Fumito Ueda may have only two published games but each one has had such an impact that his influence is felt keenly across the industry, where he is widely regarded as an auteur.
After graduating from the Osaka University of Arts in 1993, Ueda spent two years making his way as a fine artist. In 1995 he switched direction and joined videogame developer WARP, where he worked as an animator on Enemy Zero for the SEGA Saturn. After completing what he has since described as an arduous development period on that game, Ueda joined Sony Computer Entertainment in 1997 where he began development on his first game, ICO (2001), a beautifully poetic adventure game based on an abstracted boy-meets-girl premise.
Created through a process of ‘design by subtraction,’ ICO is a simplified, minimal game in which many usual gameplay elements have been removed in order to enhance players’ immersion in the story. Taking his influence from Eric Chahi’s seminal Amiga game Another World, Ueda created pared back character interaction in which the characters bond by holding hands, and stripped out the heads-up display present in most games to create an immersive screen that pulled players in. When it became clear that more computational power than was available on Playstation was needed to deliver Ueda’s vision, development began on PlayStation 2. With a visual style based on Ueda’s own artwork and realistic character movement (achieved using key-frame animation), the game creates an experience with a unique aesthetic and ambiance.
Ueda’s next game, Shadow of the Colossus (2005) took an opposing theme to ICO’s sacrificial narrative, with the aim being to topple 16 giant mythical beings to restore the life of a girl named Mono. The game shared the restrained watercolour palette of ICO but the colossi, with their mossy fur and lumbering movements are a softer enemy than ICO’s shadow men. Both titles haunt the memory as ephemeral journeys, and both paved the way for Ueda’s forthcoming The Last Guardian.