Art Perspective: KATAMARI!

At this time of year gamers are being treated to a heavy shower of high budget, triple-A titles; Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3 and Skyrim are among the colossal titles that have already hit shelves, with the likes of Zelda and Mass Effect just over the horizon. In these chaotic, modern times it is important to try not to buy every single game, although it may seem to be the logical thing to do but budgets must be kept in order to feed through Christmas. Art Perspective suggests saving some money, waiting until those big games come down in price, taking a deep breath and exploring the world of colourful Katamari!

There are two ways to go about making any form of art, one is to create what people want and the other is to give the people what you want to create. The big titles of gaming certainly fall into the first category, with most staying within their usual confines, making small changes each year in an attempt to convince gamers to part with their cash. The second method is by far more interesting, although the level of quality can vary, as games made with this ethos never fail to inspire. Without the worries of financial constraints or rewards, or the problems that come with big companies, art works can simply strive to create something new, and that brings us to Katamari Damacy.
We are going to take a look back at a brilliantly arty game, the ideas, and design philosophy behind it. Katamari, for those who are not familiar, is a bizarre and beautiful cult classic gaming series from Japan. The player takes control of a tiny prince who is giving the curious task of rebuilding the stars and the moon as his father accidentally destroyed them. This prince has one tool to help him complete his missions; Katamari, a magical ball that the prince must roll around and anything smaller than the ball sticks to it. The player must roll this ball over objects, in a snowball effect to make the Katamari grow in size. The Katamari can pick up larger objects as the ball itself grows in size, eventually able to allowing the prince to pick up planets, and restore the night sky back to normal. Katamari is the wonderful creation of Keita Takahashi, who directed and designed the first two Katamari€™s; Katamari Damacy and We Love Katamari, for the Playstation 2. Takahashi's most recent work was on the browser based MMO Glitch, in which players inhabit the thoughts of giants and attempt to make them bigger. Noby Noby Boy was Takahashi's follow up to Katamari. Located in a simularly colourful world, the player takes control of a rainbow worm boy. This is a game that is easier to watch a video of than to try and explain: Takahashi takes an unusual approach to game design; citing various art forms and mediums for his inspirations. For the idea of Katamari, Takashi cited paintings, sculpture, architecture, toys, music and film. This shows that gaming is a medium that can take inspiration from many sources rather than just form other games. Takahashi plan is to move away from game design as he wants to design children's play areas. The great thing about Katamari has struck a balance between innovation and mass appeal, with a strong cult following as well as strong sales figures. Katamari games are still being released, even though Takahashi is no longer involved. There have been Katamari releases almost every year on eight platforms since the first game in 2004. The games themes and characters have become internet hits, with various costumes, videos, and cartoons referencing the title.
There is something within Katamari that represents what gaming should aim for: the strive for something new. It shows that more risks should be taken in game design to expand the medium of gaming and explore new avenues. Things that have never been done before are the things that change the world; ideas that inspire. With the age of the internet, there is a whole new platform in which to do something new. Creative minds like Destructionware€™s Terry Cavanagh creates brilliantly original indie games, or€™s musician Yas Clarke has taken to writing a new song everyday. These are people who are striving to do something new. They are not trying to make money, but are simply creating what they want. As gamers who want to see the medium we love evolve, we need to support inovation to help the industry develop.
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