hiroki kikuta

hiroki kikuta

So, I guess, David, you would know his name. [Laughs.] He's saying that he thinks he's about 52. He's actually not quite sure about how old he is, but he probably thinks that’s right. He's located in Japan in Tokyo and he started in the gaming industry in 1991 with a company called Square, which at the time, was located in Akasaka in Japan. And he was making music there for about six, seven years. Namely titles like Secret of Mana 2 and 3, I guess -- Seiken Densetsu 3 and Sōkaigi and recently he's been making music for other companies like Sega and Namco.

So, when your career started in the game industry, where were you hoping it would take you?

Hey David! So, to answer your question regarding when I started the career in gaming, to answer why I picked gaming: Before I became a composer, Kikuta-san was an artist and unfortunately he couldn't really make ends meet being an artist, so he decided to join a company to support himself and he just so happened to open up an ad and saw a position at Square which, at the time, he didn't know who Square was, he didn't really understand how to make games, but he applied and got in.

Did he have something he hoped he would achieve once he got established with Square?

Just to answer, the ad he answered -- so to answer when Kikuta-san essentially applied for Square, he played some games. At the time consumer gaming wasn't a big thing, so he didn't do too much of it and he didn't know Square meant, how the gaming -- he had no clue about the gaming industry pretty much. He just happened to apply and happened to get the job. So he had no idea what his life would turn into with gaming. It was just kind of a stroke of luck thing. He just happened to apply. He just happened to get it.

So I could ask him once he got to Square, did he think about, like, where he wanted to go maybe?

Yeah, sure.

Hey David?

Mmhmm?

From Kikuta-san's story, when he joined Square-Enix right around '91, that's when the Super NES was getting a lot more popular. And at the time, he was actually, I think, the appropriate translation would be QA on Final Fantasy IV, and that's when everything is happening, there's new projects, there's new ideas flying around and instead of him sitting around thinking of his future, it was more of a lot of stuff happening all at once.

[Laughs.]

He's explaining it more as an innovation boom of excitement and action happening where something -- a project's coming up, something's happening here, and he's just hopping on and jumping on wave after wave. That's how he's explaining it, where he's -- instead of thinking of where he's going, there's so much action happening that he's trying to jump on it. And I think it makes sense because it was a crazy time for Square. [Laughs.]

Yeah. Something I was curious about is about how the beginning of game projects has changed over the years and generations to today. Have they gotten more rigid? Was there more experimentation? What did he notice about the beginning of game projects at companies?

[Laughs.] I think he has something more to say, but I'm going to say what he just said.

The way I posed the question was: From when he started working at Square in the '90s to recently, is there any difference regarding how a company take risks, how the projects get started, or finish, blah blah blah.

He said it's a completely different thing from the '90s to 2000.

I asked him if there's any specifics that he wants to share and he just said that every single thing has been different from when he started in the '90s and he touched on how from the Super Famicom, the Super NES, from when he started to the bridge to going into the PlayStation era changed a lot of things. Everything from technology, the maker -- meaning the first party -- the group or organizations that keeps the brands, the management system, the money, everything has changed.

Okay. Did he have more?

Let me go ask.

Thank you. [Laughs.]

Okay, David. So one of the things that he specifically remembers and he feels that changed from being in the Super Nintendo to the PlayStation, right around '91, '96 is when they made one title, one project. They start from nothing, you know, start from concept and, you know, everything they make from scratch. That process from beginning to end was about two years.

And he specifically says that everything was made with care, with a lot of passion, everybody's working really hard, coming together with teamwork and they take their time on making something that's quality.

And the time from starting from zero to completion took around -- one at a time, two years. And from right around the PlayStation era, I guess the entire project turnaround time was roughly half of that, which is a year. If something took two years, it takes a year. And everything seemed from, like, there's a lot of markets and business plans that made things move faster and it felt like everything had a shorter term rather than a longer term.

And compared to the Super Nintendo era, where everything was moving slowly but made with care, he felt that the PlayStation era was everybody's in a hurry, they were trying to turn around things very quickly.

