have imagined this, but "now it's possible" and even commonplace. Moving to another more general point, Mizuguchi talked about his approach to the play-reward structure of games, which he calls "call response" - where you perform an action the game asks of you, and you get a visual or sonic response. However, the 'response' needs to "spiral up" to maintain the player's interest and keep the game fun. But what balance of rewards keeps a game fun? With some team brainstorming, as well as some inspiration from some modern art (and a poster about an ancient sideshow attraction called the 'sensorama booth'), Mizuguchi put these aesthetic theories into practice. After a series of constructions and deconstructions on the fundamental features of "call response," Rez was born. Based on the concept of traditional 2D shooters, where enemies who are hit make a sound that becomes part of the soundtrack, Rez was all about the senses - even touch, via controller vibration (and the infamous 'trace vibrator'). After leaving Sega and forming Q Entertainment, the same theory was applied to a portable game in Lumines, where the archetypal portable game (a puzzle game) was married to the "call response" of Rez. Mizuguchi extended the idea of the PSP being the 'interactive Walkman' in Lumines II by making it a game of "interactive music videos" - also containing the real artists he never imagined would be involved in games. And in the same way, the theory behind Lumines Live is an extension of the music download culture of iTunes. After a brief run though of the ideas behind Ninety Nine Nights - multiple perspectives on the same story, much like international news reports of the same event differ, Mizuguchi finished with a mention of his next inspiration - "a sponge." "In 30 years we have gone from a black and white dot on a screen in Pong to rich HD graphics" - and there have been huge advances in Mizuguchi's 17 year career - "where will we be in another 17 years?" TV and music "aren't changing as much as games" because their technology is more set, but games are still moving rapidly. He wishes to absorb all the information he can to work out "what is the core of a human" so that in the future "everyone will play games" in the same way everyone listens to music now. "Everything can change." [This report from the GO3 conference was published in association with PalGN, one of the largest Australian consumer video game websites, which is attending the Perth, Australia-based conference as a journalistic outlet and media sponsor.]

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