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MIGS Keynote: Mizuguchi On Creativity Led by Inspiration

As part of our coverage of the third Montreal Game Summit, we present the summary of the summit's keynote, this year led by Q Entertainment's Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Lumines, Rez), in which he talked through a history of personal inspirations and about
The third annual Montreal Game Summit began this year with a short opening event, after which Tetsuya Mizuguchi took the stage in Montreal’s Palais des Congrés to discuss “Inspiration led creation - how can we design a game from the first inspiration”. Amiable, if seeming to struggle with concepts that felt almost too big to explain, Mizuguchi led the audience through his personal inspirations across his career and extrapolated on the importance of such inspiration to game designers. Mizuguchi’s Drive Beginning with Pong, which Telefilm Canada’s Wayne Clarkson mentioned comically during the opening as more his “kind of game”, Mizuguchi introduced it as his first game experience, and argued that this experience, of a game with limited graphics and sound but deep gameplay, has influenced his entire career. Studying Media Aesthetics at University but unsure which direction to take, it wasn’t until roughly 1991, when chancing upon an R360 arcade machine (Sega’s deluxe G-Loc Air Battle cabinet, which featured 360 degrees of movement) that he decided to enter the games industry and join Sega, after spotting their logo on the machine. “I thought, ‘this is a game?’ ‘This is Sega?’” he remarked, recreating his incredulity. For Mizuguchi’s first game with Sega, Sega Rally Championship, he explained that he was inspired by the recent technological innovations (textured 3d graphics) and that, as a world traveller, he realised that although most racing games were F1 orientated, there were many rally fans across the globe. That same sensitivity inspired bike racing title Manx TT, after Mizuguchi visited the Isle of Man for the annual Tourist Trophy race. The design of the cabinet and gameplay in particular were inspired by Hang-On, and the idea that the fun of riding a bike is in moving your body and shifting your weight to “hang on”. Echoes Within Invisible Architecture After tiring of working towards realism with racing titles, Mizuguchi became interested in moving to another field, "like music, or entertainment; drama and emotional chemistry." "Games are a kind of architecture," he said. "An invisible architecture. There is the call and response design - like communication. This is the kind of architecture that makes fun.” Revealing that he was inspired by the musical Stomp to wonder “why are musicals so fun? And how can we design this feel into the interactive process?” Mizuguchi displayed a sequence from Space Channel 5 (Part 2), which received a rapturous response from the audience. Mizuguchi quipped on seeing the 3D model of Michael Jackson, “One day I received a call from the executive producer in the United States and he told me ‘Michael wants to appear in your game.’ I said, ‘Who is Michael?’”, but added that in all seriousness, he considered Space Channel 5 an homage to Jackson. The game’s rhythm action, Mizuguchi explained, was a very simplistic design based on the call and response system, and in order to increase the fun of the title, they ensured that the game was as funny as possible. Mizuguchi explained that he made his entire team take a weekly, 2 hour mime workshop for 6 months to help the artists and animators increase the expressiveness of the characters. The New Expression Mizuguchi’s next inspiration, he continued, was the work of Kandinsky, synesthesia, and the Sensorama personal cinema. Combined with the experience of a rave in Zurich, this led to the creation of Rez. Working on Rez was, Mizuguchi explained, his first step in trying to find a way to get the same response in the user from a game that people have across the world from music. From that quest came Lumines, Mizuguchi continued, explaining that the PSP, described by Sony as the “next Walkman,” made it the ideal platform on which to release a musical puzzle game. The inspiration of Lumines 2 and Lumines Live, however, was the iPod, not the Walkman, with the iPod's ability to let users customise their own personal soundtrack and to view music videos on the go. This inspiration in turn moved Mizuguchi to reflect on one of his own, very personal inspirations: the video for A-Ha’s Take on Me. While watching MTV as a teenager, Mizuguchi found that “new expression came from the TV.” While Lumines 2 allows him to include music videos as part of the game, one of his own personal dreams was to make a music video, which he has succeeded in reaching by directing the video for Genki Rocket’s “Heavenly Star”, featured in Lumines 2. Clearly a very personal work, before showing the video, an embarrassed Mizuguchi gave the shy aside, “this isn’t professional”. Creativity and Inspiration Require Imagination Mizuguchi broached his most recent inspirations for the game Ninety Nine Nights - that many wars still exist in the world, and that through the power of the internet it’s possible to see the different sorts of coverage given by many different countries. With this in mind, Mizuguchi remembered Rashomon, Kurosawa’s powerful movie about the difficulty of finding the truth from conflicting reports, and allowed the player to see both sides of a conflict in Ninety Nine Nights. “I think it’s a very charming point of human beings that we can imagine many points of view.” On displaying his final slide, a photograph of a sponge (Mizuguchi casually mentioning, “this isn’t an inspiration”), he finished by arguing, “This industry is a kind of sponge. The game industry is always sucking up things, so if you want to connect people and technologies with no limit, the future of games and the future of this industry is your imagination.”

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