WorkStation #1: NanaOn-Sha
“Exit the Ginza-line Gaien-Mae station at exit 3. Cross the road, turn right, go past the Family Mart and take a left. About 20 metres down the road there’s a Jewelers on your right-hand side: go down the narrow street there, and we are at the top of the stairs (sadly not the building with the Porsche in the driveway).”
This is how you get to PaRappa’s house. Or, at least, how you find the offices of NanaOn-Sha, home to the rapping cartoon dog’s creator, Masaya Matsuura.
Following the success of Matsuura’s first music game for the PlayStation, PaRappa the Rapper (which also happened to be the very first rhythm-based videogame) NanaOn-Sha swelled in size to over 70 staff.
But the managerial responsibilities of heading up such a large company did not suit this quiet creative, whose successful career as a musician demonstrated that he is happiest in the swirl of artistic endeavor, not, as his position now demanded, in the role of a be-suited manager.
As a result, today NanaOn-Sha consists of just seven staff. Their job is to develop ideas for music-based games, prototyping the concepts before forming partnerships with other developers around the world who then turn these early fruits of inspiration into rounded products (a luxury development model that’s presumably facilitated by the gigantic success of the studio’s first, genre-defining title).
I met Dewi Tanner, Matsuura’s right-hand man and a British ex-patriot while he was visiting England earlier this year pursuing one such relationship with a third-party developer. The acquaintance made, I was then able to drop in on the studio when I was next in Tokyo, pleased to meet the rest of the team and see how they work.
Offices are offices, whatever their location, but having visited a number of development studios across the world, I find it interesting to see how diverse they can be in the details. You can tell so much about the minds and ideas that inhabit a desk just by looking at the detritus on and around it.
WorkStation aims to be an intermittent feature, offering a window into the development environments of gaming studios around the world. I hope you find it interesting.
Visit the collection on Flickr, with notes, here.
*The awesome Sunny Funny pink 7-inch vinyl wall clock is something I picked up from an obscure secondhand toy shop that week. Every time I’ve visted Japan I’ve tried to find PaRappa merchandise to no avail. Thankfully, Dewi was able to point me in the direction of this store, which sold all manner of mint condition videogame memorabilia unavailable elsewhere.