Perhaps more than any other game designer, Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s work has explored the interface between games and other forms of art, especially music. Unlike the straight rhythm action games of Konami and Harmonix, Mizuguchi’s games combine music composition with abstracted visuals to turn music into a flexible embellishment of gameplay.
Mizuguchi’s interest in working in the games industry emerged relatively late, with Mizuguchi deciding to apply for a job at SEGA only after studying media aesthetics at Nihon University. After initially working on CGI movies for theme park rides, his first game job at SEGA was to design the influential arcade racing game Sega Rally Championship (1994). It was his second game, however, that signalled the start of a new creative direction. Space Channel 5 (1999) is a dancing rhythm action game in which a lithe astronaut dancer shoots down aliens in time to Japanese pop music. Mizuguchi’s following title, Rez (2001), takes a more serious approach with its Kandinsky-influenced journey through abstract space, in which every bullet triggers a hi-hat or snare drum.
Child of Eden (2011), his motion-controlled title, builds on Rez, casting the player as conductor to an electronic orchestra; each sweep of the hand directs the music as the screen explodes with light and colour. With a soundtrack composed by Mizuguchi’s own band, Genki Rockets, the game represents perhaps the perfect combination of the designer’s interests by merging trance music with colour, sound and live-action music video to create a unique gameplay experience.