Some people have told me they feel the industry grew too fast, and what Kikuta-san said touches on that. Would he agree with that statement? Does he feel like the industry grew too fast?

He does. He does feel that way.

Can he elaborate at all?

So, Dave? What he feels very -- one of the examples he gave was the growth between the people who make the games, between the people who sell the games, those each individual growths probably didn't match.

He feels that, you know, the difference in growth didn't match between the groups, which he feels a lot in that.

Does he feel that marketing grew faster or which grew faster than the other?

He only said however it grew, it just didn't match. Do you want me to ask?

Yeah, sure.

So, Dave?

Mmhmm?

He feels that the -- from the Super Nintendo era, the people who made the games were able to make the games very fast. They were able to produce product or whatever they were delivering fast, but he felt that the people on the management side, people who were responsible on organizing things and sell this as a product -- they couldn't catch up, is what he was saying. I'm gonna say -- what do you call it when you're undermanned, I guess?

Understaffed?

Yeah, thank you.

Of course.

One of the things he thinks, for example, that the games from Super Famicom, Super Nintendo and on -- that he feels that a lot of these games could have been marketed overseas more, which I kinda agree. [Laughs.]

[Laughs.]

Because -- this is my era, when I grew up. [Laughs.] I paid, like, $100 per game for imports.

Insert

This is a rumor, and something I'd always heard: Was Seiken Densetsu 2 or 3 supposed to be a Super Nintendo CD launch title?

He can’t answer that question. [Laughs.]

That's fine, but can you ask him to explain why not?

[Laughs.] So, he's saying that he's not in the position to answer that because he's basically a third party from Nintendo and it's more of a Nintendo kind of story and since they haven't said anything about that, he can't talk anything about that.

What is the atmosphere like at a game company when a project is canceled?

So, Dave? Regarding when a project gets canceled, like, it's pretty obvious that no one's happy and there's no need to really explain what's going on. It just kinda sucks. But specifically for Secret of Mana 2 or Seiken Densetsu 3, at the time, all the developers that's creating the game in Japan, they actually have no information that it's being sold overseas or that it's doing well overseas. They literally have no information. Obviously that's whoever's handling the marketing and the actual publishing overseas have any idea, but that kind of information or talk, communication, is just non-existent with the dev team.

So, he's saying that he had literally no idea with what's going on with the American release. Actually, I think I remember a tweet from him like that.

So, yeah, I just mentioned to him that he tweeted something similar to that where he said he had no idea that there was an American fanbase. He even says that a lot of people probably still don't think that there's a lot of big fanbase because they were located in Japan and they have no information outside of Japan really.

Especially in the '90s, where there's no Internet and there's really no way for them to know that people are buying their game and they're loving it.

Yeah, I guess there weren't a lot of kids in America writing letters to Japan. Were there?

Me! Me! [Laughs.]

Well, ask him! I mean, they had no idea at all?

Yeah, they had no idea. No information whatsoever. Like, should I ask him if they ever got fan letters? [Laughs.]

Yeah, sure.

So, Dave, I think it's a cultural difference with fan letters. Like, especially in the '90s, all the games are marketing towards children, even though we weren't really children -- anyway. [Laughs.]

[Laughs.]

You know, their idea is they're selling to kids who are in elementary, middle school, and unfortunately I guess it's not really common for Japanese fans to write letters. He's saying it was very seldom that they even got fan letters from Japanese audience, let alone, overseas. And most of them would go to the marketing portion of the division instead of the actual devs.

If I were to ask him about the term "console wars" and that era, is that something he would know?

I think so, but let me ask.

My question is about whether the whole Nintendo versus Sega thing and kids picking on each other, "My system's better!" That whole thing. If it was like that in Japan, too.

Okay, so I guess from his view, in Japan, the kids, the children plainly just wanted to have fun and they enjoyed each console for whatever they offered. But the people who did the whole console fanboy was more adults.

In Japan?

