Interview: Namco's Keita Takahashi On Playgrounds, Haircuts, and Space Aliens
May 25, 2006
Namco's Keita Takahashi is a man of few words, and this interview is no exception.Gamasutra met with the Katamari Damacy creator during the recent GDC 2006 in San Jose, California, and managed to draw him out of his shell on at least a few topics.
In the process, we had a relatively brief discussion an odd swath of topics ranging from the success and continuation of his famous series to playgrounds, sculpture, haircuts and space aliens - as well as his thoughts on the Wii and the future of Katamari.
Gamasutra: Does it bother you that you didn't win the game design challenge?
Keita Takahashi: Well, I'm not really a game designer, so… guess it can't be helped!
GS: Your idea was to get people to play games so that they wouldn't fight wars, right?
KT: Well it wasn't exactly that people wouldn't fight wars because they were having too much fun playing. It was more like – you and I, sitting here, aren't fighting each other. And everyone knows games are fun. So basically, if we showed the people who are fighting that games are fun, maybe they wouldn't want to fight. I don't know, I guess it's a very slight distinction.
GS: Are you comfortable with the success of Katamari Damacy in the US?
KT: It's pretty mysterious. Yesterday at the Game Developers Choice Awards, I got one nomination, and everybody cheered. It was pretty amazing to me. I wondered why they were so excited… it seemed kind of strange.
GS: Are you glad the series has ended?
KT: Sure! Though I don't know that it's over. I know I won't be working on it right now, but I think Namco will probably continue it. It's still a viable franchise. I had nothing to do with the PSP version, so clearly they can keep making them on their own. So yeah, I won't be having anything to do with it anymore, but Katamari is not finished.
GS: How do you feel about videogame patents? I remember, recently in London, you had some things to say about companies like those that sue over manipulation of a 3D camera.
KT: That whole thing is really annoying. It's a great thing that companies come up with this technology, but it's something that should be shared. It really affects a lot of different game companies. Here we are in the 21st century, and I think we could be doing a lot more if we used our minds to move forward, rather than keep dwelling on who owns what.
|We Love Katamari|
GS: How do you get your bosses to let you do what you want?
KT: I don't think it's anything special. I just write down my ideas on paper, present it to them, and if they don't really understand, I say, “Well, you'll understand if I make it.” Then I make part of it, and they understand. But I don't really have any kind of marketing plan when I put this stuff together, I just propose what I think might be fun or exciting. I don't really have a good knowledge of what will sell. All I can really do is make it and see what happens!
GS: I heard you wanted to make a playground - what kind of playground did you want to make?
KT: One that's soft, and with lots of big blocky shapes, and a place [kids] can't really get hurt - very colorful - where kids can roll around and be free. But it's probably okay if they occasionally get hurt too.
GS: I'd like to go!
KT: Well, I'd like to make it.
GS: Can you talk at all about what you're working on next?
KT: All I can say is that it'll be on a next-gen console, and uh, it will be fun! That's all I can say. We're really trying to push boundaries with it. It may not sell as well as Katamari, but I guess we'll see.
GS: And here I thought you didn't have any marketing sense.
KT: (laughs) What are you talking about? I'm not thinking about marketing at all, I swear.
GS: How much did you pay for your new haircut?
KT: Oh, I cut it myself!
GS: Ah, and you did the layering too?
KT: No, I didn't!
GS: You did! I can see it!
KT: Oh! Well I didn't do it on purpose!
GS: How about this - who would win in a fight, you or Will Wright?
KT: Will Wright might be stronger. And he sure has a lot more money! I don't get paid much, my salary's really low. So he'd probably win.
|The Tower of the Sun in Osaka, Japan|
GS: Who are some artists you like?
KT: I like Okamoto Taro, even though he's not recent. He made a big sculpture called Tower of the Sun. It's like 30 meters high, and in the middle, there's all kinds of DNA strands and other things in giant form. It's really cool. At night, they put all these lights on it that shine out.
GS: What bands are you interested in now?
KT: I like the Zazen Boys in Japan. They're pretty cool, a major band. Go check them out.
GS: And do you believe in aliens?
KT: Yeah… I think they're out there.
GS: When will they contact us?
KT: Hmm…whenever's fine. Yeah, they must be out there.
GS: What do you think of the Wii?
KT: I'm not really interested in it. I don't think a controller should have that much influence on the enjoyment of games. I see what [Nintendo is] trying to do, but they're putting such emphasis on the controller; 'Woah, this controller lets you do this!' and I'm thinking - are you messing with us? So, there's nothing I really want to do with it right now.
GS: Didn't you say you didn't want to make games anymore?
KT: It's not that I don't want to make games necessarily… it's just that I don't know that this will be a career for me. If I do the same thing for my whole life, I'll become really narrow minded. So… I might make one more.
GS: And then a playground?
KT: Before that, I want to make some things like my earlier sculptures [mentioned in his 2005 talk at the GDC]. Like that table that transforms into a robot. That might be something people would like.
GS: I'll buy one if it's cheap!