Gunma’s Ambition – Revenge of Uncivilized Land

A smartphone game app called “Gunma’s Ambition” has been creating big buzz since its release. It’s a game about collecting points by harvesting Gunma’s local vegetables, and buying other prefectures with points to expand Gunma… The developer of this game is RucKyGAMES, who is from Gunma (naturally) and I met him for an interview a few months ago. (My article was published in weekly AG paper in July, to subscribe this see my previous post.)
Gunma’s Ambition and His book “50 reasons why B-grade games that major game companies don’t make could become big sellers”… this title says it all.
First of all, why this game could make a buzz not just in Gunma but anywhere in Japan? Aside from the game’s addictive nature, there’s a reason. Gunma is known to be “the least-known prefecture in Japan”. Which means, when people try to list all 43 prefectures in Japan for killing some time, they most likely forgot to list our name. Maybe at the end, maybe after checking the answer on the web, or maybe never… So, people often mock us by calling “uncivilized land”, and what’s more, some internet group kindly posted wrong photos tagging Gunma! It gives an impression that you cannot come back from Gunma without breaking some of your bones…
Then, this savior is emerged. When people started to see the tweets from this game saying “Gunma conquered Tokyo” or “All prefectures in Japan are now belong to Gunma”, they took this as Gunma’s revenge. Finally!
The game title reminds us some kind of aggressive theme, but in fact, it’s really really loose. But the scary thing is, you unconsciously remember the name of place in Gunma while playing this. Well, according to RucKyGames (the developer), this was the true intention of this game. He wanted people to remember “extremely unnecessary information” through this game.
As of end of August, the game was downloaded for 700K times, indicating this much people are taking time to get to know our land. And guess what, the developer was appointed official tourist envoy of Gunma last month! 😀 (Now the game has merchandise like smartphone cases and strap too..) It became a great example that the game can be used to promote places.

Asahi Gunma 2012 July13 issue
(It’s on cover!! Yipee!!)

the article, I couldn’t spare much words for the developer himself but it was surprising to hear how much his life is involved (or soaked completely) in games. He claims that he played Game & Watch as soon as he began to understand things, attracted to those handheld video game devices, not just playing different games but also obsessed to get the score until counter stops… and decided to become a game creator when he was an elementary school student.

All went well as he planned; he started to work at a game company after graduating a professional game school (where he can learn how to design or program games) in Tokyo. Working at game company to buy more games… Sounds like he is the life size Game Boy who made his dream come true, but he said he became really really anxious about his future right after he joined the company. He joined them as a programmer but he realized that he didn’t have enough skill to keep going or change jobs. After several years working with huge anxiety, he decided to create his own game in his spare time to look for opportunity.
His first app game was created purely for trial, he said. He wanted to see how App review process works, and create very simple game to avoid disappointment when it’s rejected. It was a game about putting a small decoration flower on Sashimi plate… you just keep putting flower on plate, nothing more (LOL) This game has passed the review without any issue (hmm, Apple must have sense of humor), and somehow… probably because of the sensational theme of this game, it gets popular.
Looking at his huge selection of games (now over 90 apps), I first thought he is trying to make somewhat ‘eccentric’ games. But his answer was “I wish I could make some classic type of games, but I can’t. So these are what I could make only with my own skill. (..) I just try to release it when I got ideas, someone may like it.” And, that’s how Gunma’s Ambition was born too. (But he promised himself to create one app in a month.) Graphics and texts in Gunma’s Ambition are mostly his drawings, and he even recorded his voice for sound effect. Very homemade. You know, among those recent flashy 3D visual games, this clearly stands out. 🙂
As part of the research, I read his blog post about the 5 games that had influence on him. (I enjoy this type of info but man, it’s a long list. Not just 5 games.) Just like he had, I bet this Gunma’s Ambition game will have an effect on some future game boys.. because even I got the impression that ‘wow, so… anything can be a game…’
Gunma’s Ambition (Free app) can be downloaded from iPhone/Android. Get one and increase some useless knowledge. 🙂
My memorable game is Dragon Quest III (and V). Love the music of DQ. These taught me that game can be a form of interactive storytelling. Or simply I have 8-bit game nostalgia. Now games are way too complicated with too many buttons…
What’s your memorable games?

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