Say That Again, Zach: An Interview With Hidetaka Suehiro

Say That Again, Zach: An Interview With Hidetaka Suehiro

In videogames, there are only a handful of people that stand out from the rest of the industry. You have historical figures like Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari, or gaming luminaries, like Shigeru Miyamoto who almost singlehandedly carried Nintendo on his—and Mario’s—shoulders. Then you have the dark horses, the mavericks who do something so odd, so distinctive that everyone sits up and takes notice simply because it’s something no one has ever seen before. Hidetaka Suehiro, better known by his nickname, “Swery65,” is one of those people. Although he’s been in the industry for years, it was only in 2010, with Deadly Premonition that he rose to prominence as one of gaming’s most surreal creators.  Since then, he’s also made D4, which has migrated from an Xbox One exclusive to PCs as well, and it carries the same bizarre distinctiveness of his previous work. We managed to track down the eccentric Japanese developer and get some of this thoughts on the industry, and his role in it. This truncated interview is a smaller sample of the much larger interview found in the magazine itself.

D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die

Comics Gaming Magazine: Do you consider yourself an auteur?

Hidetaka Suehiro: I think people’s personalities are determined not by themselves, but by their relationships. So it’s not about what I think of myself, but what everyone else thinks of me. That  equals everything.

But the one thing I can say is that I’m a game creator, and I can only express myself through the media known as games. Through games, I send messages to people and connect myself with them, and that’s what gives me a reason to live. So I do not intend to make games that don’t have souls, or are only going along with some kind of fad, or are just imitating someone else’s work.

CGM: Why has David Lynch in particular seemed like such a big influence on you?

HS: Maybe because the game that makes them feel that way became a hit? (laughs) I’ve been influenced by a lot of people, starting with people in my daily life.

CGM: How do you react to the fact that while your games don’t sell in the same numbers as something like Call of Duty, you have a much better critical reception than the big, blockbuster games?

HS: I love a lot of games, and Call of Duty is one of them, of course. So it’s hard for me to answer this question. I mean, I’ve had a lot of problems with critical reception myself!

D4: Dark Dreams Don'T Die
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die

CGM: In your more recent games, a theme that’s consistently appeared is psychological trauma, like split personalities or grief from the death of a loved one, combined with a mystical element, such as magic red seeds, or time travel. Why do you like to combine mental elements with magical ones? Do you think that conventional treatments are ineffective, and that something much more drastic is called for?

HS: First, I think that human drama is a necessary element in absolutely everything I create. As I said earlier, since the characters are what create the story, their humanity, problems, ambitions, and mental conflicts have to be there in order to push the story forward. So in a lot of scenes and settings, great importance is placed on their psychological conditions.

The mysticism in the games exists as a medium through which I can make my work more easily understood by players and clients. The media known as videogames still isn’t fully matured, but the way that players enjoy games is heading toward a specific direction. Therefore, I think mediums are necessary to express our own art and culture while also entertaining our audiences.

That’s why we need mysticism, along with exhilaration, accomplishment, good controls, fast-paced action, side missions, achievements, and so on and so forth.

Deadly Premonition
Deadly Premonition

CGM:  While you often have combat and action in your games, it’s the characters and stories that seem to be the big strengths. Do you feel that you’ve achieved your ideal balance between polished story and gameplay, or do you feel you can work more on the mechanics aspect of your games?

HS: It’s a long, hard road. Right now, I’m at the point where I feel like the visuals and story are high quality, but I’m trying to see how I can work some casual elements into games as well. I still can’t see the goal line yet.

CGM: Have you tried virtual reality or augmented reality displays at all yet? Do you have any thoughts on these emerging technologies, or how you would like to use them?

HS: I have my own, of course, and I have experience making sample pieces at Access Games. So if the question is “Am I interested?” Then yes. 100% yes.

This is a system that allows complete immersion in a world, so experiences have to utilize that for sure. VR isn’t simply a video, but an experience, so it’s important to think about what we can get from it. In that regard, I think it’s a great match for the kind of things I want to create.

Experiences of ”getting lost” or of ”peeping on something” could be easily created, and I have some specific ideas about them.

I imagine that in the future, we’ll be able to use servers to share VR spaces with other people around the world, which could allow someone to create the MMO we’ve always dreamed of. I don’t think I’ll create a game that big, though. But I can really sense the future in VR.

D4: Dark Dreams Don'T Die
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die

CGM: Now with D4 coming out on PC, is this the signal of a change in platform or direction for you, or can console gamers still look forward to new games from you?

HS: I don’t think about platforms when I think about game concepts. As I spoke about in my GDC speech, it isn’t the hardware that comes first, but the idea for the game.

What I want to create, where I’ll create it, and who I’ll create it for changes depending on time and place. In other words, I think everyone has a chance. Does that answer the question?

Thank you so much for interviewing me. The questions were really deep, so it took me some time to answer them all, but it was a great brain exercise!

I love you all!

To read more from Swery65 check out the June 2015 issue of CGM.

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