A Stretch of Imagination
Souvik Sunday, April 05, 2009
Has anyone of you played Noby Noby Boy ('stretchy stretchy boy' in Japanese)? I haven't and there is little likelihood that I will - it's made solely for PS3 and I don't see myself ever possessing one (I don't even have a tv). Despite no familiarity with the gameplay, I can safely say that one of my most unforgettable gaming experiences is connected to this game. I saw the game being demo-ed on a large screen by the designer Keita Takahashi who was delivering the GameCity 2007 vision statement. I can't describe the game - it's too bizarre for words: effectively, it's got a couple of stretchy characters that stretch from planet to planet, winding themselves around creatures. Do wikipedia it to learn more about what happens in it ... I'm not even going to attempt a description. By the way, the designer's the same guy who made Katamari Damacy.
It's because of him that I can't forget this game. He stood in front of us, barefoot, on the podium and said the only words he knew in English: 'I don't speak English.' The conversation that followed was in Japanese with the interpreter struggling to translate the world of Takahashi into English. I don't think he was speaking and us listening --- rather, it was some weird sort of collective imagination. He drew houses, lorries with smiling faces and showed us his house on Google Earth. He also said that he would grow weeds upward from his balcony so that they would reach the flat of the noisy couple upstairs. Then someone asked him what games he would make next and what games he played. 'None', he answered for both questions. He wants to build playgrounds for children and he wanted us to see Noby Noby Boy. Suddenly two stretchy characters were wriggling around each other and entwining themselves around random objects onscreen. It was a trance-like feeling. Recently, after the game was released, Takahashi was asked if he was high on drugs when he conceived the game, an allegation he was quick to deny. Keita Takahashi, I believe you. One only needs to have seen the man to know.
I can see the Noby Noby game as a game-design metaphor. Imagination. Limitlessly stretching, entwining and more forming complex patterns that are deceptively simple. I wonder what Takahashi's imaginative playgrounds will contain, if he ever gets to build them.
'Literature is a combinatorial game that pursues the possibilities implicit in its own material [...] but it is a game that at a certain point is invested with an unexpected meaning' - Italo Calvino