Takashi Tokita perfectly describes life

Such as it is. This article talks about Gamasutra’s feature interview with Takashi Tokita, lead designer on Final Fantasy IV (1991). I’ll admit, I have yet to read the actual feature story (should probably get on that), but the quotes in this article surprised me in how relevant they are to my thoughts, as well as the media industry today.

Some of the issues he speaks of are things that I’ve been thinking about in the past few months, grasping at them in my mind, trying to find the words to express them exactly… and then Mr. Tokita comes along and describes them so perfectly.

Let’s start with the headline: “It Used To Be That Our Creativity Could Run Free”. What does that mean? There is so much meaning in that one line. Every piece of gaming history in the past roughly 10 years is in that quote. Their creativity used to run free. We used to have developers that didn’t care about making a game everybody liked, or a game that was marketable, or a game that could be made into a money-gobbling franchise. Games were made by people who had ideas, and they wanted to make these ideas a reality through video games. It was less about perfection and more about taking an idea, running with it, then releasing it to the public and saying, “Here, check out this cool thing we made.” Now, it’s all about making every detail perfect, and making sure you don’t “fail”, because if one little thing is wrong, the public will “know” and the company will have “failed” to deliver. I strongly believe this is what is happening to a lot of games lately. Final Fantasy XIV, to name one. There have been so many problems with that game since its release that Squenix is essentially paying people to play the game.

Why? The problem stems from trying too hard. Let’s take a look at another quote from Tokita:

“Right now, we’re thinking about it in a way-too complex way. It used to be that our creativity could run free because we didn’t worry about the end result. We could just be original and creative, and whatever came of it was original and creative. Now, we’re becoming too concerned about marketing and all these other aspects, and that’s limiting us right now.”

There is a stagnation with certain older developers that exists from this drive to change, become bigger and better. I personally see it in Capcom with the Resident Evil series, and Square Enix with FF, but there are others (I mean, did we really need another Call of Duty so soon? No, but it sold, didn’t it?). They want to focus on building their business by creating more marketable games, and stories and characters within those games. No longer is it about just making a game that people want to play. We have to sneak to see what the people want by doing studies and research, then give it to them.

This is not how the original Final Fantasy games sold millions of copies, and made a name for Squaresoft. If companies could just fall back to what they were doing back then, games would still sell, they would be better for it, and everyone would be happy.

Then again, don’t we all go through things like this in life, just on a somewhat smaller scale and individual basis? Think about a time when you had this crazy idea to do something or create something, and you just did it without too much planning. It turned out really awesome, and you showed your friends and/ or family and they were blown away. You moved on with your life, and then came back to that thing years later and tried to do it again. It didn’t work out did it? It just isn’t the same, right? That’s because our most spontaneous ideas are our best ideas. Creativity isn’t planned or forced, it’s created in an outburst.

Now, relate that to the games industry, the movie industry, or any art form with an industry for that matter. You can’t force someone to make a game with fuzzy, silly characters, or write a sequel to that hit blockbuster, or paint a replica of the Mona Lisa. It just has to be done when the artist feels like it. Unfortunately, money doesn’t wait for the artist, and the artist has to eat. Thus we have marketers to smooth out the wrinkles of forced creativity.

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~ by The Retro Gamer on April 20, 2011.

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