Yeah. His only thing is that he says the Super Nintendo was so popular that it was -- hotcakes. You can't touch it. Like, "exploding with popularity" is what he's saying.

Can he me tell me a bit more about the adults who were really fanboyish, like, what was their behavior?

[Laughs.] "Behavior?"

I don't know. In America, it was kids acting that way. I'm curious what adults in Japan were doing if they were fanboys.

So, he's saying it's just as like team spirit with sports teams. You know, like, Nintendo versus Sega, this is my home crew kind of -- he finds it funny, I guess. [Laughs.]

I'm sort of curious if -- did they ever act in Japan with a sense of entitlement that some American consumers do? Has he ever seen that over in Japan? The sort of anger about some games being a certain way or coming out on the "wrong" systems. Was there any of that in Japan in the '90s?

In the '90s? It's hard to imagine because the market was just Japan, so they probably didn't have any thought of the outside. And it's also hard to pose this question because -- I can see why you're saying, like, the entitlement on when something gets released on one console but not -- hmm. K. [Laughs.]

It's a hard question. So. Okay. Let me try to -- yeah, I don't think there was any, but I'm gonna ask. [Laughs.]

So Dave?

Yes?

The way I asked the question was that, "So, compared to nowadays, when a game is announced with, 'Oh, it's going to be released on these platforms,' were there any fans that get really aggressive and very entitled? Was it something like that in the '90s?"

And he's saying that, yeah, for -- fans are like that when they're really passionate about specific products like, let's say Sega. They want Sega to win. They want Sega to have the games. They want Sega to be popular. And obviously when something gets announced or planned or they want Sega to be, like, the top choice. So, they were something like that. Probably not to the extent of what you just explained earlier with our American fanbase. [Laughs.] But, I mean, the passion is still there.

Is he aware of the American angry passion?

I think he does because he explained it as like, you know, there are people that are angry or they talk like they know better because they're fans. [Laughs.] It's their team, Sega, or it's their team, whatever. They want that team to be the best.

Yeah.

That's how the fans are. Did you want me to ask him, like, is he aware how much these people exist in America?

Yeah, sure.

So, he's not -- I guess he's heard of the really crazy fans, but since he hasn't seen it in person, he doesn't really know. But he's been to Sakura-Con in Seattle a couple times, so he's seen American fans that are really passionate. It's just, I guess he's never seen, like, really bad ones.

What does he mean by "bad ones?"

Like, the way I explained it was American fans -- sometimes you hear about these really crazy fans and he's like, "Oh, okay!" But he doesn't really have any contact with these crazy fans, so he doesn't know any of 'em.

Insert

What's the difference between otaku culture and gamer culture?

So, Dave? We were just kinda talking together -- sorry. [Laughs.] It kinda helped.

I heard. [Laughs.]

From his personal view, when you say "otaku culture," what he sees is someone that's passively watching anime, reading manga. They're absorbing the information that's coming through. Whereas with someone that's gaming, they're actively doing something. Instead of just passively absorbing information, they're actually inputting things, they're active. I'm just gonna say they're active. Whatever.

But what I said to him with what I see when someone tells me otaku things, like, the image I get is someone who's collecting stamps or collecting collectable coins. You know, it's something that they do on their own very slowly. Like, they kinda build their collection. He said he feels the same, where it's like a hobby and you do your own thing. Whereas when you're playing a game, and this is more my experience, you talk to your friends, "Hey, did you play this level? Hey, did you see this ending? Hey, how do you do this?"

[Laughs.]

And you kinda call your friends to kinda help you or you gloat, but then he added that whereas when it's a hobby, it's something you do on your own by yourself, whether it's exciting or not.

It's exciting to you because it's your hobby. But for gaming culture, it's more -- communication is a lot more rampant versus a hobby. Does it make sense?

Yes. I have another comparison question, too: What's the difference between indie games and doujin games?

Do you want me to define what it is so that you get the explanation? Because they mean totally different things for me.

Yeah, I'd be curious to hear his definitions.

[Laughs.] So, his answer is, "Isn't it the same thing?"

