What is Japan Doing Differently (Video)

Apr 5, 2013

This video is an extended version of a 5 minute presentation that I recently put together for the same class with Celia Pearce that I wrote a handful of blog entries for.

The original text-only version of this information from several years ago

PDF of the slides used in this video

Scans of a Japanese children’s book from 1989 about the development of Super Mario Bros 3 (mostly translated) – A pretty neat exception to the apparent trend of there being relatively few books, at least by 2006, about videogame development in the Japanese game industry, and doubly a treat, providing a view into Nintendo

Slides by Mark Cerny about what has become widely known as the “Cerny Method”

Source of the “I’m not really a game designer” quote from Keita Takahashi (Gamasutra interview)

Images Disclaimer

The images that I showed in this video of Pyramid Head – and several images throughout the slides, for that matter – were chosen for their availability and relevance for illustrating the ideas discussed, though they are not specific artifacts from “real” examples. For example, the view of Pyramid Head’s model isn’t an image from Silent Hill’s development, nor even of the original model from the game, it’s actually from a DeviantArt user’s recreation of the model. The example of “strategy guide” or “game manual-style” art shown for Pyramid Head is actually in-game art, too, used as a texture within the game itself, but for this purpose I believe it was helpful in visualizing the concept.

Likewise, the image with a bunch of lines connecting US cities to Japan is only to illustrate the point being narrated, not to visualize the details – those are actually just two way flight options between the US and Japan, it is not a map rigorously detailing where American branches of Japanese studios were that moved back to Japan. The images shown to depict camera, character movement, and controls are just a few found through Google image search, from Unity discussion forums etc., not images actually used internally for development in any Japanese studio.

I definitely wouldn’t take these kinds of shortcuts for, say, a SIGGRAPH paper or a magazine article, but I might (and, admittedly, I have, as have countless others) for something more informal like a talk at GDC or in a classroom. For posts on my blog or in my YouTube channel, pragmatism wins.

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  1. […] Extended video (13 min.) on HobbyGameDev.com with additional information and sources […]

  2. Brice Morrison says:

    Hi Chris, thanks So much for sharing! It seems like there’s a focus on being very close to the game and not doing a lot of busy work around the game that players are never actually going to see. Western game companies tend to get caught up in a lot of tools and work that never make it to players. Doing the prototypes right in the game, doing concept art right in the game, definitely a valid approach.

    If you’d be interested, I have a book recommendation for you: “The Geography of Thought”, it’s a book that I read many years back that really opened my eyes to foundational differences in eastern and western thought pattern, some of which you mention in your video.

    Take care!

  3. Dirk says:

    Hey great video! Very interesting, I’m curious also what do you think about the difference in the types of games that are produced in response to demand from the public? Why are certain games popular in Japan and the same ones flop in western countries. (Basically I’m asking why don’t westerners like Katamari?!)

    Ps. all the content on this site is brilliant, you do such a great job, keep it up!

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