We've only scratched the surface of what is possible in music games, said NanaOn-Sha president Masaya Matsuura in a spirited talk delivered at Brighton's Develop Conference.
Matsuura, who is widely credited with inventing the rhythm-action genre with his PlayStation title PaRappa the Rapper
, challenged creatives in this booming genre to expand their horizons.
"Music is no longer something to be consumed passively," he said, "but instead something in which we can all have a active role.
"Since time immemorial, music has been used to turn the act of praying and worship in to a communal act," said Matsuura. "It’s always been something that has spread virally, so it’s perfectly natural that we have come to experience music today through communal rhythm games."
"And yet artistic expression and creativity in rhythm games is still in its infancy. I hope that by working and thinking together we have the chance to stretch the possibilities of tomorrow."
Matsuura expressed excitement at how, thanks to Guitar Hero
and Rock Band
, music games are expanding this young genre. "As we entered the new century, the production of rhythm games has boomed, [mirroring] the music industry’s boom in the 1980s," he said. "The result is that more and more creators have been pushed into indie development, one of the best indicators of rhythm gaming’s rich potential."
"However, if we look closely at the developments that have been made in the relationships between music and games in terms of social networking and all of the other forms of technology and expression, we have hardly touched the possibilities that are now open to us."
Matsuura explained how it has become a personal mission of his to "nurture the wonderful potential of this sub industry." However, he feels as though the rhythm-action label, which came to prevalence following the success of PaRappa
, is too restrictive.
"In the beginning, my idea was to make the rhythm elements of music into a game experience with PaRappa the Rapper
," said Matsuura. "But both in that game and in my previous titles, my aims have been more wide-ranging. In PaRappa
we also looked at ad lib and call and response, while in UmJammer Lammy
, I wanted to examine dividing playtime between multiple players."
Matsuura then explained that Vib Ribbon
’s systemic theme was to generate game data from any music, while its sequel, Mojib-ribbon
, sought to create game data from any lyrics.
, [NanaOn-Sha’s first iPod game] we tried generating game data from ID3 metadata, while, in our most recent game, Major Minor’s Majestic March
, we allowed the player to play with the tempo of music, as well as its rhythm. These are just some of the early steps we’ve been taking in trying to expand music gaming beyond ‘Rhythm Action’."
Matsuura also expressed dismay at how restricted music games have been in their choice of musical genres. "I would be so happy to see a game based around traditional Japanese music, or one featuring Buddhist prayers or chanting," he said.
"Rock Band: The Beatles
will fulfill the dreams of many rock fans. But what about fans of other musical styles? Why not give players the chance to conduct the London Philharmonic, for example?"
Beyond diversifying the use of musical genre, Matsuura challenged music game makers to also investigate other game genres in which to make music interactive. "Why not create an open world game that allows players to use of hundreds of musical objects to make impromptu music?"
"Publishers might say these experiences would be too niche. But you only need look at a game like Wii Music to see that creating a game designed to appeal to everybody is not always a guaranteed success."