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  • My Artist Residency Experience At Villa Kujoyama

    - Christophe Galati
  • Christophe Galati - Game Creator - Himitsu Project

    January 5 - May 31 2019

    Bonsoir and welcome to this article! I'm Christophe Galati, a French game creator. You may have heard of a game I created called "Save me Mr Tako!", which was released on Nintendo Switch and Steam in 2018. Today I'm here to talk to you about a great experience I got the chance to live in 2019: I became the first game creator to be selected at Villa Kujoyama, a French Artist Residency program in Kyoto.

     Villa Kujoyama, picture by Kenryu GU

    An Artist Residency program is a support for the mobility of artists that France sends in another country for a few months, give a place to live and pay them to work on their own projects, without expecting anything in return. I heard about those kinds of program thanks to a documentary about Villa Medicis, the oldest French artist residency, and I thought that it would be great to have this kind of programs for game creators. It could help for the recognition of games as an artform and bring the resources that indie game creators often lack. Villa Medicis does not welcome video game creators yet, but then I heard about Villa Kujoyama, which was way more suited for me as my games are very inspired by Japanese culture and because I already had a foot in Japan thanks to the various game events I attended there. I applied, thinking I'd be overlooked because games were not in the artistic fields list (like composer, painter, dancer, architect, movie director...), and I didn't meet the age requirement. But in the end, the jury was very welcoming about games, and I got selected! 

    Villa Kujoyama, picture by Kenryu GU

    I spent 5 months in Japan, between January and June 2019, in this kind of grey fortress on one of Kyoto's mountains. In this inspiring environment I started to work on my new game, currently called "Himitsu Project", which will also be a tribute to a Japanese game era. The central theme are secrets and how they turn into shadows. I was able to take time to research for the universe and starting to prototype, it's still the beginning of the project but it's currently leaning toward the Action RPG genre. I'm going to talk to you about how I spent those 5 months and how I work, in the following categories:

    I) Research 

    II) Pre-Production and documentation

    III) Prototype development

    IV) Personal growth

    V) Entering Kyoto Indie Scene

    VI) Conclusion

    I) Research 

    I arrived in Japan during the night on January 5, in the first batch of artists of the year. At Villa Kujoyama, each artists get between a 2 to 6 months stay. After acclimating, meeting the other artists (a dancer, two puppeteers, a typographer, and later a writer, an architect, an exhibition commissary, jewels and bamboo items designers...), I directly started to do preparatory research and to write new ideas, as almost a year passed since I submitted the new game ideas in my application to the french Institute in Paris, of which Villa Kujoyama is a residency program. I started to write in a diary what I was doing, I completed it everyday to keep a written record of this once in a lifetime experience, and also as devlog of the project progress.

    One of my first research field was learning new softwares to become more efficient, as it gave me time to learn. I quickly setup my work environment with the new version of Unity (game engine that I used for Save me Mr Tako) and read tutorial of the new features, like the UI System and Tilemap tools. Then I started to learn how to use better Pixel Art tools, as I did all of Tako's graphics in Microsoft Paint. I chose Aesprite, which I'm still learning today.

    During all my stay, I took the time to play some classic games of the JRPG genre (the one I want to explore with Himitsu Project), as Mother 3, Terranigma, Final Fantasy IX... in order to analyze how they were conceived, what made them legendary and inspiring even today, learn the codes and trope to use them to create something new in my game. I also took advantage of the fact that I was in Japan to go to many retro game stores in Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo, for contemplating the Japanese box arts (which are quite often different that the versions we got in the west), it was such a treat to find all the games that inspired me, and to introduce some of them to the other artists.


    Pictures by Christophe Galati at Osaka's Super Potato, March 3 2019

    One of my goals when designing a game is to use classic codes and aesthetic to create something new, more modern and inclusive. I got very attracted by the Drag culture in the past few years, and I want to explore that universe through one of the characters in the game. When I lived in Paris, I used to go see Drag performances, so while I was in Japan I also wanted to saw some local performers to enlarge my vision. So I went a few times to the Diamonds are Forever party at Club Métro in Kyoto, as well as a few other drag show in Osaka and Tokyo, where I met and talked with very talented performers. I want to keep in touch with them to write a character and depict a drag scene as accurate and true as possible.

    Picture from Christophe Galati at Diamonds are forever, Club Metro, February 22 2019

    Finally, the life with the other artists, all the people I met in Japan also made me grow as a person, and are inspiring my creation. In the gaming scene, I don't often have the chance to meet artists from completely different fields. Getting the opportunity to talk about various subjects with them and to be able to be 100% myself, far away from everything I know, was very refreshing. I was also able to meet again a long time internet friend in Osaka, MetalRenard, composer who was actually making the musics for my RPG Maker games back in high school. Every Monday, we did a movie night at the Villa Kujoyama, which made me discover many movies, and discuss about the intentions behind them with the others. The various Matsuri as Setsubun (spring festival), the nature around the Villa Kujoyama (I could observe foxes, monkeys, boars, dears, tanukis...), visiting many temples in Kyoto, Nara, my Takoyaki parties, karaoke... all those great memories of scenes I will unconsciously transcribe in my games, and that I couldn't have experienced in such good conditions without the Villa Kujoyama.

    Picture from  Alessandro de Bellegarde at the Open Studios, March 16 2019
    Takoyaki by Christophe Galati


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