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Fumito Ueda Interview with Entertainment Station (Part 1)

 

(Previous page)

 

I remember we had an “Invaders” game in the house


 

—Nonetheless,  it seems like your younger days and college years were a time when you obtained many things. Was it around that time that you bought an Amiga[3]?

Ueda: Right, I think in those days I did get a great amount of experience coming up with project proposals, as well as thinking about concepts connected to my current game designs, not specific to any technology. Though, I didn’t buy the Amiga until after I’d graduated from university. When I was still a student, computers themselves weren’t very common yet. The school had a single Macintosh that displayed in black in white, and if you picked it through class, then you could use it for one hour a week. That’s how things were.

[3] A personal computer released in 1985, made by Commodore. It became popular in the west due to its powerful graphical capabilities, and was widely used for video and music editing. It was popular as a gaming machine as well, with titles like Lemmings.

—Is that when you first came across games?

Ueda: It was much before that, since the Famicom came out when I was in junior high school.

—Oh, really? Around when did you first encounter games?

Ueda: My parents ran a cafe out of their house, and cafes back then always had game machines in them. Space Invaders-style games were really popular at the time[4], and I remember that we had one. Though, just because it was in the house doesn’t mean that I would go and play on it whenever I liked. I tried it just once and if I remember correctly, I didn’t get a very good score. Because of that, I began to develop this feeling that I wasn’t good at arcade games, shooting games in particular.

[4] The “Invaders Boom” happened in 1978, so Mr. Ueda would have been around 7 or 8 years old then.

 

—Ahh, I see.

Ueda: Also, I had this opposition to spending money on things that didn’t really offer much reward in return. There was a nearby drive-in, and they had a lot of arcade games, but I didn’t play those, I just played the crane games. I thought, if there’s some prize that’ll come out of it, then I’ll give it a try. As a result, I didn’t really play the arcade games that were popular back in those days. The things I most remember playing were games like Nintendo’s Punch Out!![5] and Atari’s Star Wars.

[5] A boxing game where you fight a variety of different boxers on your way towards becoming a champion. The arcade version displays the protagonist as a wireframe.

 

I loved Sega…


 

—Was there ever a period when you were really into console games?

Ueda: I’ve also said this elsewhere, but I loved Sega. I think the first home console I bought was the Sega Master System[6]. I really wanted to play Space Harrier[7].

[6] A home console released by Sega in 1985. Many of Sega’s popular arcade games were ported to the system, earning them a large number of die-hard fans.

[7] A shooting game released by Sega in 1985. The game won great popularity with features like a pseudo-3D display, and a cabinet design that made the player feel like they were really in the cockpit of a fighter jet.

 

—Oh, I’m glad to hear that. Thank you very much.**

**TN: The interviewer, Fumio Kurokawa worked at Sega for 3 years (Wikipedia).

Ueda: Naturally, after that I bought the Famicom and the Famicom Disk System, and I played a variety of games, but more than games like Punch Out!! and Space Harrier, which were purely for fun, I preferred to play games with a certain depth to their worlds.

—I feel like you were quite mature, to have such sentiments about the worlds games were presenting at the time, at that age. Early adolescents tend to prefer games where you can destroy stuff, or feel good about achieving something, right?

Ueda: Looking back, you could probably refer to it as their atmosphere, I think. At that time, it wasn’t the crane games we spoke of earlier, but I still cared about whether or not I could have a worthwhile experience, for something I was investing my money into. The wireframes of Punch Out!!, similar to first-person perspective 3D games today, gave the impression of something like a simulator. In Space Harrier as well, I wanted to make contact with that world and experience it, so even if I had to put money in to do so, that was fine with me. I think that’s basically the way I felt about it, and that’s the kind of mentality I viewed arcade games with.

—Was there anything about home console games at the time that left an impression on you?

Ueda: I did like the Famicom Disk System. If you asked me what I like about it then it’d be hard to explain, but I think I found it magical that you’ve got this fixed world existing on a ROM cassette which can’t be changed, but now you’ve got the ability to rewrite things, there’s plenty of space for save data, and things like that. As for games on the Disk System, I of course liked The Legend of Zelda, and also Smash Ping Pong[8]. Though, I think Nintendo bought the rights to Konami’s Ping Pong, and published the game under their own name.

[8] The Disk System port of Konami’s Ping Pong came out in 1987. The game features a variety of strokes like forehand and backhand for an authentic ping pong experience.

 

I won a prize in an art competition sponsored by Sony


 

—What did you do after graduating from university? Did you find a job at a design-related company after all?

Ueda: Right after graduation I didn’t get a job, I was working on my own personal art.

—So you weren’t seeking work, then.

Ueda: No, I wasn’t. At the time, the pattern for students in the art department was that a small fraction of them would get a job at a game company, and the rest would become art teachers. I remember there wasn’t really any other career path. I think the school might get mad at me for saying that (laughs).

—Since you didn’t have a job, did you feel a sense of impatience?

Ueda: I didn’t feel too much pressure, personally. I worked a few part time jobs while continuing to do art. When I was doing that, Sony held an art competition and I won a prize. I think that was the first time in my life that my work had been properly evaluated by a professional.

—This was a contest where the likes of Maywa Denki[9] put out a lot of art that was very fresh and novel. What sort of thing did you submit for it?

[9] A modern art unit formed by brothers Nobimichi Tosa and Masamichi Tosa, modeled after Japanese small/medium appliance makers.

 

Ueda: It was an animal-themed piece. When creating art, there’s a basic principle that you should produce something with a value higher than the money you spent to make it. However, our presentation definitely looked cheaper than what it cost to put together. We made an old, filthy-looking animal pen, like you’d find next to a house in the countryside for keeping chickens in. We made it dirty on purpose, rusted it, and intentionally used shabby, worn-out materials for its construction. Then on the inside, we put in various mechanical gadgets and sensors which we could control from a distance, and make it seem as though there was really some animal living in there. That was our submission.

—Whaaat. (Amazed)

The reason we presented something like that is, rather than some demanding expression of fine art, we wanted to go with something that could hold anyone’s interest. Thinking about what kind of thing that could be, you often see people of all ages in pet shops or zoos, glued to the spot, captivated by the animals, right? And I knew animals very well, so… well, it’s like what we were talking about earlier.

—Do you still have any pictures or anything from that exhibit?

Ueda: Yes, I’ve got a picture.

The piece exhibited at the Sony competition in Minato Mirai

 

NEXT PAGE: I didn’t want to work at a normal game company. I was aiming for Warp or Sega AM2.

3 comments
  1. Thank you for translation!

    wowovv on January 28 |
  2. I would so love it if you translated the rest.

    Dem on February 9 |
    • It might be a while, but it’s in the pipeline!

      brando on February 10 |