An Interview with Yuji Naka Feature - The Next Level

An Interview with Yuji Naka

Sega, Sonic Team, and god-like power.

Article by Hasan Ali Almaci & Heidi Kemps (Email)
June 15th 2004, 06:50AM


TNL: You recently participated in the Famicom 20th anniversary exhibit running at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. What was that experience like?

Naka: Well, it was something I enjoyed a great deal, and it has major significance for me personally. Sega's first stuff came out at around the same time as the Famicom. They really set something we had to try to follow and outdo. But everyone wanted the Famicom. It made me sad, and more than a little bit envious. "We've got great games here! I worked very hard on these! Why aren't people buying our stuff?" I thought. [laughs] Sega's real strength at the time was in the arcades, though.

TNL: Rumors have it that you even programmed a Famicom emulator for the Megadrive at one point in time, for your personal amusement. Is this true?

Naka: Oh my. [laughs] How do you people know about that one? Well yeah, actually I did. I did it primarily for study purposes. It ran things like Dr. Mario, although it did not work perfectly, actually. It was something fun to amuse myself with at the time.

TNL: You mentioned in the interview shown at the exhibit that you would love to go back to being just another programmer. A lot of people don't really understand why you love working with code so much. What is it about programming that you find so enjoyable?

Naka: Well, it's kind of an abstract concept, but as a programmer, I can make something from nothing. Like for example, paper is made from wood, potters create pots and vases from clay. Usual "creative" work is just to change the shapes of certain materials into something else. With programming, you start with only the code basis, and you can make it into a big, interesting world. It's like a big empty ocean which you can start filling with plants and fish and coral and then make them behave and work however you please. That sense of creating something, the control you have to make something out of nearly nothing and control what is going on gives you a feeling of omnipotence, of god-like power. It’s a feeling that is very hard to describe.

Damn, I really want to go back. [laughs]

TNL: Besides working with games and code, what sort of hobbies do you enjoy these days?

Naka: I love car racing. I've really gotten into that lately, though I'm still just a beginner.

TNL: Oh that reminds me: Sega in the early 90's heavily sponsored the Williams Formula 1 team with a Sonic the Hedgehog-themed car, do you guys still have that car?

Naka: Oh yes. That's a while ago. It's supposed to be in our offices or warehouses somewhere. We just can't seem to locate it anymore; we don't know where we put it! [laughs]

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