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CEDEC 09: Keynote - Gundam Creator: 'Video Games Are Evil'
CEDEC 09: Keynote - Gundam Creator: 'Video Games Are Evil'
September 2, 2009 | By Christian Nutt, Yoshi Sato

September 2, 2009 | By Christian Nutt, Yoshi Sato
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    22 comments
More: Console/PC



Yoshiyuki Tomino, creator of Japan's most popular sci-fi giant robot franchise, Mobile Suit Gundam, used his keynote speech at Japan's Gamasutra-attended CEDEC game conference to provoke game developers -- and try to make them reconsider the future of gaming.

"I think that video games are evil," says Tomino. "[Gaming] is not a type of activity that provides any support to our daily lives, and all these consoles are just consuming electricity! Let's say we have about three billion people on this planet wasting their time, bringing no productivity at all. Add 10 billion more people, and what would happen to our planet? Video games are assisting the death of our planet!"

This is particularly ironic, as his signature Gundam franchise and its many spinoffs are widely featured in games on all platforms, and have been since the series' popularity exploded in the 1980s.

Of course, Tomino doesn't see the situation as quite that hopeless -- or having him as the keynote speaker at a developers' conference would be pointless. Nearly 70 years old, Tomino is motivated by a desire to pass his wisdom to the next generation -- treatment he says he did not receive when he entered the animation industry.

Says Tomino, "The video game industry is now 30 years old. It is just the right time for the business' company structure and many other elements to become solid. But at the same time, it is also a point where there is uncertainty in its future. In order to overcome this uncertainty, it is important for experienced creators such as myself to talk about their experiences."

His goal is to challenge developers to improve their output. "You have to find the median -- that games are not evil, perhaps not necessarily good either, but something that can be considered a pastime. What would make people enjoy a game? How do you make them feel like it is not just a waste of time?"

"If finding answers to these questions were easy," says Tomino, "then something better would have been out by now. Has there been anything better than Tetris since it first came out? How many years has it been? This is what I want to tell you: I want you to create a game that does not negatively affect our daily lives and is something that is considered more productive."

He decries the reliance on technology that the game industry faces, analogizing it to the animation industry. Says Tomino, "People who work on CG have become too dependent in using the software and tools, but forgot the most important question: what are we doing, and what are we trying to create using these tools?"

"People working on CG have become caught up with how to use these tools, but do not give a thought on creating content that will be relevant 10 years from now. As long as we remember to ask ourselves the question, I believe that a hint towards the next step can be seen."

Of course, the relevance of Tomino's position is directly correlated to his success. Launched in 1979, the Gundam franchise has exploded into spin-offs across all media, and generates new fans on a routine basis.

"Now that the Gundam franchise has reached its 30 year anniversary this year," says Tomino, "to think of the next 30 or even 50 years ahead, we should fully understand what makes things click with the audience."


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Comments


Adam Piotuch
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There are so many things I want to say, but there is no point.

Jerane Alleyne
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Two words: Brain Powered.

Yu Ki
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OK, this guy is the very person that Chinese government needs.

Bryson Whiteman
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I believe he does have a valid point in that games are generally a passive activity. From the excerpts, it's not like he's saying that other forms of media aren't just as passive and unproductive. Although I enjoy games for their entertainment value, I shudder when I think about how much time people spend on time-draining games like MMOs. It's scary to think about how much more passive society will be as MMO type games become even more commonplace. (I've never played one so this is my outsider perspective, haha.)



It's interesting to think about how games could be progressive for society. As much time as you can waste on Facebook, it can also be used as a tool to organize, inform and rally people that would otherwise be passive. Games are usually just tools to take your time and money.

Stefan Durmek
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I see a solid point in this article. It's not about "Don't make brutal games" and things like this that we are used to from a yellow press. It says do something what brings more than just fun element, something that positively develops human personality (logic, reactions, memory, imagination etc). Something like Little Big Planet. Don't focus just on making the player a hero, trading his time for fun and raised ego.