Well, I was going to ask -- what do you think, then? You're part of this.

I am? Oh no!

Yeah. Yeah!

I mean -- okay. Doujin for me is, like, when someone makes fan stuff. Like, what do you call this? Fanfics. Yeah! I understood that doujin is fanfic and indies is something that's independently created. So it's, like, your custom content. You know what I mean?

Yeah, I had always heard doujin is almost like fanfic but, like, secret. Like, it's private circles of creators just sharing their work with each other.

Yeah, yeah.

Do we just have wrong information?

Well, I think it's different because it's probably the same thing in Japan but it's different here.

Does he have an opinion about --

So, Dave? There's a completely different word for fan fiction in Japan.

Oh! Okay.

It essentially translates to "second creation," I guess. So, essentially, doujin is when someone self-funds their own project. They pay for their own publishing or, you know, development costs, and they produce their own content and sell it. That's it. Because, self-containment. It's for themselves. They want to do it, they want to sell it. You know, it's like the Etsy of the world.

So it is the same thing, then.

Yeah. And "indie" is, from his understanding, is it's a group of people who have better management. They start up a Kickstarter, they get the funding, they get a project, and they roll it out. [Laughs.]

Does he think that the game industry learns from its mistakes?

So, Dave, instead of, like, what the industry learned from its mistakes, for him what comes to mind is what the industry should have learned. One of the things that he's explaining is that when it was the Super NES, you know, games came in cartridges. It's a specific cartridge. And when it became the PlayStation, it became a disc format, which, in Japan, I guess, they should have realized that they're fighting for attention, fighting for time, for the consumers or their customers between, like, a game and movie, because it's a disc format, so the entertainment electronic shop, if you see when you walk in -- I guess, the example he said was Blockbuster -- a Blockbuster you see a game and a movie side by side and you're wondering, "All right, what's my entertainment for tonight?" And you see a game for $50 and a movie for $20, which one would you buy? And he thinks that they should have learned they're fighting for their customers' attention, they have to win against movies.

They should have realized that when they changed formats to discs that the competing entertainment media was movies and that they're fighting for their time, fighting for price point and whatnot. You know, so, when the medium changes and when they fight over different content over the same medium, they should have realized what they were up against.

That's interesting that he mentions Blockbuster. I wasn't planning on asking about this, but does he have any thoughts about how the American game industry likes to say that it's bigger than Hollywood?

Is it?

That's what I hear a lot, though it technically isn't true.

Bigger than Hollywood, okay.

Yeah, it's a thing that's often bragged about.

So, Dave, he does think that it's bigger than Hollywood. For example, like, the market is worldwide and games like World of Warcraft hits those numbers where it's insanely huge.

That is true. Point taken.

Kikuta-san: One. David: Zero.

Insert

Are you going to translate that or did you already tell him that?

I didn't say that.

Does he have any thoughts about the Japanese console market shrinking and the West's move away from Japanese-style games?

So, Dave? So, the way he is explaining about Japan as a market, as, you know -- essentially a lot of these games came from Japan and now that the world is the market, what he says is that Japan doesn't have a market. Compared to everywhere else, Japan is probably the smallest market in existence because for what he says, the biggest market right now is China just by sheer fact of population. Now that the world is within the global market, everywhere -- you could buy a game everywhere in the world. Japan is actually one of the smallest markets.

Thinking that all these games came from Japan, he does feel like we gotta work harder and come on, Japan. But the number game kinda says it all. Japan is a very small market now.

Did he say much about the sensibility that helped establish the medium in its modern form fading away?

So Dave, overall, he does feel it's a shame that the Japanese influence is no longer the popular thing or it's slowly fading away as the influence. As a Japanese person, that's kind of sad. But he does feel that if a game comes from Japan or if a game does have that influence, it should have the creativity or the originality of Japan, like, the theatrics, the appearance, the design, it should appeal -- it should have the essence of the Japanese creation. And he does feel that the Japanese creators should step up their game. They should work harder, is what he's saying.

