Interview: Masaya Matsuura

We were very lucky to sit down with the maker of PaRappa the Rapper and Vib-Ribbon, Masaya Matsuura, at GameCity a few months ago. Originally a musician in experimental pop band, Psy-S, Matsuura-san paved the way for many of today’s rhythm action games. He told us about his early music career and mused about the future of music games.

What inspired you to become a musician?
Masaya Matsuura: I was working in a radio station when I was a college student. I didn’t have a plan to be a musician after graduation, at that time. So one day I had chat with a producer of the broadcasting companying to discuss the possibilities [of becoming an] employee. This producer said to me: “why do you think your future will be a so small one?” Of course, I [didn’t] know a musician requires talent and the skills to be a great one. But if you don’t try it, I truly believe you will regret it in the future.

Have you always seen yourself as a musician first and a game developer second?
MM: That’s true. That also has various kinds of reasons. For example, [my] first decade as a musician, I released around 10 albums [with] record company, Sony Music Entertainment. But, during then I was addicted to composing my music by using computer. Also, I was very fascinated to use the ready-made tool for the composition. Everybody is using a similar type of sequencer or synthesizer. It’s OK sometimes, but sometimes I get crazy not [being] able to create good tracks, so suddenly I felt the reason [was because of] the tools. This kind of complaint doesn’t reach [anyone], of course. So, I decided to make something [through] my own ideas. That was the first step when I became a developer. Perhaps the first time I just wanted to make my own tool for myself.

All your games are full of positive stories and cheerful characters. Why is it important for more games to communicate positive messages?
MM: My games are based on the positive messages [and] happiness. [They are] always happy in that sense. But other games don’t [attempt this] so much. It’s OK to have a violent game, a war game, a killing game in some way. But currently these kinds of games exist too much. So, I really want to balance the situation in general. If we can [be] successful with treating these kinds of things, I think games will be a more sophisticated art form than movies or music.

You collaborated with Rodney Greenblat on PaRappa the Rapper and, more recently, on Major Minor’s Majestic March. How has it been working with him?
MM: Rodney and I have been working [together] around 15 years already, so we have a pretty nice relationship. And Rodney has been [recently] getting addicted to the big fun of Japanese culture. He looks much more Japanese – more than me sometimes. I am sometimes surprised to hear his ideas about various kinds of things.

Your games have inspired a generation of people, including many of the younger developers at this year’s GameCity. How does that make you feel?
MM: I am inspired by the younger people. Inspiring over the generations, over any kind of bounders between us, is a very important thing the games industry should have.

This has been your first GameCity. What have thought of the festival?
MM: It’s very nice. It’s a very unique and inspiring event I feel. I have many chances to join various kinds of game events all over the world, but GameCity is something very unusually – something focusing on the creative side. It’s a very rare event.

You’re involved with OneBigGame. What do you think about the charity scheme?
MM: OneBigGame is a chance to make the next step for game creation. Of course, we have many difficult parts to proceed that project, because, basically, the mini-game production requires a business scheme first and the production side follows later. But, OneBigGame is, of course, a charity project, so we don’t have any usual business scheme first. So, sometimes it is getting tough to proceed, because we can’t keep [sic] hiring by having that kind of position.

In your view, what is the future of music games?
MM: I think this category will expand much more from now. Currently just one or a few games are [achieving] ‘game fever’. It’s OK to have a genesis stage, where the music games looks like [Guitar Hero or Rock Band]. But, maybe, in the near future music games should go a different way. By various kinds of developers [joining] to discover it, I will be happy.

Visit NanaOn-Sha for more on the music and games of this legendary creator.

Aaron Lee

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