Uvula’s Keita Takahashi on looking beyond videogames, making sacrifices and convincing developers to look beyond platforms

Keita Takahashi

Keita Takahashi giving his keynote during the Game in the City conference in the Netherlands

Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi is working on more than games and loving it. Stirring up dust after leaving Namco Bandai last year, he and his wife Asuka Sakai are tending to their own company Uvula with a focus on music and games. We sat down with Takahashi to talk about his remaining interest for video games, making sacrifices for change and how developers should look beyond making games.

Having left Namco Bandai last year, Takahashi wanted to clarify that he has not completely given up on wanting to make video games. “I don’t feel that my ideas that have to do with video games have dried up or are limited in any way,” he says. “It’s just limited in the fact that I have more diverse interests now.” Before leaving Namco Bandai, Takahashi also considered his previous career move from sculptor to game designer not so much a change of direction, but a change of method. “For me personally, this is an increase in options.”

Breaking your model

As for his perspective on the current state of the game industry, Takahashi believes that game developers are limiting themselves because of the platform they are developing on and they have become too dependent on the technology they are working with. During his keynote at the Game in the City conference, Takahashi had already suggested that game developers go back to the basics. “Why are you making games in the first place?,” he says. “Go back and think about that question.”

”You need sacrifice to change.”

“I have no fear of making sacrifices,” Takahashi says. “Making things is all about how much you give up. For example, a game is team work. You have an image of your game that is perfect, but to realize it for one hundred percent is impossible. It’s all about which parts you give up. And it’s not so much that I’m used to sacrifice, but just that I believe it’s normal. You need sacrifice to change.”

Noby Noby Boy artwork

Takahashi wanted Noby Noby Boy "to reflect an ironic point of view about our consumption-based society".

As for leaving Namco Bandai last year, Takahashi was very surprised how it became such big news. As much as it was scary to quit his job there, Takahashi was also scared of staying. “As you stay longer in a company, you become management level,” he says. “And then it’s all about repetition, what you did before and what the company has done before. You see your creativity decrease and this was scary for me.”

While both staying and leaving Namco Bandai had its ups and downs, Takahashi chose the latter because it would offer him more options in his future. The longer he had stayed at Namco Bandai, the less he became involved with the direct development of games and was given a more managerial position instead. “In January, I had my first baby, so that was also quite scary,” he adds.

Outside the box

Takahashi trying out the student game Super Crate Box during the Game in the City conference

Through his numerous talks, Takahashi has tried to share his vision on being creative, not limiting yourself to a platform’s graphical capabilities and challenging his audience to try out new things. He very much enjoys speaking at conferences because of the warmth, interest and patience the audience gives him, but not without wanting to get his message through.

“This might make me sound cool, but I always challenge the norm.”

“This might make me sound cool, but I always challenge the norm,” Takahashi says. “I don’t have an innocent mind, when I hear something, I wonder how it can really be.”

Convincing other developers to think outside the box like that has been tough and quite the challenge. “It’s the most difficult part,” he admits. “I’ve always told stories about myself and how I became me, this is what I’ve become because of all these things.”

Keita Takahashi currently has plans to redesign a playground in Nottingham City’s Woodthorpe Grange Park. He also mentioned to have an interest in creating a first person shooter that does not revolve around violence.

Keita can be reached at keita.takahashi@gamesauce.org.

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