With whatever is happening with Kojima and Konami, I think some see that as signaling the real end of that Japanese-dominated time. Does he feel similarly, or does he think Japan can still regain its foothold?

So, Dave? So, the way I posed the question is: "There's news about Kojima and Konami and does he feel like this is something that's more bound to happen? What does he feel about the industry as a whole is reacting or how is it going to go?"

And the way that he answered was that he does feel like this is going to tend to happen more in the future just because kinda going back to the topic he went to earlier where, you know, how the creative team and the management team, when the balance is off and something's not going right -- it's a business of entertainment.

One group wants to create something that's entertaining, that's fun, and it's enjoyable. And one group wants to make money off this and make more money. And when the balance is off, one of them's gonna just say, "Peace out." They're just gonna say bye-bye. [Laughs.]

[Laughs.]

So one of the things that he also sees is that over here it's all about the consoles, but in Japan it's predominantly smartphone market and it does have an effect where the smartphones make a significant amount of profit versus the console. So, he does see all these things on the table and that's making an affect on the industry as a whole.

So, this will be a strange question, but it's something I've always heard rumors about and wondered: Was the yakuza involved with helping establish the game industry?

[Laughs.] He can't say anything. Not even a yes or a no or anything. He just can't say nothin' about this. [Laughs.]

I mean, he's pretty surprised about this question, like, "What kind of question is this?" I think it's more like a funny ha-ha story -- I mean, it could be true? I heard somethin', but then it's crazy.

How does the process actually work, making music for a videogame?

So, just to go on a portion of it: Where he starts from is to understand the project at hand, the game at hand, and how does it play, what kind of atmosphere, how does it feel. Without really putting these things together, when you have a song that's just created for the sake of being created, it kind of doesn't match the whole entirety of the game, so he has to really think about how the player feels when they're actually playing that portion of the game, what kind of first impression they get, what kind of image runs through while they're playing the game. So he builds on understanding that first.

Speaking on the Super Nintendo era, most games are incredibly small on the Super Nintendo and the main challenge is to fit the data in the small capacity. I guess Secret of Mana was just about 2 megabytes. The entire game was two megabytes. So, sound, art, the programming, all the game components were in two megabytes and basically the majority of the time was used to optimization, which -- it takes, I guess he's saying it just took from making the song to getting to the point where the sound actually comes out of the game took six months.

What sort of feedback or notes on things he would need to change in his music?

The way he explained it was he thinks up a song and then he has to change some here and there to even make it work on the game because of the data capacity.

How much music gets cut making a videogame? Is there more than just that?

Let me just ask, but to finish what he was saying: Once the projects started moving onto PlayStation, the process of creating a song to play is completely different and even that was a very significant change. It's not hard to play music out of a CD, obviously. From there, the creation process is already drastically different. Obviously the problem with the game-making is it always is about keeping under memory. Drawing a picture itself is drawing a picture, but when it comes to fitting it in and making it actually process and work as you intend to, that's a totally different process. Those are some of the things that he mentions that it was like a different thing.

I was curious if he could talk a bit about why he decided to form his own game company, Sacnoth.

Okay, so, Dave? The reason he wanted to make his own independent studio is that while he was working at Square, he's working on music, but he wanted to do more than that. He wanted to make his own stories and create a game from his perspective, his view, his idea. He wanted to create his own game and that's why he made Sacnoth, and I guess he had some people from SNK, and he made a game called Koudelka.

There probably are a lot of other games that they worked on, but he only stayed from '97 to '99. So he made the company and then he quit the company.

What was behind his decision to leave?

He can't explain it shortly, so I guess it's a long story.

Can he talk about his relationship with SNK in forming the company?

So, to kind of go into specifics, I guess it becomes a long story again. So he can't really give you the short version, but what essentially happened is he was at Square and he had a new idea. He wanted to try it. I guess in Japan it's common where there's a company that serves as an incubator, I guess, kind of like that Silicon Valley mindset where they just kind of help upcoming people to start up. And I guess that was the case where he went to SNK and he brought up this idea of, "Hey, I wanna make this game." They gave him advice or some sort of -- they started talking about helping him make this into fruition. But I guess the complicated parts are hard to explain, I guess. [Laughs.]

