15th Entertainment Division Critiques

The constant, persistent challenge of expression

Deliberations this year began with members of the jury confirming in advance that each would proceed based on criteria including "contemporariness," "innovation," and "originality." The result, as should be evident from a review of the award-winners, is that we ended up selecting a group of truly unique works.Because the Japan Media Arts Festival is centered on media arts, it emphasizes "expression" in a realm closely proximate to the individual. This trend is evident in a categorical slant that is particularly evident among this year's winning entries.
There were many unique and interesting video works, more indeed than in other years. Many applications for devices like the iPhone, perhaps because the efforts of creators are reaching a stage of maturation, showed originality without losing either polish or playfulness, and often eased the mood at meetings of the jury. What was disappointing, on the other hand, was the relative decline in the number of games and playthings that managed to draw high praise.
This seemed to speak directly to the challenges faced by the old consumer industry. While it is not difficult to imagine that the unprecedented boom in smartphones and social media has had a major influence in the background, as someone who works in the game industry I find the situation terribly vexing.
There was, however, one experimental entry that took the sort of fresh approach one expects to discover in works by individuals and was permeated with a sense of "newness" not haunted by the ghost of commercialism: the New Face Award-winning Digital Warrior Sanjigen. Media arts are prone to dependency upon the latest trends in hardware and networking, but they cannot be "art" if creators lose sight of "the never-ending challenge of creative expression." I hope to see creators throw even more energy into their work next year as a way also to invigorate Japan.

SAITO Yutaka
Game Designer
Born in Tokyo, 1962. Graduated from Waseda University, School of Science and Engineering, major in architecture. In 1993, he released the simulation game The Tower. In 1998, he established VIVARIUM Inc. and assumed the post of President and CEO. In 1999, He released the virtual pet video game Seaman: Kindan no Pet (Seaman: The Forbidden Pets), and won a number of awards, including the Excellence Prize in the Digital Art Interactive Division of the 3rd Japan Media Arts Festival. In 2005, he released the war strategy simulation game Odama. Currently, he is involved in research and development in the fields of artificial intelligence and natural language dialogue systems at VIVARIUM Inc. In 2010, he became the creative director of Movatwi.