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MIGS06: Tetsuya Mizuguchi's keynote liveblogged (sorta)


Tetsuya Mizuguchi, lead designer of Q Entertainment and the brain behind games like Rez and Lumines, started things off at the Montreal International Game Summit with his keynote presentation. A frustrating lack of WiFi kept me from liveblogging the event, so consider this a liveblog with a several-hour lag. The transcript of Mizuguchi's keynote follows:

8:48 - Wayne Clarkson, general manager of Telefilm Canada, announces the Great Canadian Video Game Competition before introducing keynote speaker, Tesuya Mizuguchi.

8:58 - Mizuguchi comes up on stage. He beings by saying he went to the NHL hockey match last night: "so excited about that." His talk is about "inspiration led creativity." He's been in the industry 16 years. He says, "I'm 41 now...." and pauses, almost lamentingly. Audience chuckles. "Okay, so start."

9:00 - Mizuguchi played Pong at age 11 and was surprised at the ability to change the television. He said it was the "first interactive experience in my life, with media." Referring to the industry: "we started from dots ... not graphics, just dots." "I wanted to make something with technology, or media." Fifteen years ago, Mizuguchi tells us he saw a giant arcade machine, and thought the game was called "Sega." He thought it was so cool, he joined the company.

9:05 - While at Sega, Mizuguchi studied aspects of games as media, and news about the trends and forecasts for the industry. The entertainment industry, according to Mizuguchi, was eager for the "virtual reality" age. Then in 1993, with the advent of early 3-D, Mizuguchi had a "big, big inspiration." Inspired by images of landscapes, racecars, and the ability to customize cars with stickers, he developed Sega Rally Championship. He watches nostalgically while presenting video clips of the game. "That's an old game," he says, chuckling at the now-antiquated graphics.

In 1996 Mizuguchi helped develop a real-time driving simulator, with a full-sized car which moved on hydraulics as the player controlled the game. He shows video of the simulator being used with Sega Rally Championship, remarking "that was so... fun."

9:10 - Mizuguchi visited the Isle of Man, home of oldest bike race in the world. Taking inspiration from this visit, he developed Manx TT Super Bike in 1996. He shows video of several people playing the game in arcades, tilting on arcade bike machines. "Remember Hang-On?" Mizuguchi asks. "This is like a big joystick for that."

Mizuguchi goes on to say that after making a few racing games, the Dreamcast came out, and graphics power in consoles was increasing. Realism was becoming more and more important. At the time, he told himself "if I keep making realistic games, they'll be great... but my creativity said: no""but my creativity said: no." So Mizuguchi decided to move away from realism.

9:15 - At that time, Mizuguchi talks about being inspired by architecture, and "call and response" communication. He saw the musical STOMP around that time, remarking: "this is a great musical, with the music, dance." After that, he went to many musicals, and thought about why musicals are so fun. "How can we design that kind of feeling in the interactive process?" he asks. This led to Space Channel 5.

As a side note, Mizuguchi mentions that during development of Space Channel 5 Part 2, he received a call from an executive producer in America, saying "Michael wants to appear in your game." Mizuguchi tells us that he had responded "Who's Michael?" As a result of that conversation, Michael Jackson makes a cameo appearance in the game, as Mizuguchi considers MJ to be a "pioneer of combined music and dance." His cameo in Space Channel 5 is "Kind of an homage to him."

Mizuguchi talks about his next inspiration: the art of Kandinsky, raves, and sensorama. He tells us that Kandinsky painted while listening to music, and worked with the concept of synaethesia, or a mixture of the senses. He also discusses a poster he once saw for Sensorama, which advertised "the revolutionary motion picture system that takes you into another world with 3-D, wide vision, motion, color, stereo-sound, aromas, wind, vibrations."

"The product" Mizuguchi says, "wasn't successful, but what a concept." Around this time, Mizuguchi also visited Zurich, and attended his first rave party. He was blown away by the colors and lights changing with the music. He saw "People dancing. Not dancing, but almost jumping, and I thought 'what is this?' How can I design this kind of experience in the interactive process?"

Mizuguchi then rolls some footage of Rez. As the audience watches, he slyly pulls out a digital camera, and takes a few photos of the audience's reactions. The camera is away by the end of the video.

9:30 - He mentions that all the sound and action of the game is pushed into the "light score," into the game's inherent rhythm. "So if you don't have rhythm skill, that is okay." He shows the trance vibrator peripheral for the game, and can't help but crack a smile. He calls his experience working on Rez "a long journey to find what is the fun element in this process... I learned a lot from this project"

"People of any language," Mizuguchi says, "any culture, identify with music." His next inspiration: Sony's PSP, the walkman, cities, and African musical instruments. Mizuguchi refers to the PSP as "an interactive walkman," and discusses the intersection of puzzle game and music. This, of course, leads him into Lumines.

9:45 - Mizuguchi talks about more inspiration: the iPod, and iTunes music store. "iPod and iTunes changed the style of music," he says. "Customization, edit: this is the new concept." He shows a Lumines II demo, with Beck's "Black Tambourine" being played.

For his next inspiration, Mizuguchi shows more Kandinsky, and A-ha's "Take on Me" music video. "I wanted to make the music in the music video itself," he says. "Let's make a very happy thing." He then plays the music video for "Heavenly Star," which he created himself. The song is featured in Lumines II, and is a cool pop song, with A-ha-ish animation in the video. "I love music," Mizuguchi remarks, "and music videos, and games too."

Mizuguchi then shows his last inspiration, and it is of a decidedly darker tone: war and the media, post 9-11 news stories, and Kurosawa's Rashomon. "I don't talk about 'the war is good or bad,'" Mizuguchi remarks, "and as a professional, how do you watch this kind of time?"

"Everybody has a point of view of justice," he says. He talks about different perspectives, and the question of "what is truth?" He then shows video of N3: Ninety Nine Nights, a trailer from the perspectives of the human fighters, defeating the evil monsters heroically. He then talks about how you can play as the monsters, too. A new video is shown, this time from the monster's perspective, as human soldiers wreak havoc on a town, attacking (monster) women and children. The perspective of the story changes, and humans are drawn as the "bad guys." This is the perspective of justice he was talking about.

10:00 - Mizuguchi ends his talk with a photo of a sponge, labeled 9"sponge." "The industry allows us to connect, absorb," he says, "sucking many things." "I'm retiring soon..." he announces, and the audience reacts as expected.

"...not soon, but, we should work on young talent, as inspiration to the industry." Phew.

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