But he does say they helped him a lot to get going on his feet. But overall, whatever happened down the line is jumbles of stories.

Does he make a distinction between high art and low art?

Could you kind of explain to me what that means?

Yeah, sure. So, there's cinema and B-movies. Or in food there's fine dining and fast food. Some believe one is superior or more refined or otherwise just "better" than the other. I'm curious if he makes a similar distinction at all.

In games specifically?

In general.

So, I just straight-out asked him if he understood what high art and low art is, and he says, "Somewhat."

Actually, what he explained afterward is pretty good: In whatever capacity art must exist, where, even if you're making something junk or just pretty low or whatever, at some aspect there's gotta be art. There also has to be a design sense or an artistic sense to understand and acknowledge what's good and basically understand and see that it is good. So, what he feels is that high art is important.

Does he feel or think about videogames in that way?

So, he does feel that gaming does have a part of that. For instance, for bit art, or dot -- you know what I mean?

Pixel.

Yeah, pixel art. When someone is trying to make a pixel art, it doesn't mean that person doesn't have to learn how to draw. That person should understand and really have the skill to draw a really good picture, and with that understanding they can move onto creating something great through pixels. So that philosophy -- that understanding of high art should be existent, even if you're making something that's low art in some perspective. Do you kind of get what --

Just have an appreciation, I think?

Yeah. Like, you know, if you're a great pixel artist, you should still have the understanding of what is fine art. You should have the skill and discipline of what an actual picture should be drawn or how it should be drawn or having that skill set of learning to do this art style while you work on this pixel art. Because without that knowledge or the discipline, the other can't exist, at least in a way that's appreciative of the other art form.

So, I am just curious, has he heard about Gamergate at all?

So, he's never heard of it and he's kind of baffled that it exists. I basically explained that it was about journalists and game companies and the people then really was questioning the integrity and whatnot and it splintered off to targeting female members of the professional realm in the gaming industry. So, yeah, he just can't even. [Laughs.]

I mean, he sounded --

Surprised?

Surprised, yeah. Was there some sort of reaction?

Just, "Never heard of it. What? That sounds bad." [Laughs.]

Does something like that happening surprise him?

So, what he says is that gamers are really, really passionate and some are really extreme, so you could see it happen in a case like this. But I told him that the girls had their address looked up and basically death threats and he's like, "No, no, no no no!"

It's unthinkable, unbelievable to have it happen in Japan because from his word it's not within the Japanese culture to do that. It's unthinkable that would happen and that's terrible and shouldn't happen.

What are his interactions with his fans like?

So, Dave? He basically -- what he's saying is when he's not working, he answers to interviews just like this as much as he can. If someone wants to talk to him or ask him questions, he basically says yes and does the interview. He's also done events like we mentioned earlier, like Sakura-Con, but he has a booth at the comic market. It's kinda like -- I don't know if you've been to, like, Anime Expo or something like that where people just have their own booths.

This is me answering, but, like, you know how they have artist's galleries where people have their works and they have a booth. I guess I can confirm that if he does just autographs or if he has something on sale. But he doesn't do things that are like some people -- like some people may have a Facebook page or something like that. He doesn't do anything that's independently like that where a fan page. He doesn't do anything like that. He just does that thing and if people come up to him, he talks to them however much he wants to. It's just that most of his time is taken by work.

Let me confirm if he has, like, what kind of booth he has.

Sure.

So, it is like an artist gallery thing, and he just sells CDs.

Does he pay attention to games media?

