Max HP: Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Enhance
On a long, strange trip with the man behind Rez and Tetris Effect.
Hello! Welcome back — or just ‘welcome’, if this is your first time (Thank you!) — to Max HP, Hit Points’ occasional subscriber-exclusive interview series. Since its inception, the unofficial tagline for this thing has been ‘stories about game developers you probably haven’t heard of, but definitely should have’. I am afraid we must retire that thesis, if only temporarily, because you’ve certainly heard of today’s guest.
I first met Tetsuya Mizuguchi in 2015 at PlayStation Experience in San Francisco, and he greeted me like an old friend. In a way, I suppose I was. To him I was just the latest physical manifestation of Edge magazine, the famed hive mind writ flesh; Miz, as I would quickly come to know him, had a deep and in a way career-defining relationship with the mag, whose founding editorial team had lifted up Miz and his work (and, so the legend has it, gave him the name for what we now know as Rez).
To me, Miz was the creator of Rez and Lumines, two games that I had connected with on a deep emotional level. This was someone who understood in electronic music the same things I did, and had somehow managed to replicate the sensations it triggered in me in interactive entertainment. I felt that we were, if not friends exactly, then at least on a very similar wavelength. I quickly realised I was right.
Miz was at PlayStation Experience to demo Rez Infinite for the first time. He had brought with him the Synesthesia Suit, a full-body rig consisting of 26 sensors that vibrated in time with the action in Infinite, which I was playing in VR. It was, and remains, the most absurdly immersive, and emotive, experience I have ever had in a videogame. It was also a bit… awkward. A couple of minutes in I was suddenly very grateful to be chewing gum, because my lower jaw started peeling off in odd directions. A tingling sensation ran up my spine that, I was quite sure, had nothing to do with the suit. Just like the old days. I found out a few weeks later that one of Miz’s crew had recorded this moment for posterity, and I present it to you now, here, with only a little shame.
I finished the demo and took off the headset. Miz gave me a moment to come round, then asked what I thought. I told him I thought lots of things, but none I could openly discuss in a professional context such as this. He paused, laughed, and reached over to high-five me.
One of the greatest single moments in my career, that. We’ve kept in touch ever since.
Today’s Max HP is a little different. Everyone knows Miz’s story, I reckon: the Swiss dance festival, the sights and sounds, the eureka moment that set him on a career-long path towards the ultimate expression of synesthesia. Everyone knows his games, from Sega Rally to Rez, Lumines to Tetris Effect and plenty more besides. But this presents a problem to which Max HP is not accustomed. How do you find a new way to talk to someone whose legend has already been written at length, many times over? Besides, Miz is a busy man; we only have an hour, and we’re speaking through an interpreter (Hit Points thanks the wonderful Kyoko Yamashita for drawing the short straw, and staying up until 1am local time to translate. She also recorded the video of me gurning to Rez Infinite — something I only learned this week, but for which I have already just about forgiven her).
I had to find some new topics of conversation, then, and I had to be quick about it. I set myself a test: could I ask Miz questions he had never been asked before in his more than 30 years making games? Could I somehow tease out new details on a story that has already seemingly been written? Let’s find out.