My second-favorite DICE 2012 session was held by Valhalla Games co-founder and chief technical officer Tomonobu Itagaki. It was called “What we talk about when we talk about games”. A lot of you know Itagaki from his days with Tecmo’s Team Ninja (Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive). He’s known for dressing like a rock star and wearing sunglasses at night, while his games are famous for gorgeous graphics, crazy violence, and large breasts. With all of that in mind, this talk was not at all what I was expecting. It was sensitive, personal, and very revealing.
Itagaki talked a lot about American literature and how it influenced him. Poet and short-story writer Raymond Carver was and still is a huge deal to him. I’ve interviewed Itagaki several times over the last 15 years and had absolutely no idea he was so well read. Hearing about his knowledge of American literature was definitely cool. It was also a bit embarrassing to learn that a Japanese game developer would completely school me in modern American literature.
The second half of his talk discussed a completely different influence: the song “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith. Itagaki talked about a huge conflict he had with Tecmo and how it drove him to an alcohol-fueled depression that affected his work, his family, and his friendships. Hearing the song in the movie Armageddon moved and inspired him. It made him clutch his daughter as he cried. He cited the song as snapping him out of his depression — saving his life, his family, his friends, and his company.
While I appreciated how revealing and honest Itagaki was being, I have to admit that I was not thinking of Armageddon, but rather Blades of Glory. I’m pretty sure that movie hasn’t had a profound impact on anyone. Anyway, please check out Itagaki’s talk and let me know if you enjoyed it as much as I did.