B: Speaking of which, I participated in an event last year in Akihabara called the Location Test Game Show. This was also organized by Kiyoshi Shin to gather independent game programmers. Our game was the only one among those featured at the Location Test that had been released commercially.
TS: My sense is that these indie events can be very useful for sharing ideas with your peers. What Japan still needs at this point is greater acknowledgment from major publishers of the value of downloadable content. This is something you routinely observe at events overseas like GDC and E3. Yet there still remain barriers preventing small companies from entering the game market here in Japan.
B: Also, saying a game is good "for an indie game" isn't high praise. That's not the kind of compliment I'd like to receive. It's like saying we should play indie games because it's charitable, not because it's a worthwhile endeavor in and of itself. To be looked down on in that way isn't much of an accomplishment.
TN: In terms of our studio, we see it as a kind of local workshop. We're interested in creating a fewer number of well-crafted products. There is an audience for that style, though it's not for everybody. I'll be pleased once more people come to recognize these distinctions and there won't be this concept that indie games are somehow lacking in quality.
The independent game scene is currently exploding in English-language territories around the world, but Japan's indie developers are not as visible abroad. Why is that?
B: You enjoy a pint of beer more when you've brewed it yourself, right? Well, I think the same can be said for games. As a musician, there are many aspects of the art that I can appreciate primarily because I create music. Having grown up playing JRPGs, it might be difficult to imagine creating your own game. Maybe it comes more natural to people overseas to express themselves, as here I feel that telling anyone you're, say, writing a poem will elicit a strange look from them.
TS: When you view the profiles of actors from overseas, you find they play instruments, paint and are engaged in all sorts of pursuits. You don't really see that so often on profiles in Japan. Once someone has been associated with a certain profession, it can be almost impossible to see beyond that. Personally I'd like to for there to be greater resistance to that sort of societal categorization.
TN: In my case the situation is a little different. Not too long ago I was creating games purely as a hobbyist. I later decided to gamble on going pro. From experience, I know there are people making games as amateurs, but very few try to break through to creating consumer products. It's viewed as a hobby, not a serious pursuit. There are few people that have the passion to make their homegrown games their profession.
B: It's the same story for all other media.
TN: The avenues toward publishing are narrow, leading people to give up without ever pursuing success.
B: It's especially the case with games. Music created as a hobby in a relaxed atmosphere can pick up steam. You don't have to understand the rules of play to enjoy the product.
Are there aspects of your games that you hope people will appreciate years from now?
TN: Since we are creating an extension and continuation of old school gaming, it's possible our audience is primarily friends of ours in their 30s. The game we're making has a lot of text, which might be challenging for young children, but there are those out there who crave that challenge. I would be pleased if because of the game, someone out there develops an interest in archaeology, or having struggled to overcome all these gameplay challenges can now apply that determination to other skills.
TN: Yesterday I attended my high school reunion, and I brought my kid. At this age I don't encourage my child to play games, but at the reunion someone said junior high school students benefit from playing RPGs because they learn to speed read. It was a different perspective on games than what I had in mind. It would be pleasing to be the catalyst for something beneficial like that.
This article is available in Japanese on Game Design Current. Translation is by Yoko Wyatt.