[In an impassioned opinion piece, recently published in Game Developer magazine, seminal Parappa co-creator and 'father of music games' Masaya Matsuura talks about his hopes for the future of games as 'tangible experiences' with positive feelings attached.]
At the heart of my involvement with video games, I have always been strongly linked to the "music game" genre. While this is often said of me, in reality at the end of the day I am first and foremost a musician looking for ways to expand my creative process, but I guess the end result is the same.
When PaRappa the Rapper was in development at the beginning of the 90s, there were hardly any individuals attempting similar things. After the game's release in '96, similar titles started to become successful sales-wise, which led to greater variation to the extent that these days, "music games" are recognized as being in a genre of their own. But I want to say that we are very far from realizing our potential in this industry.
The past 10 years have seen a number of transitions that have taken the sector to its present condition. I'm delighted to see that lately music games have seen a great surge of interest in the West, thanks to titles like Guitar Hero, Rock Band and SingStar.
I couldn't verify this, but I was told that the Guitar Hero franchise accounted for 20 percent of all game sales in North America last year. Even if that figure isn't accurate, the sales are still astronomical. I can only say that this is an amazing thing.
Ten years ago, when PaRappa was big news, developers from Harmonix visited Japan and showed me some interactive music software that they were working on. I strongly advised them that rather than interactive music software, it had to be a game.
The recent success of music games in the West has been based mostly on licensed music. It is necessary to move beyond this. The challenge is to discover the next paradigm in which music and games have a positive and complimentary relationship. I cannot overstate the importance of this. We are currently wasting our use of music.
Most games these days seem to use gorgeous orchestral soundtracks. While these large-scale soundtracks may generally be lovely to listen to, if we really think about it, isn't it all a bit lacking in imagination? Thinking about it from a simplistic visual perspective, while films are basically just watched, games are interactive.
The duties involved and objectives set are also different, so film and games cannot really be the same. And yet, music is basically the same in both. Despite this wonderful opportunity to advance music with this new medium, it seems that new and bold ideas are not encouraged in the current climate.
It's reasonable to think that unimaginative forms of expression will slowly die out as a new form of entertainment matures.
Just looking at the past 10 years we can see that there have been drastic changes in the way we use music, as the media becomes digital, mobile, and more accessible. If we do not make great efforts to ensure progressive use of music in representative mediums, such as games, we could be faced with a steep decline.
The history of music games is still very young. So what is required to ensure the growth of this category? Maybe collaborating with cool musicians would be a good start, and I mean really collaborating, not just licensing music from famous artists.
To all the cool musicians, please take note! I would like you all to dig deep into your own musical expression, and collaborate with other forms in order to extend yourselves.