5 Nov, 2007
Ask any seasoned stick-twiddler to name a genuinely original game from the last five years and chances are that the first name that pops into their head is Namco's brilliantKatamari Damacy (opens in new tab). Based on the fairly out-there premise of rebuilding the cosmos by rolling around a magical sticky ball, Katamari wooed gamers not just for its innovative core gameplay mechanic, but also its irresistible characters and bonkers style. We fell in love themoment we first saw the intro (opens in new tab), which, if you've never seen, you should really watch right away (opens in new tab).
Perhaps the reason Katamari was such a blast of fresh air was because the game's creator, Keita Takahashi, was new to game design. Bored of studying sculpture at university, he wanted to try expressing the fun aspects of the art form within a videogame. So Takahashi joined Namco.
Now, with the success of Katamari under his belt, Takahashi is working on his next project, the PS3 exclusive Noby Noby Boy, which he describes as "a game in which the body of the main character stretches and you play around with it." So it doesn't seem that Takahashi is about to conform anytime soon to the more conventional practices of game design.
As the possessor of one of the industry's seemingly most imaginative brains, then, we thought Takahashi would be the perfect man to discuss creativity in gaming when we caught up with him at the recent GameCity Festival in Nottingham...
Above: Takahashi told us that he'd one day like to make a massive Katamari that he could roll around
GR: Do you think game companies are willing to take on creatively unconventional ideas?
KT: Publishers and companies are usually conservative to new ideas since they aren't concerned with making 'creative' games to start with. So, yes, it is an existing problem. After making Katamari - and due to its success - I wanted to see if the attitudes of publishers and companies would change at least slightly to new and original ideas. But at the moment, nothing much has really changed.
GR: So if an original idea as successful as Katamari can't change the mindset of publishers, what will?
KT: I'd like to get rid of the patent system. I'm not sure what it's like elsewhere, but in Japan the patent system is so sophisticated and so detailed that even if you were to make something that was just a bit similar to someone else's idea and you put it in your game the other company sees it as an infringement. That's one area that's hampering new ideas in the industry at the moment.