If Hayao Miyazaki could create a video game, what would it be like? While Studio Ghibli was involved with the creation of the RPG franchise Ni no Kuni, Hayao Miyazaki himself has never produced a game himself. If Miyazaki ever made a video game, what would it be like? Based on his own description, it would have been something far more controversial than any of his films.
Following Porco Rosso's release in 1992, Miyazaki was interviewed by none other than Mario and Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto in Family Computer Magazine, a now out-of-print Japanese magazine. When YouTuber RyiSnow translated the article, English speakers learned about Miyazaki's dream video game -- something that might have been fascinating and disturbing.
What is Hayao Miyazaki's Dream Video Game Project?
During the interview between Shigeru Miyamoto and Hayao Miyazaki, Miyazaki discussed the differences between dramas and video games, specifically how characters in video games need to make the right decisions to proceed, while in a drama, often characters don't make the right decisions, but things can sometimes end up working out in impossible, even surreal, ways. This leads Miyamoto to discuss his dreams of making novel-length games with deep levels of narrative complexity.
This ultimately is what leads to Miyazaki expanding on how he would make a game if he had his way. He would make a game set in WWII, centered on Japanese troops on the Pacific Front. The game's objective would be to shoot down American planes with torpedos.
However, you would have the option to become a conscientious objector. You could instead just walk away from the fight, either finding success as a farmer, dying from starvation, or being captured by American troops. Perhaps, you could try to shoot down the planes and fail, only to deal with the consequences -- assuming you lived long enough. Even building up to the fight, you can test the mechanisms, which might alert you to potential problems later on.
In essence, Miyazaki wanted to create a traditionally animated full-motion-video game centered on decisions and consequences. Miyazaki believed one issue with making a game like this would be that the animators would get fatigued redrawing the same scenes in different variations over and over again.
Miyazaki Was Ahead of His Time When Discussing Video Games
Miyazaki's ambitious ideas were ahead of his time. While RPGs like Final Fantasy and Dragon's Quest did outline nuanced narratives that players could explore, few at the time engaged in branching paths as they did in Miyazaki's hypothetical game, and hardly any offered the players moral choices impact the flow of the game.
In the 21st century, many more games have explored how moral decisions can impact the plot. Papers Please, Telltale's The Walking Dead and most famously Undertale have systems focused on exploring how your moral decisions can alter the trajectory of a narrative. Other games like Nier Automata and Life is Strange demonstrate just how much a plot can diverge based on seemingly minor decisions.
The Controversial Side of Miyazaki's Video Game Pitch
However, this game would've been highly controversial. While modern games have explored the true horrors of war, such as in Spec Ops: The Line, this might have been too violent and disturbing for 1992. After all, one year after Miyazaki's interview, Senator Joe Lieberman tried to sue Mortal Kombat for its violence.
Miyazaki's own politics are firmly anti-war, but he's always had an indulgent fascination with the tools of war. Porco Rosso and The Wind Rises both romanticize flight and fighter pilots, even though they are ultimately anti-fascism and anti-war films. Miyazaki's love for drawing tanks and warplanes appears in less savory contexts in his manga essays for Model Graphix Magazine. In one story, he depicts Otto Carius, a real-life Nazi tank driver, as a cute pig, much like the famous Porco Rosso. Allied countries might see a game where the player's tasked with shooting down American ships as romanticizing war crimes.
It is also impossible not to draw comparisons to Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies. Miyazaki stated players could starve to death in WWII, much like what happens in Grave of the Fireflies. Scenarios might have proven too depressing and disturbing for players. Miyazaki's ideas are ambitious, but, had the game been produced, it would've sparked controversy.