It feels to me like many of your games go for more of a fun performance feeling then a "cool" performance feeling, partly because the graphics are cute. Have you thought about doing something more edgy, that might appeal to an older audience?
MM: I'm pretty open to various kinds of age groups, but especially including kids. I really don't like that music is divided by the age groups. Rather, for my experience at the launch of PaRappa, I was so happy to feel that families and kids played the game so much.
But older people told me sometimes, "Ah, your game was great, but it was based on a Simon Says type of interaction." I really don't like them to say things like that. People who say that really don't understand what PaRappa was.
Of course the Simon Says functions were parts of the layers of the functions of PaRappa. Some adults don't want to accept the new things, or try a new way. I really don't like that. Older people tend to approach new things by using old knowledge or experiences.
Are you sure they were saying that in a negative way? I think that people are increasingly accepting of simple input these days -- but now, what might prompt judgments is visual style. They look at something and immediately say, "That's for kids, that's not for me."
MM: That's also a difficult question.
DT: I think it's something we're always trying to do.
MM: I think the key is female players. Women have a very different way to adapt to the graphic sense, from the male players. It's very active, the female's reactions. I always try to know how women feel about our graphic expressions.
How do you test? Do you have user tests?
MM: We don't do any tests -- I just discuss the game with the female staff in our company.
Your game Vib-Ribbon had a good balance between cute graphics and adult-oriented technical appeal. When I played it, both my girlfriend and I at the time could appreciate the graphics in different ways, and the way it interacted with the music.
MM: Maybe "balance" is a very simple word, but for me it's a very important idea. I really want to make the balance in every kind of material and idea [in my games]. For Westerners or Asians, or female, male, older, younger. I always think about these kinds of thoughts.
You should definitely rerelease that game! On PSN or XBLA! Is it a Sony franchise or is it NanaOn-Sha's?
MM: Sony. The program is not simple, because Vib-Ribbon requires external audio for the game. It has a CD based gameplay system. Since the CD disc is owned by the customer, so it's up to the customer how to use this disc.
But currently the music producers use other media. Many musicians think that that kind of re-using the audio for something other than for listening is a different business from the original market.
So it may be because of the rights?
Masafumi Takada from Grasshopper Manufacture describes music in games as the bridge from the user to the screen -- if you think about it, the screen is on one side and the player's on the other, but the music is everywhere. What do you think about that? Is music in the game actually non-interactive, or is there more to it?
MM: Actually, "non-interactive" music, that word doesn't make sense. If you want to listen to the music in any way, you have to do an interaction, by pressing the play button or something like that.
What I'm thinking about is -- back to the live performance -- if I play in the streets, maybe you come across the street by accident. In that case it doesn't require so much intention to listen to the performance, but these kinds of encounter situations are a very basic function that music has.
I'm thinking about it in that kind of way -- if you make a kind of new music style. But it's an experimental thing yet, so I have no good description of my ideas yet. These kinds of things are important to me. [That's why] I try to do a performance sometimes.
Walking up to a performance is almost like having a soundtrack in a videogame, in that you walk into a different area and the music changes. In Japan, as you walk through the streets, you'll hear different music. You'll walk past the Bic Camera store, and hear its song and then it changes as you walk to the next place. It's funny that we think of music in games as non-interactive when it's the way that we interact with music, walking around in the street anyway. That's not a question...
MM: Yeah, but that's a very important thing. About the Bic Camera music, if you go into the Bic Camera store the Bic Camera track doesn't change, but with a live performance, if you approach the live performance in the street, if I see you, I will change something.
Or I can stop the performance. [laughs] I don't want to make you listen to my ugly performance, for example.