Maki Yamazaki – Q&A

Maki is looking away from the camera. She is wearing a black top and has cropped blue hair.
Maki Yamazaki. Image by Brian Hutchison.

Unlimited, with funding from Creative Scotland, is proud to be supporting an extra commission for Tramway’s Unlimited Festival, by artist, musician and games developer, Maki Yamazaki. Ahead of the festival this September, Simon Overington-Hickford, Unlimited Trainee, caught up with Maki to find out more about her practice and her commission, Pioneer[03]…


Simon Overington-Hickford: Hi Maki, it’s great that you will be exhibiting at Tramway. How would you describe your artistic practice?

Maki Yamazaki: Eclectic! Currently I’m creating a video game, but programming is just one portion of the process for me. I also spend a lot of my time writing, making visual art, doing graphic design, composing music and occasionally performing on stage, or creating animations. Games are but one form of artistic expression for me, albeit one that involves many different disciplines, hence my affinity with them as an art form.

Much of my artwork draws from my own experience of being queer, disabled and as a person of colour. My route into games development has been somewhat unconventional. I’ve never worked for a company and most of my practice has been self-taught.

People often ask me how I create so much work in so many different fields, but for me working in different media is a natural extension of my artistic process. For me, the idea often comes first and the consideration of medium in which I work follows.


SOH: So when it comes to approaching this commission what are your personal ambitions for Pioneer[03]?

MY: Although video games are currently at a very exciting stage in their evolution as a medium, many games still tend to target the same narrow audience and glorify violence all too often. I feel that games can be so much more than that.

I want to create art that is enjoyable for audiences that are so often excluded. Creating something that delivers an enjoyable and thought-provoking experience whilst integrating diversity is incredibly important to me. Pioneer[03] is being developed with that ethos in mind.

At this early prototype stage, I’ve had to make a lot of decisions regarding the technical process, which is heavily informed by the creative direction. Now that many of these decisions have been made, I am very much enjoying articulating my vision through the game content.

Something requiring this level of technical detail developed in such a short space of time is always going to be somewhat rough around the edges. However, I hope that audiences will still find Pioneer[03] to be an engaging and fun experience.

Many project milestones have already been reached, but there is plenty more work to be done! With further funding I’ll be able to involve other artists in the creation process and I’m looking forward to seeing how the project will evolve.


SOH: We are looking forward to seeing that too. How have you approached making the project accessible?

MY: Making the game accessible particularly to people with visual impairments has been a core consideration in the creation of Pioneer[03]. So few games are accessible in this way… I really wanted to focus on creating not only an accessible experience, but one that is equally immersive. At first I considered using an existing game engine to speed up the creation process, but found it more effective in terms of access to instead create my own. Much of the development time has gone into the coding so that all elements of the experience support voice acted interfaces.


SOH: It’s so great to hear about high quality art with accessibility being considered from the very start of the process! So, what do the next few weeks involve?

MY: Now that the game engine itself is nearing completion, the next few weeks will focus on merging the technical and artistic aspects of the project. It’s going to be a rather intense few weeks as I’ll be wearing a lot of hats: from recording the audio and voice acting the parts, to creating the visual and written elements, to writing the code that will glue everything together. Normally, this sort of work would be done by an entire team, so I feel very lucky to be working with both a very talented co-writer and an excellent producer.

SOH: We can’t wait to see it!


You can catch Pioneer [03] at Tramway’s Unlimited Festival 15th-25th September 2016. More information here


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