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Q's Hidden Genius: Reo Yonaga Speaks
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Q's Hidden Genius: Reo Yonaga Speaks

July 21, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

BS: Do you know about Habbo Hotel? It's an application from Finland that's sort of similar to Mixi, but the network targets children. I think it has 80 million registered users, mostly from Europe and the U.S. [Ed. note: Mixi is a popular Japanese social network akin to MySpace or Facebook.]

RY: In Japan's case it would only be domestic users, so there are several weird communities; weird, not as in providing weird services, but more in terms of the community members. For example, there's one called Padotown.

Padotown is extremely interesting. Only kids and housewives use it. It's funny. I have absolutely no idea how that happened. Seriously, there's like no male users what so ever, just children and housewives. Oh, there are little boys though. It's really interesting.

And the thing is all the users aren't very tech savvy. Normally for service sites like this, there are tags that you can't type and service providers strictly enforce these regulations with a dictionary; Padotown happens to be quite lenient about this and people play pranks to make pages not open. They type XMP tags and other tags banned on the net and play pranks on each other. It's almost a trend. Because they're all kids this often leads to fights.

The interesting thing is people are starting to call these tags "Padotown terms" on the web and in dictionaries. Within the kid community, the word "tag" has taken on an almighty existence. They would say, "I used tags to investigate your elementary school!" and such, to scare one another. Do you get what I'm saying?

Basically, under normal circumstances you can't search for things or hack someone's computer using tags, right? But in Padotown it's as if it's possible. "I used my tag to do this and that to your computer!" and other ridiculous conversations along these lines are common and have proliferated. I've seen it happen once and it's incredible interesting.

TR: You have interest in things like this?

RY: I've always been interested in "habitats." New communities with weird - or let me rephrase - with a segregated niche group of users are interesting. For example "mobage", the Japanese used in the community, is entirely different. Everyone uses gyaru slang and terms so I can't even read it. Have you ever seen gyarugo? [Ed. note: "gyarugo" is a leet-speak-like lingo used by a subset of Japanese teen girls on mobile phones.]

TR: Yes, I have.

RY: I can't make out anything!

TR: Yeah, it's hard to read.

RY: It's not that their manner of speech is crude, it's like an entire different language, making it illegible. Yeah, it's not that I can't comprehend it; I just can't read it at all.

TR: How about PlayStation Home? What do you think about that?

RY: Just a short while ago, about two years ago, I submitted a thick proposal for a plan that's nearly identical to (but somewhat different from) PlayStation Home. Because of that, I was kicking myself when it was first announced.

BS: I'm not really interested in games like that. Well, they're not exactly games.

RY: I'm thinking about what's going to happen from this point on. In the end, if MMORPG players get together to advance and level up, and if the main draw of PlayStation Home, oh, maybe not Home but Second Life is chatting, creating things, changing outfits and avatar interaction, then it would be something that falls somewhere in the middle.

When salarymen come home tired, they chat with their online friends, right? Something with that kind of feel, maybe something like [Sega Dreamcast online chat and casual gaming software] Guruguru Onsen, I'm not sure.

TR: Have you ever played the beta version of PlayStation Home? In your virtual home, you have a TV. When you stand in front of the TV you can choose what it displays from your PS3 hard drive. Things you've downloaded from the PlayStation store etc., and when other players enter your house they see the video and hear the audio of whatever you've chosen.

RY: That part of PlayStation Home is almost like a 3D visualization the [PS3 interface] XMB functions. Did you know that Macs used to do this thing with its URL structure (gestures)? To me it's an idea similar to that. To change something you frequently come in contact with that's dull and make it 3D. For example, Apple's Apple TV does this.

To be able to control it without looking at the computer screen (via gestures), leads people to think, "Hey, my mom can use that." In that sense, this applies to other games. Like a game that's more educational, a little on the difficult side and seems like you would need to study before playing, if you impose a character and make it like [Namco Bandai word-matching game] Mojipittan, then kids get completely absorbed into it and begin to memorize new vocabulary.

Same thing goes for kanji-related games and people who hate kanji. If you present old material in a fresh way, you also attract different users. I think most genres are being fully explored. Games are steadily improving; stories are better, the overall balance is better. Don't you agree? But I'm interested in experimenting with things that have never been done.

At this point in time I'm the most interested in online stores, the PS3 system and Live Arcade. I don't really have time to browse around and purchase things on online stores or Live Arcade, but I like games and I have the money. This kind of approach to games is still fairly new. I think PopCap has a great approach on games. It's casual, the visual effects are beautiful and all, they consistently come out with games on the PC that pop.

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