This translation is for fan use only, and may not accurately reflect Masahiro Sakurai. The following is a selection from Masahiro Sakurai’s book: Think About the Video Games DX. If you enjoyed this article, I would strongly encourage you to support Sakurai by buying his books. If you have any questions about this article, please contact the administrator.
Think About the Video Games vol. 121, September 30th, 2005
Within a development team that’s producing a game, it’s very common for opinions to be divided. Often enough to be a problem. In these situations, you should match the aims or designs of the director, producer, the person who thought up of the game without hesitation. That is the role of a director, as they understand the overall concept. However, a fairly prevalent situation is members of the development team talking amongst each other, saying “This is strange, it’s weird, right? Right?” and starting to try to quietly get support to change things.1 By finding allies who approve or endorse their own ideas, they probably feel relieved, or justified, and gain peace of mind. Even if they’re not exactly like this scenario, there are probably tons of similar examples.
To be frank, nothing is as unproductive as this. When something like this happens, what good does it do the development team? Other than protecting the self-esteem and pride of the developer who started the whole thing, are there any benefits? Why can’t you talk it out with the producer until you’re satisfied? Do you want to deviate from the concept, to introduce setbacks? …That being said, I do understand those feelings very well. Even I let out some complaints occasionally.
It was 1992. It was when I, still young and inexperienced, was directing the Famicon title “Kirby’s Adventure.” At the stage where the game was nearing completion, the main programmer, and my superior at the time, said this to me:
“At first, I didn’t understand the things you would say. I even thought, why is he doing this? But I kept doing as I was told and kept making the game, and when the parts everyone had been working on finally came together, I finally understood what you wanted to do and were trying to say.”
If you’re making individual parts, like screws, or tires, or engines, it’s hard to understand that what you’re making will eventually become a car. Especially if the final product is something that has never existed before. You could show a person a blueprint, but until the product is put together, and the person rides and drives it on a road, they won’t “get it.”
Not failures in communicating ideas to my staff are my own shortcomings in my presentation and communication skills. If someone is making a part of a car, shouldn’t you try to get them to understand that what they’re making will eventually become a car? That you should make such an effort is certain. But to be blunt, the only way to fully communicate what you want is to make a game by yourself and have people play it. Of course, this seems like an unrealistic story. If this was possible, you’d just sell that game you made.
I think what works best on doubts, suspicions, or misgivings is having “trust” in other people. Basically, the feeling of “oh, I can leave this up to him/her.” If it’s the words of someone you trust, it seems like it’s easier to feel “I don’t really understand this right now, but I guess I’ll do it.” Of course, the opposite is also true.
At the time, I was still young and inexperienced, and didn’t have a lot of trust. So there were times when I would become disheartened, feeling “they don’t get it.” But now, I think that was justified and deserved. Between a person with trust and a person without, even if they say the same thing, the way such directions are valued is very different. And that responsibility is not on the recipient of such directions.
If you do your job well, if you can get good results, you’ll feel like you get more and more allies, albeit on a delay. As a freelancer, I have to build up that trust from the bottom every single time. As a result, the moment when you connect with someone else is, in many ways, very stimulating.
Looking Back on “Trustworthiness”
Interviewer: Trustworthiness, huh. But I don’t think you would have a problem with that. Aren’t there a bunch of people like, “I’ll follow you to the end of the earth!”?
Sakurai: Hmm. If we’re talking about within a company, I think people within that company have an established trust, but I’m an outsider, so (laughs).
Sakurai: I think trustworthiness really comes when a person’s works in approved and recognized by his coworkers, so I think the beginning is really important.
Interviewer: At the studio for “Brawl,” did you do morning assemblies2 and stuff?
Sakurai: We did not. All we had was that every Wednesday, the leaders of each section would have a leader meeting.
Interviewer: You didn’t have a company newsletter or anything like that?
Sakurai: I didn’t have the time to write that (laughs).
Interviewer: Brawl’s development must have really been very tiring, then…well, switching topics, were you a scary boss?
Sakurai: Huh, I wonder. I think at times I’m scary? That’s just probably, though…but I really don’t think you need to be that scared.
Interviewer: Did you do something that made you feared? (laughs)
Sakurai: It seems that during hiring interviews, I applied quite a lot of pressure on candidates…
Interviewer: What did you say!?
Sakurai: All I did was bring my laptop and take notes, but apparently the noise of my typing…(laughs)
Interviewer: I get that! When this column began serialization, I went to HAL Laboratories as a greeting, and I got the same feeling. And the speed you type at is just so fast!3 At that moment, I thought “capable people are really scary!” (laughs)
Sakurai: Whaaat. But I’m just typing normally… and that typing speed came in handy when I was playing FF XI. See, I’m not scary at all, right?
1. The word Sakurai uses here is 根回し, or “nemawashi.” There’s actually a Wikipedia article on it (in English), but if you don’t feel like reading it, it’s a word that describes the process of going around and kind of trying to gauge support for a proposed change, gathering backing, but specifically in an “underground” or informal way.
2. I translated it as “morning assembly,” but the original Japanese is chourei, which is a more specific Japanese tradition. Literally written as “morning bow,” it’s a company wide meeting, basically, where after doing your morning greetings, leaders or supervisors relay the schedule for the day, or take attendance.
3. Interviewer actually says “so fast, like a demon,” but that’s not meant to be necessarily a negative thing, just that he really does type really fast.