"A beloved, nostalgic playing ground you occasionally want to go back to, that is the locked room.", Takumi Shuu
No, I've not forgotten I am supposed to write more about detective games. But with a new Meitantei Conan game coming out in a just a few weeks (days?) and games I've still not finished, I'm once again delaying it a bit. Just to be able to talk about more material. But in the meantime, I'll let my favorite detective-game creator take the word. I present, a (very hastily made) translation of an essay by Takumi Shuu of Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney) fame. As a games creator / mystery writer/genre fan, he makes an interesting observation about the difficulty of making detectives games and what for future he sees for the game genre. The hyperlinks were naturally my own additions to the original text. And ha, I just knew Takumi had to be influenced by Edogawa's Shinri Shiken ("The Psychological Test")!
And of course, a translation is just an excuse to cover up the fact I didn't finish a single book this week and can't write a new review. I somehow did manage to start new books, so I'm now busy with... 4 or 5 books =_=
Takumi Shuu (2010). 'The Development of the 21st Century's Locked Room - Video Games and Locked Room Mysteries' In: The Maze of Locked Room Mysteries (Ed.: Arisugawa Alice). Tokyo: Yousensha.
"I want to create video games focused on the fun of detective fiction!" It has been 16 years since I started making games at game creator Capcom, with that dream. Up to this point, I have made games like the Gyakuten Saiban series and Ghost Trick. That is why to the outside world, I have the image of someone who just creates games, but actually, as a human person, I am not comprised out of video games, but out of detective fiction, rather overwhelmingly so. Ever since primary school, when I read Edogawa Rampo's Shinri Shiken ("The Psychological Test") and I stepped into this [detective] world, I only read detective fiction and have really become an adult with an unhealthy diet. I of course also loved games, so I had played several famous mystery games. And it's a pity, but I personally never came across a game I was content with. It is true that all of them had the 'form' of a detective, with a murder happening and finally the solution, but that wasn't enough. What I wanted to play, wasn't just the 'form', but the fun of detective fiction.... a game that would let me have fun with that 'essence'.
Mystery fiction and games.... at first sight, the two seem compatible, but they are actually very contradictive when you look at it from the position of a game creator. The theme of a detective is to 'unravel the mystery'. But on the other hand, you enjoy it the most when 'you're surprised when the mystery is unraveled at the end' .... and this is actually the complete opposite. What you expect from a game is naturally 'to become a great detective and solve the mystery'. But if so, you neccesarily lose the enjoyment of being surprised at the end. A great detective can't explain his own deductions and be surprised by it... Just like that a magician can't be surprised by his own magic. How can we overcome this contradiction? The key to mystery games lies precisely there.... that what was I felt. And what I made as my own answer to that idea was Gyakuten Saiban. This will always be a big problem to everyone who aims to make a mystery game, I think.
--- Yes. When talking about mystery games, I become a bit fussy... but actually, there is more than just mystery games to get a taste of the fun of mystery fiction. For example, the point & click genre that focuses solely on the solving of mysteries.... Like the representative Myst series, when I first played it, I thought "this is a mystery". This game starts with the player dropped in a beautiful strange world. At first, you don't know the 'rules' of that world, but as you walk around and play around with the machines there, you slowly come to understand something like "governing laws" and then, the answer to the mystery comes.... that feeling is truly part of mystery fiction, and at that time, I was really impressed. This point & click adventure genre, which is playable with simple controls, is quite old, but some years ago, it became very popular after changing its appearance. The so-called Escape Games. When the game starts, the player is imprisoned in a locked room. By clicking on suspicous spots, you solve puzzles and escape from the room. It has grown out to be genre itself, starting with The Crimson Room, a game that was made public on the internet several years ago. What is so fantastic of an Escape Game is that it ties the essence of a locked room, that simpel yet powerful charm, to a game; what a idea! When you're locked up somewhere, you want to get out: that is human nature.... a simple urge that everyone shares. That together with the ease of being able to enjoy it with a single click, has made the genre into a big hit. And so, in the current video game world, the representative locked room is the ones in Escape Games. By the way, I personally like Portal, which offers an experience only possible in video games.
As a lover of mystery fiction, I find this conclusion a bit sad. I dream of playing a locked room mystery that can only be experienced as a game using the newest technology. Personally, I think that the key to this lies in the physics simulation that is becoming common in especially action games. This is a technology that calculates physical effects, gravity, wind power and friction and reproduces it for every object that exists in the game. For example, when a player bumps again a table in the game, a vase falls off the table on the floor and breaks... every single 'movement' that we had to make seperately until now, can now be calculated and reproduced. The advantage of this technology is that the reactions to the player's actions can become infinite, that freedom. If we applied this to locked room mysteries.... for example, how about a game where you kill someone you hate who lives in a locked room by coming up with a perfect crime using several tricks. Even the old-fashioned thread and needle locked room trick is thrilling, when you try it in a world that is realistically reconstructed. You examine the build of the room, keep in mind the location of the air vent and the door and then... do I stick the needle here.... but I would have to stick the needle in deep here, and then I would leave a mark... An experience you can only get from a game. And what about the reverse, a game where you examine a locked room crime scene and starting off a small mark on the wall or some burnt cinders, you reconstruct the locked room trick of the murderer. How wonderful this would be! We won't be able to keep that locked room mania of ours silent!
And that's it. Locked room mystery games's time to shine is coming. Game creators everywhere, now is the time!