How the Japanese earthquake changed the direction of Sony's Rain
The 2011 Japanese earthquake drastically change the theme and creative direction of Rain, the award winning downloadable adventure game for PlayStation 3 launched in October 2013.
Ken Suzuta and Yuki Ikeda from Sony Computer Entertainment/Japan Studio, speaking at the the 2014 Game Developers Conference, explained how, prior to the earthquake the "basic contours of the game had taken shape." But when the earthquake occurred, "everything changed." In the harrowing aftermath of the quake, Suzuta said that the team's "silly little game didn’t seem important any more."
Rain was a game conceived at PlayStation Camp, Sony Japan’s inventive project designed to seek out new game creators and types of gameplay. Suzuta and Ikeda worked alongside the Japanese developer Acquire to create the game, in which an invisible 10-year-old boy and girl flee mysterious monsters whose shapes are revealed as raindrops bounce off their torsos.
Suzuta explained how, while the Japanese news channels were dominated with images of the devastation and death caused by the Earthquake, it was difficult to come into work each day in order to watch two little children struggle under the driving rain. "I had to ask myself: am I prepared to take responsibility for the pain our game might bring people?," said Suzuta. "With these thoughts bouncing around my head I could no longer continue with the project."
Ikeda recalled how, one day during this soul-searching period, the PlayStation Camp leader spoke to the team. "He declared: ‘Times are tough now, but people will need fun in their lives again some day. And when that happens, they’re going to need the entertainment we create'."
This pronouncement had a significant effect on Ikeda and the rest of the team. "I realized that sometimes entertainment can cause pain; games have the power to move people’s hearts. All we had to do was design the game in order to help people feel the way we wanted them to."
Following this pivotal moment the team decided to change the game’s story, shifting it from a game about isolation to one about hope. "Up until that point we’d been focusing on isolation and loneliness," said Suzuka. "From this point our theme shifted from curiosity and bravery. I believe that games can speak to these difficult situations and, now with a bit of distance from the game, I believe that we did the very best that we could given the circumstances and resources."