Yoshiyuki Tomino, creator of Japan's most popular sci-fi giant robot franchise, Mobile Suit Gundam
, used his keynote speech at Japan's Gamasutra-attended CEDEC game conference to provoke game developers -- and try to make them reconsider the future of gaming.
"I think that video games are evil," says Tomino. "[Gaming] is not a type of activity that provides any support to our daily lives, and all these consoles are just consuming electricity! Let's say we have about three billion people on this planet wasting their time, bringing no productivity at all. Add 10 billion more people, and what would happen to our planet? Video games are assisting the death of our planet!"
This is particularly ironic, as his signature Gundam franchise and its many spinoffs are widely featured in games on all platforms, and have been since the series' popularity exploded in the 1980s.
Of course, Tomino doesn't see the situation as quite that hopeless -- or having him as the keynote speaker at a developers' conference would be pointless. Nearly 70 years old, Tomino is motivated by a desire to pass his wisdom to the next generation -- treatment he says he did not receive when he entered the animation industry.
Says Tomino, "The video game industry is now 30 years old. It is just the right time for the business' company structure and many other elements to become solid. But at the same time, it is also a point where there is uncertainty in its future. In order to overcome this uncertainty, it is important for experienced creators such as myself to talk about their experiences."
His goal is to challenge developers to improve their output. "You have to find the median -- that games are not evil, perhaps not necessarily good either, but something that can be considered a pastime. What would make people enjoy a game? How do you make them feel like it is not just a waste of time?"
"If finding answers to these questions were easy," says Tomino, "then something better would have been out by now. Has there been anything better than Tetris
since it first came out? How many years has it been? This is what I want to tell you: I want you to create a game that does not negatively affect our daily lives and is something that is considered more productive."
He decries the reliance on technology that the game industry faces, analogizing it to the animation industry. Says Tomino, "People who work on CG have become too dependent in using the software and tools, but forgot the most important question: what are we doing, and what are we trying to create using these tools?"
"People working on CG have become caught up with how to use these tools, but do not give a thought on creating content that will be relevant 10 years from now. As long as we remember to ask ourselves the question, I believe that a hint towards the next step can be seen."
Of course, the relevance of Tomino's position is directly correlated to his success. Launched in 1979, the Gundam franchise has exploded into spin-offs across all media, and generates new fans on a routine basis.
"Now that the Gundam franchise has reached its 30 year anniversary this year," says Tomino, "to think of the next 30 or even 50 years ahead, we should fully understand what makes things click with the audience."