Jay Simmons
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Its ironic that someone who owes his entire lively hood to an activity that "is not a type of activity that provides any support to our daily lives" and "we have about three billion people on this planet wasting their time, bringing no productivity at all" aka watching television would then decry video games. TV watching has to be the single biggest waste of time and intellect ever foisted on the masses. Whats a bigger waste of time, playing a game that involves hand to eye coordination and problem solving skills or sitting in a state of retardation watching Dancing with the Stars or seizure inducing anime.

Ollie Barder
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Tomino is generally a difficult public speaker to comprehend and doubly so when he's translated from his native Japanese. Like a lot of his prose, he expects the reader/listener to utilise a greater amount of individual insight. I don't think Tomino regards games as being wholly "evil" but that the medium is being wasted and without meaningful creative works to justify its existence the potential environmental impact is unwarranted. The Tetris comment was an apt one in this context I felt.

Ollie Barder
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Separately, Tomino has had no involvement with the various Gundam games that have been made thus far.

Janne Haffer
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Being a hypocrite doesn't make him wrong

Thomas Grove
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Ollie gets it. Tommy, Jay: you guys have missed the subtlety.

Diogo Neves
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Yep... there was a "pursuit for technology" during some years (most of them) that removed part of the replayability of games.

Some of the games we enjoyed, while young people, we can't stand now because they're technologicaly outdated. That also happens with other media forms, no doubt, but we should try to create more memorable experiences that people will want to show to their children (or grandchildren) one day.

And yes, Tetris and Pacman are still played today!

Doug Kinnison
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Let me just reword his statement twice:



"I think that books are evil," says Tomino. "[Reading] is not a type of activity that provides any support to our daily lives, and all these books are just consuming trees! Let's say we have about three billion people on this planet wasting their time, bringing no productivity at all. Add 10 billion more people, and what would happen to our planet? Books are assisting the death of our planet!"



"I think that movies are evil," says Tomino. "[Movie going] is not a type of activity that provides any support to our daily lives, and all these DVD's are just consuming polycarbonates! Let's say we have about three billion people on this planet wasting their time, bringing no productivity at all. Add 10 billion more people, and what would happen to our planet? Films are assisting the death of our planet!"



Shakes head.



Doug Kinnison

P15 Studios

Kelvin Bonilla
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Well said, Doug.



I for one, agree in having games be more productive in the physical sense. I like games like DDR. It brings out the physical productivity on the human body. However, many games have their own individual points. JRPG's are very story driven, which develops one's emotional tact in a story line. Puzzle games develop problem solving skills. FPS and fighters develop hand-eye coordination. RTS develop strategic thinking. MMO's encourage social activities and extroversion (even if it's just in the digital world).



Barring the fact that most games require very low amount of physical input, I fail to see Tomino's point.

Joe E
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As a developer on the younger side of the professional spectrum, I find his challenge very inspiring. I don't mind his harsh words because sometimes that's what we need to hear to pay attention, just take it with a grain of salt. I tend to agree that videogames in their present form have very limited positive impact outside of their simulated worlds, and are mostly a "waste of time". Could you say the same thing about any other entertainment medium/industry? Why yes, but this is the one industry I have the ability to make a definite impact, so this is the one I will care about.



"This is what I want to tell you: I want you to create a game that does not negatively affect our daily lives and is something that is considered more productive"



I think this is vital piece of advice. I'll be the first to admit that those traits he proposes are as subjective as they get, but the key is actually in the *mindset* and the *goals* we have when we set to develop an interactive experience. We need to ask ourselves, why we do what we do (just for the money?) and what we are saying with it, how the world will be affected by our message (it's impossible not to have one!).

Christian Nutt
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Doug, I think it's easily possible to legitimately make those arguments, actually. Most films and books are a total waste of our scarce human resources. I think the goal of the comments is to inspire people to create games that are not a waste, rather than to tell game developers "you're wasting your time."

