Interview: Katamari maestro Keita Takahashi is still plenty playful

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The phenomenon of the “one-hit wonder” doesn’t really exist in gaming. Generally speaking, gaming’s most successful auteurs go on to be looming figures in the industry, from the mysterious Suda51 to Metal Gear mastermind (and self-proclaimed foodie) Hideo Kojima. But Japanese game director Keita Takahashi has always been a little bit different.

What's the status of the playground you're working on? You told the BBC back in 2005 that "in 10 years time, I am not going to be making games any more." Obviously, you've been true to your word. Do you have another big shift you want to embark on in another decade?

I want to spread my work range. I have to try to many things for that. For example, I want to move to overseas. I think that it will be a big change to me and my family.

You also said this playground project was an opportunity to start working on other things. What else are you working on these days other than playgrounds and music with your wife?

I have a few projects. One is a game for iOS, another is new internet service and the other is childcare. I'm sorry I can't say any more. :)

What other mediums are you interested in working in, and what do you think you specifically can bring to those fields?

I am interested in the architecture and design of kindergartens and schools. And also town design. I might be able to bring some fun element to our daily life.

Have you ever thought about doing an installation piece at a museum? Noby Noby Boy, to me, always felt a bit like an interactive museum piece.

This is not reliable topic yet, but NOBY might exhibit on US museum by one night game event. I look forward to that, if it is realized.

Speaking of which, it seems to me like you'd be great at designing an entire children’s museum. Has that ever occurred to you?

Of course I like museums. But as stated above, I am interested in kindergarten and school. I think museums are extraordinary things. I am interested more in daily life.

You've often celebrated the importance of people who play games being engaged and not just being merely "consumers" or "users." In other words, adults probably need to be more childlike. In that regard, what do you think we all could still learn from kids?

Imagination and making an preposterous story.

To dip back a little bit, do you remember when it first occurred to you that Katamari was a hit or that you had something really special on your hands?

I thought about the expression that only a video game could make. And the idea that I wouldn’t have to depend on words for. I always thought about those two things. Just then, the idea of Katamari fell in my head from sky. It was just time, when it got on a train. :)

You said Katamari got a sequel due to fans having so much fun with the original. What sort of word got back to you about its success from fans -- did people send you trinkets or homemade knick-knacks showing their affection for the game? Do you still get signs of appreciation like that from fans since you've left Namco?

I thought Katamari would not be popular because it had many bugs and many dissatisfaction for game play. But original Katamari was played by people of the world. "simple but fun!", "surprised!", "cute!” I was surprised when I read those words on web.

Do you know this exhibition? I visited Portland  for this exhibition after I left namco. It is like a big present from players.

You haven't ruled out returning to the gaming industry. What sort of sea changes would need to take place for you to feel like a return to making games would be in yours and the public's best interest?

This is a hard question. I'm sorry I can't look around the future yet. However I will begin new project if I get a new wonderful marvelous superb idea. :)

Do you still play games? What series or titles have you been a fan of or think don't get their proper due?

No, I don't play games. Because I don't have any consoles. In childhood, I played Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest many times on NES.

In that case, what else do you like doing for fun?

Daily life. :)

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