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Harada’s Bar: the first episode with Ken Kutaragi. Of Robots, Gundam and Artifical Intelligence

Katsuhiro Harada is Tekken’s charismatic game developer. Always recognizable by his shades, he is not new to interesting (or questionable) initiatives. This time he has opened a bar, both physical and for discussion: Harada’s bar.
The physical place is still hidden (although Harada wants to open it to fans at a later time), but the talk show aired the first episode just yesterday. Guest of honor, Ken Kutaragi, the Father of PlayStation.

I miss going to izakayas with my mama bike

The chat, with an informal and relaxed tone (and some alcool too), was interesting not only for the topics covered, but precisely for the free and open tone of the entire discussion.

Gundams, AI and a lot of sakè

The Robots we need VS the Robots we have

Kutaragi immediately showed up with a barrel of sake in his hand: this is reminiscent of their internal tradition. In fact, whenever Namco released a new chapter, Kutaragi used to show up with alcohol, ending the celebrations in a rightful state of intoxication. The tradition was so ingrained that, when in 2007 Tekken was also released on Xbox, Harada was almost disappointed to hear the custom labeled as “lacking in common sense”

An historical and accurate documentary on Kutaragi’s story

The rest of the conversation turns to much more serious and, from a certain point of view, interesting topics: Robotics, AI and the link between the two. There is giant gap between what we think about robotics (and if you are japanese that can mean only one thing: a Gundam!) and what it actually is and what can it do: and that’s something that needs to change.

Just last year Kutaragi became the CEO of Ascent Robotics, a Japanese startup focused on these topics. It is easy to see the passion for this job shining through his words: the desire for innovation, to rejuvenate the Japanese mentality, the gap with China… a not at all trivial chat that I suggest to look directly in its entirety. It’s not that long too, lasting for about 30 minutes.

Talk-shows, twitter and the lack of comunication

The chad Developer

Harada’s bar is an extremely interesting talk show. Alcohol-based talk shows are nothing new in the entertainment industry, but it actually is a first for the world of video games. Japanese companies have always had a family-like vision within them, but their external presentation has always been pretty formal and closed

Especially in the age of social media, this has been a major limitation, often limiting communication with the new emerging worlds or the West.

Things are changing, and Harada has already proved it: his participation in the JFGPR (Japan Fighting Game Publishers Roundtable) is an example of this, the conference an excellent starting point to show how Japanese devs think (even if many topics have been mysteriously omitted…). Rollback becoming a strong topic in fighting games is an example of this, recognizing the needs of a good netcode for western players, historically lacking the strong net infrastructure and close distances of japanese players.

The new comunication by social media can certainly reach extreme levels, but it is an interesting change that brings together realities and people so far thought unattainable. Harada was one of the pioneers, growing his character especially on twitter and often engaging with fans .

Nothing personal, kid

Conclusion

Harada’s bar is an interesting talk show full of discussion points. The format is pleasant to follow, and the informal atmosphere allows guests to talk openly with passion to the most disparate topics: a very popular novelty for Japanese companies, historically closed. Kutaragi too has been an excellent guest.

In summary, I loved the short video and I can’t wait to see more next Saturday, while waiting for the bar to open to the public.

原田さん次回、バーに僕も誘ってくれよ!

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