Satoshi Tajiri

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Satoshi Tajiri (田尻智?)
Born Tajiri Satoshi
(1965-08-28) August 28, 1965 (age 49)
Setagaya, Tokyo
Nationality Japanese
Alma mater Tokyo National College of Technology
Occupation Video game designer
Years active 1989–present
Employer Game Freak
Known for Creating the Pokémon franchise
Notable work Pokémon; Mendel Palace; Pulseman
Home town Machida, Tokyo

Satoshi Tajiri (Japanese: 田尻 智 Hepburn: Tajiri Satoshi?, born August 28, 1965[1]) is a Japanese video game designer best known as the creator of Pokémon and the founder of video game developer Game Freak, Inc. An avid fan of arcade games, Tajiri wrote for and edited his own video gaming fanzine Game Freak with Ken Sugimori, before evolving it into a development company of the same name. Tajiri claims that the joining of two Game Boys via a link cable inspired him to create a game which embodied the collection and companionship of his childhood hobby, insect collecting. The game, which became Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green, took six years to complete and went on to spark a multi-billion dollar franchise which reinvigorated Nintendo's handheld gaming. Tajiri continued to work as director for the Pokémon series until the development of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, when he changed his role to simply executive producer.

Tajiri has also worked for other projects including Mario spin-offs and the Legend of Zelda. His work has earned him numerous accolades from his peers.

Early life[edit]

Tajiri was born on August 28, 1965, in Tokyo to a Nissan car salesman and a housewife.[2] Tajiri grew up in Machida, Tokyo, which at the time still maintained a rural atmosphere.[3] As a child, Tajiri enjoyed insect collecting as a hobby, which would be an inspiration for his later video game work.[4] Other children called him "Dr. Bug",[3] and he wanted to become an entomologist.[2] As the urban areas of Japan spread and more land was paved over, habitats for hunting bugs were lost. Tajiri wanted his games to allow children to have the feeling of catching and collecting creatures as he had.[4] The character of Ash Ketchum (named Satoshi in Japan), is largely a version of Tajiri as a child.[3]

He became fascinated with arcade games as a teenager, though his parents thought him a delinquent for this pastime.[2] He particularly enjoyed playing Taito's Space Invaders, which drew him into other video games.[3] His interest eventually evolved into attempting to plan his own games. He took his Famicom apart to see how it worked, and won a contest for a video game idea sponsored by Sega.[3]

Because of his fascination with video games, Tajiri frequently cut classes and nearly did not graduate high school. This confused and upset his parents, who felt that he was discarding his own future. His father attempted to get him a job at The Tokyo Electric Power Company, but Tajiri declined to take the position.[2] He took make-up classes and eventually earned his high school diploma.[5] Tajiri did not attend college but instead attended a two-year technical degree program at the Tokyo National College of Technology, where he majored in electronics and computer science.[2]

Professional career[edit]

At age 17, Tajiri began writing and editing a fanzine called Game Freak from 1981 to 1986, focusing on the arcade game scene.[6][7] Game Freak was handwritten and stapled together.[3] Nonetheless, Ken Sugimori, who later illustrated the first 151 Pokémon, saw the magazine at a dōjinshi shop, and became involved.[8] As more contributors came to Game Freak, Tajiri began to realize that most games were lacking in quality, and he and Sugimori decided the solution was to make their own games.[3] Tajiri studied the Family BASIC game programming package, to better grasp the concepts of Famicom game design. He then purchased the requisite hardware for game development.[7] Tajiri and Sugimori evolved the magazine into the video game development company Game Freak in 1989.[1][9] Soon after, the two pitched their first game, an arcade-style game called Quinty, to Namco, who published the game.[10] Tajiri also wrote as a freelance writer for the magazine Famicom Hisshoubon, later called Hippon,[11] and previewed video games during his guest appearances in the VHS series Famimaga Video.[citation needed]

Tajiri first conceived the idea of Pokémon in 1990.[3] The idea came together after he saw a Game Boy and the ability to communicate between Game Boys,[3] and Tajiri decided Pokémon made the most sense on the handheld console. Tajiri pioneered the idea of connectivity between handheld game consoles, by suggesting that Game Boys could use their link cables in order to have friends do more than simply play against each other.[12]

Due to Tajiri's reputation in having worked on The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo was willing to consider his new game idea.[13] When he first pitched the idea of Pokémon to Nintendo, they could not quite grasp the concept, but were impressed enough with Tajiri's game design reputation that they decided to explore the concept. Shigeru Miyamoto began to mentor Tajiri, guiding him during the creation process.[2] Pokémon Red and Green took six years to produce, and nearly bankrupted Game Freak in the process; often, there was barely enough money to pay the employees.[2] Five employees quit, and Tajiri did not take a salary, instead living off of his father's income.[2] Investment from Creatures Inc. allowed Game Freak to complete the games, and in return, Creatures received one-third of the franchise rights.[14]

Between the approval and completion stages of the project, Tajiri assisted in the design of two Mario spin-off games for Nintendo: Yoshi and the Japanese-only release Mario & Wario.[15] He also worked on 1994's Pulseman.[16]