So, Dave? Going back on, like, when he started in the '90s, with the Super Nintendo, back in the day there was only one magazine, which was Famitsu. You know, the "fami" was Famicom. Obviously, it's the magazine and obviously Famitsu's a big deal over there still. But recently he hasn't really paid attention to any media and one of the funny stories he just told me is that media itself -- even right now, even though it's the age of Internet and even though there's game sites that are existent, he doesn't really look at 'em. He feels that the gaming media, the journalism in gaming, hasn't really evolved much even though -- I guess this is the difference of American culture and Japanese culture with gaming journalists in general, where over there Famitsu is still a big deal. It's, like, 70 pages. It's crazy. But there's different types of journalism and even if there's still online sites and the journalists in general hasn't really changed much, and hasn't really evolved.

On the flip side, he does feel like American media does -- I guess, it's more important here about gaming media.

In America?

Yeah. And in working with more American indie studios, I guess there's more information shared to him about the things he's working on, the gaming industry in general, and he does feel like that it's more important here, in America, rather than Japan. He does look into the American websites right now because it's being shared with him.

Yeah, it's funny, because I was telling him how all the information -- it's just spinning the same stories, really.

Yeah, yeah.

The only thing that he really looks at is, like, the huge news that comes up, like, the president [of Nintendo] dying and stuff like that.

Are there ways he'd like to see the media evolve? Does he feel that the Japanese media has evolved more?

He's saying that since then, from the '90s, where there was only one magazine that was published, and now that there's websites and that magazines still exist, he hasn't really looked at any of them. There's no reason to. It's not really important to look at these publications anymore, is what he said.

So he doesn't really look at any gaming media except for the ones that's being shared for him because of the indie studio that he works with, and that's where he feels like there's a difference in Japanese culture and American culture, where the American culture cares about what these gaming medias are saying more than the Japanese culture, I guess?

It's interesting, the word "evolve." Does he feel like the big-budget space in games has evolved much?

So, Dave? He basically returned it as, "I think the situation that these Japanese gaming companies are in at this moment really shows you the answer of that question."

What are videogames? What does he see them conveying as a medium?

So, Dave, I think there was a slight confusion on the word "media," but he did give a very interesting answer and I wanted to tell you that answer, which was by asking him what is videogames and what does the medium convey, what does it convey on the whole: He answered that what we call games, the current games, doesn't allow freedom of expression and thus it's not media.

On the flip side, things like indies can -- since it doesn't have to comply to the first-party restrictions like depicting race as an issue or depicting religion. That freedom of expression is hindered by these first parties and then, you know, the freedom of expression doesn't exist in these current games because of those restrictions.

He does feel that the indies group, they have a little more control on their content and that makes them more interesting.

But it does point to a very interesting thing about first-party control in content.

Insert

What does he think videogames have accomplished?

So, Dave? He told me a story.

I asked him what have videogames accomplished, anything that he can talk about. You know he mentioned how he goes to events like the comic convention and he has a booth. In these events, there's a lot of fans that come up to him and these people are, like, what, almost in their thirties? Namely, me?

[Laughs.]

But they come up to him and they tell him how they played his game, like, Secret of Mana when they were in elementary school 20 years ago. And they come up to him and they start crying, saying, "Thank you." They start thanking him because when they were in school and they were children, they had bullies, they had difficulties. Some of them even go as far as they wanted to die and they got hope and they played his games and it was so fun that they kept trying. It cheered them up. It kept them going. Twenty years later, they come up to him at these conventions to tell him that he helped them. Well, not him himself, but these games helped them when they were in need and he feels that this is what games do.

This is what games do, they evoke emotions.

How does that make him feel, to know that he's given people that?

So, Dave? What he really feels about, you know, from everybody telling him all these things, how much they had an affect on him or vice versa -- them how much they had an effect from what he made -- is that he really feels that, retrospectively, he's so glad that he didn't ever think to rest or essentially half-ass. He essentially lived in the company 24/7. He was working 24/7. He lived in the company everyday for two years and they did everything he had to do at work. If he had thought to ease back, take it easy, or didn't work as hard just for a minute, that child could have not enjoyed the game as much and maybe he'd be dead. It's really dramatic to think about, but he does think that -- he's glad that he didn't try to rest ever. He's glad that he put everything he has to while he was working on that game.

[Thanks to Laura Shiraishi for real time and patient translation.]

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