Carl Trett
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Forgive if I'm way off base here, but wasn't he simply voicing the most extreme concerns of the mass market? Wasn't this a bit of extremism to make a point. I don't think he was trying to be hypocritical, he was simply voicing the concerns of the fringe and making the point that we can take that extreme view and take some direction from it. That if we want to have a long lasting impact on the cultural mind, then we need to be aware of this view and work to create products that don't allow themselves to have this moniker labeled on them. If we as developers can create something with positive cultural returns then we can move away from the perceived evil and become a benefit to society.



Or maybe I'm giving him too much credit?

Lance Rund
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He is making the same arguments that some people make about music ("classical" music in particular)... that pop music is a waste of effort, but complex music makes you a better person for having heard it. This certainly was the attitude amongst the educated classes in Europe during the 16th-19th centuries. There was that awful noise the commoners made in taverns, and then there were symphonies which every person who called themselves "educated" should attend and be able to intelligently discuss.



That attitude was linked with a class-based society which many people today find obnoxious. Nobody likes being told that "you're just a commoner, and your music reflects this and tells me you'll always be a faceless, disposable interchangable-with-the-rest-of-your-underclass nobody". I will play devil's advocate here and say that there is a valid point buried deep under the classist BS: not all forms of music are equally durable, and some music by its nature challenges and improves you while others do not.



Now change "music" for "video games". I think the point being made here is that modern video games are all top-40 pop at best, and there is a preponderance of the equivalent of "gangsta rap" at worst. I think that Tomino-san is saying "until there are enduring symphonies, music is a waste of time" and applying it to video games. Whether this is or is not the case is another matter... there are those who say that games like Bioshock or Planescape or Sim City will have that durability and long-term relevance. I'm not so sure of that, but I also think that there is a place in the world for gangsta rap, New Age crystal-stroke music, country music AND symphonies. I understand Tomino-san's view... I share his desire for "video games for the ages", but I am quite happy playing World of Warcraft in the meantime.

Peter Park
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Sane argument can be made to every other medium, but I think it is more valid to videogames then any other.



Just think about how many worthwhile game there are out there. Did Gears of War touch your mind and helped shape your thoughts and develop you as a human being? Did World of Warcraft?



My point is, while there may be some titles that do hold some meaningful value in playing them, they are extremely few and rare. Most of games out there right now are purely wasting gamers' time and energy.



Game industry must work it's way to find some ways to develop and deliver meaningful games to general audience, like some of the smaller studios in movie industry (like Focus or Sony Classic Pictures).

Paolo Pace
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If his goal was to get people talking, it worked.

John Dossy
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Sounds like a disgruntled employee to me!



RT

www.privacy-resources.tk

shih-chieh ku
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The original Gundam show was a sci-fi commentary on World War 2, with humanist, internationalist, and anti-imperialist themes. It was kind of like Metal Gear Solid in a lot of ways. So I don't think Tomino is being a total hypocrite here. The Gundam shows are part toy commercial, but there are a lot of "hippie" messages in the shows too :-P

Josh Milewski
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Peter Park: "Sane argument can be made to every other medium, but I think it is more valid to videogames then any other.



Just think about how many worthwhile game there are out there. Did Gears of War touch your mind and helped shape your thoughts and develop you as a human being? Did World of Warcraft?



My point is, while there may be some titles that do hold some meaningful value in playing them, they are extremely few and rare. Most of games out there right now are purely wasting gamers' time and energy.



Game industry must work it's way to find some ways to develop and deliver meaningful games to general audience, like some of the smaller studios in movie industry (like Focus or Sony Classic Pictures)."



The same is true of most *games* in general (board games, card games, etc.).



The fact is, most games are just ways to (enjoyably) pass the time. And that's fine, sometimes it's nice to kick back and just enjoy some entertainment that doesn't use the mind so much.



If you want something more meaningful, those Shenmues, etc. still exist. And there are plenty of other media to find meaningful art and entertainment in, as well (and those media also have their share of 'mindlessness').


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