Once the games were completed, very few media outlets gave it attention, believing the Game Boy was a dead console; a general lack of interest of merchandising convinced Tajiri that Nintendo would reject the games.[2] The Pokémon games were not expected to do well, but sales steadily increased until the series found itself among Nintendo's top franchises.[4] Rumors of a hidden Pokémon creature named Mew, which could only be obtained by exploiting programming errors, increased interest in the game.[2] Tajiri had included Mew in the game in order to promote trading and interaction between players, but Nintendo was not aware of the creature upon release.[13] The franchise helped Nintendo's waning sales.[17] Tajiri deliberately toned down violence in his games. In this vein, he designed Pokémon creatures to faint rather than die upon their defeat, as he believed it was unhealthy for children to equate the concept of death with losing a game.[3] After the completion and release of Red and Green in Japan, Tajiri later worked on 1997's Bushi Seiryūden: Futari no Yūsha.[18] Tajiri continues to be involved in the more modern Pokémon titles as well. In the most recent incarnations, he supervised the process from start to finish and approved all the text.[19] While developing games, Tajiri works irregular hours, often laboring 24 hours at a time and resting 12 hours.[3]

Inspirations[edit]

Tajiri cites Shigeru Miyamoto as a major influence, thinking of him as a sort of mentor. For this reason, his developmental style closely matches that of Miyamoto.[4] In the Pokémon anime, the main character is named Satoshi, and his rival is Shigeru.[4] Tajiri claims that Western audiences understand his work better; instead of focusing exclusively on prominent characters like Pikachu, he believes they understand that the games are about partnership and identification with one's team.[4]

Tajiri drew much of his inspiration from old Japanese shows and anime,[20] including Godzilla and Ultraman. He has stated that if he did not design video games, he would most likely be in the anime field.[3]

Awards and recognition[edit]

IGN named Tajiri one of the top 100 game creators of all time, mainly for his ability to have built Pokémon into a "worldwide phenomenon".[4] Electronic Gaming Monthly credited Tajiri as one of the 10 most influential people who made the modern video game market.[17] Video game magazine Edge placed Tajiri on their list of the "Hot 100 Game Developers of 2008".[21]

Gameography[edit]

Year Game title Role
1989 Mendel Palace Director, Game Designer
1991 Smart Ball Director, Game Designer,
Scenario Writer
1991 Yoshi Director, Game Designer
1994 Pulseman Director, Game Designer
1995 Jelly Boy 2 (unreleased) Supervisor (Sony Japan)
1996 Pokémon Red and Blue Director, Game Designer,
Scenario Writer, Map Designer
1999 Pokémon Gold and Silver Director, Game Designer
2002 Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire Executive Director
2004 Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen Scenario Writer,
Executive Director
2005 Drill Dozer Executive Producer
2006 Pokémon Diamond and Pearl Executive Producer
2010 Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver Executive Producer
2011 Pokémon Black and White Executive Producer
2012 Pokémon Black and White 2 Executive Producer
2012 HarmoKnight Executive Producer
2013 Pokémon X and Y Executive Producer
2014 Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire Executive Producer

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Satoshi Tajiri Biography". IGN. News Corporation. 2010. Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Chua-Eoan, Howard; Tim Larimer (14 November 1999). "Beware of the Pokemania". Time (New York City: Time Inc.). Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Larimer, Tim (22 November 1999). "The Ultimate Game Freak". Time (New York City: Time Inc.) 154 (20). Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Top 100 Game Creators of All Time". IGN. News Corporation. 2009. Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  5. ^ Morrison, Don (22 November 1999). "To Our Readers". Time (New York City: Time Inc.) 154 (20): 2–3. Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  6. ^ Gifford, Kevin (7 April 2008). "'Game Mag Weaseling': Just Checking In". GameSetWatch. Think Services. Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Szczepaniak, John. "Before They Were Famous". Retro Gamer (Imagine Publishing) (35): 75. 
  8. ^ Kohler, Chris (2004). Power-up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life. BradyGames. p. 238. ISBN 0-7440-0424-1. 
  9. ^ "Pokemon Blue Version". IGN. News Corporation. 2010. Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  10. ^ Barnholt, Ray (30 July 2008). "25 Sorta Significant Famicom Games: #19". 1UP.com. UGO Networks. Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  11. ^ Gifford, Kevin (18 February 2007). "'Game Mag Weaseling': The Bluffer's Guide to Famitsu's Competition". GameSetWatch. Think Services. Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  12. ^ Nutt, Christian (3 April 2009). "The Art of Balance: Pokémon's Masuda on Complexity and Simplicity". Gamasutra. United Business Media. Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  13. ^ a b Shinn, Gini (16 March 2004). "Case Study: First Generation Pokémon Games for the Nintendo Game Boy" (PDF). Stanford, California: Stanford University. p. 4. Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  14. ^ Fulford, Benjamin (26 July 2009). "Monster mash". Forbes.com. Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  15. ^ Peterson, Helen (15 November 1999). "King of Craze Too Shy For Spotlight Pifather Is an Introvert". Daily News (Mortimer Zuckerman). Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  16. ^ "Pulseman". MobyGames. 2010. Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  17. ^ a b EGM Staff (30 June 2005). "Top 10 Most Influential People". 1UP.com. Hearst Corporation. Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  18. ^ Closing credits of Bushi Seiryūden: Futari no Yūsha.
  19. ^ Harris, Craig (13 May 2004). "E3 2004: The Pokemon Creators Speak". IGN. News Corporation. Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  20. ^ "Pokémon". Encyclopædia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2010. Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  21. ^ Staff (20 February 2008). "The Hot 100 Game Developers of 2008". Edge. Future plc. Retrieved 27 January 2010. 

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