When natural disasters hit, the immediate concern for the survivors is to keep on surviving and to make the best out of a terrible situation. It’s not just your physical side that
can take a toll but your mental state as well. When it comes to survival and human needs, video games are not on the list of necessities you need to get by and where major game development takes place in many affected areas of Japan, there were going to be some consequences to what had happened.
Namco’s Katsuhiro Harada, the man responsible for directing Tekken, offers some insight in this interview with Edge Magazine into how both game development and arcade business was affected in the time following the Tohoku quake this past March. Naturally the mental state of the people in general was shaken and for those who still had work to do found it difficult to focus on their work since there were still events like aftershocks and black-outs taking place in the weeks afterwards that would understandably make it challenging to keep moving forward, especially when so many other necessities had to be taken care of.
Harada points out that fans worldwide showed a strong support for his team and others who were working on various projects and that outpouring of support helped them continue on. He also talks a bit about the situation arcades faced. We saw some pictures of arcades that were destroyed by the quake and tsunamis in coastal areas but there were other effects as well – Japanese arcades are online-centric and generate a bit of income from that side of the business. So when the disaster hit, they immediately saw everyone go offline in a particular region. It was expected that the arcade business would suffer greatly in the coming weeks and months but that turned out to not be the case. The money quote from the excerpt interview: “But in April, when things settled down a little bit, a lot of people showed up in the arcades and we actually saw a jump in income of maybe 15 per cent. What this shows is that after such a disaster, people are going to the arcades because they’d been staying at home and they were ready to have a little bit of entertainment. And that really is an important part of the recovery for Japan.”
It is true that arcades there benefit from a culture that is drawn to arcades in the first place but it is a testimony to arcades and out-of-home entertainment in general that even in the aftermath of tragedy they can serve a purpose – therapeutic if you will – in mental recovery/survival.