"Lollipop Chainsaw" was one of the more popular booths at PAX East -- and not just because of a real-life version of the video game's heroine was there for most of the gamer convention that took place last weekend in Boston.
The upcoming action fest, in which one assumes the mantle of a blonde, pig-tailed cheerleader who must rid her high school of zombies, is the latest from Japanese game designer Goichi Suda (who call himself Suda 51). Suda has quite the cult following in the U.S., thanks to the esoteric offerings from his studio, Grasshopper Manufacture.
PAX East offered Suda his first chance to interact with fans in east coast U.S. "There is no distance between game makers and game players here, unlike in Japan …it's quite nice," the gonzo game maker said via his translator.
Suda's games are popular in the U.S. because they are a refection of the creator's tastes; Suda is clearly a fan of American pop culture, especially American movies.
For example, they have high schools in Japan, but cheerleaders? Not really. When asked how his audience back home reacts to something so foreign such as a cheerleader heroine, he said it's actually not a big deal, since Japan loves American culture, and "cheerleaders are American." As for zombies -- the other major part of "Lollipop Chainsaw" -- their appeal is universal.
Having universal appeal is more important than ever, given the rough times the video game market has been going through in Japan in recent years. Creators are frustrated with constraints that hinder creativity, and the game playing public has never been more apathetic. Suda is also one of the few Japanese game makers who seems happy with his job. In recent years, many of Suda's contemporaries have become outspoken over the outdated business practices that continue to dominate the Eastern game development.
When asked about the challenges he faces when making games for the Japanese market, Suda is clearly most interested in international tastes. "When i think about the games I make, the stories I tell, and characters in them, I think of gamer worldwide. What will be appealing in America, in Europe."
Each of Suda's games usually draw from a particular American movie, usually, which is another main reason why his games are so universally celebrated, since motion pictures from the U.S. are also loved across the globe.
"Lollipop Chainsaw" gets its inspirations from the world of cinema as well. "I'm a big fan of movies with young people, especially in high school," states Suda, especially when they're up to no good, like breaking the rules and having sex.
Which is why Suda gravitates towards the early works of Sean Penn, and specifically cited "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and "Bad Boys" (the 1983 film directed by Rick Rosenthal, not the more widely known 1995 flick by Michael Bay). Both movies take place in America's educational institutions.
When asked if he'd ever like to make a movie himself, given the cinematic qualities of his games, Suda's response leaned towards a maybe, if given the chance, "I was lucky enough to get into the game industry! I also have no contact point with movie industry."
Because Suda will, more than likely, be sticking to making games, he was asked what future trend as it pertains to games excites him the most. Social media is at the top of that list, which Suda believes will create, "a heterogeneous platform, that will have everyone playing the same game together."
As for what Suda would like to make, his dream game, either because of advances in technology or trends, like the one he described, his answer again speaks of his love for movies. It would be something in which "different events take place in different places, in different phases.
"Which the player can access everything, but not all at once, and instead multiple playthroughs. It would be like a video game version of a Brian DePalma movie!"
Matthew Hawkins is an NYC-based game journalist who has also written for EGM, GameSetWatch, Gamasutra, Giant Robot and numerous others. He also self-publishes his own game culture zine, is part of Attract Mode , and co-hosts The Fangamer Podcast . You can keep tabs on him via Twitter , or his personal home-base, FORT90.com .