Updates will be paused for the upcoming week while I am at AX.
#65: “High-End Raid: Campus Party Mexico – Ascension”
Published in 2016/08/11 issue
Contrary(?) to my appearance, I actually get stage fright. I’ll never forget the day I found out—it was in fifth grade, when I was elected vice president of the Othello club. It might sound boring to you, but when I was a kid, Othello was a pretty big deal, and I even won several of the local tournaments.
On that fated day, the club advisor told me to talk about my enthusiasm, and I got up on the podium. When I tried to speak, my mind went completely blank. I was such a mess that I don’t even recall getting down from there—before I knew it, the advisor was apologizing to me: “I’m sorry Naoki-kun, this is because I made you vice president…” I quit the Othello club shortly thereafter. I wanted to keep that story sealed in the past forever, but I’m writing it here regardless as proof of my stage fright.
32 years later, I arrived in Guadalajara, Mexico, stage fright intact. Here, I would be giving a keynote about the gaming industry at Campus Party Mexico.
No matter how optimistic you are, the fact is that Mexico has worse public order than Japan. The political and financial unrest is finally calming down, and they’re expected to make strides soon. This was my second time visiting Mexico, and as with the first, I was escorted by brawny bodyguards.
Murouchi (Toshio Murouchi, also known as Morbol) from our community team came with me from Japan, and he went off to the venue first to take pictures. While we were eating dinner, I wanted to see the pictures, but for some reason, he was reluctant to show me.
When I asked why, he said “You’re better off not seeing them.” I said “Just show me already!” and peeked over at his iPhone. What I saw there rendered me speechless:
Yoshida: “What’s this?”
Murouchi: “This is where you’ll be giving your keynote speech in 2 days.”
Yoshida: “…Is this some kind of prank? Did they make a mistake?”
Murouchi: “I chortled a bit when I saw it.”
My fifth grade memories came rushing back to me. Back then, I stood on a school podium, and my audience was only the 8 members of the Othello club. This was just cruel, but it was far too late to regret accepting the request.
The following two days before my keynote were spent on promoting FFXIV. Unfortunately, FFXIV doesn’t support Spanish or Portuguese, but there are many ardent players of the English version in Central and South America. At Campus Party, industry professionals speak to students about a wide range of fields, from the latest robot or space technology to the entertainment industry. Aside from the main stage that I showed earlier, the booth area also has a mini-stage where students can listen to lectures. I could tell that the students of Mexico were hungry for knowledge, passionately absorbing every last bit of information to further their capabilities.
The market there is still in its infancy, and there are many uncertainties—but that means that they have the chance to be pioneers, soaring ahead of the competition. It’s a very different sensation from what we have in Japan right now, but perhaps if we had student-centric events like Campus Party there, things would be different.
Since there’s not much support for Spanish or Portuguese in the video game industry, the PR efforts in Central and South America are naturally quite weak. However, this means that when we do go there for PR, we get a shockingly huge welcome. Even major newspapers come to us for interviews, not just local gaming media, and everyone earnestly listens to what we have to say. They also did a lot of prior research; we were surprised at how much they knew about FFXIV. I was also able to meet the organizer that requested my keynote, and he told me, “The video game industry in Mexico has only just begun, so please show the students how passionate you are about it.” That’s a lot of pressure…
On the day of my keynote, we had morning rehearsal for the 4 p.m. presentation. Since the schedule was packed tight, there wasn’t time for a technical rehearsal. I got a single run-through of my presentation on stage, and that was all. The difficulty level was too high for me.
30 minutes before my start time, I entered the backstage area through a back door. Me being who I am, I couldn’t relax at all, and I alternated between smoking and wandering around restlessly. My two bodyguards followed me around in confusion the entire time. After the previous speaker finished their presentation, I peeked at the audience. There was a huge crowd. My trauma resurfaced. I wanted to run away so badly. I was on the brink of Ascension.
…But before I could ascend to a higher plane, a portly woman in the front row spotted me and shouted at me. I didn’t know what she was saying, but she was motioning for me to come over. When I went over, she reached over the metal railing and gave me a big hug. Apparently, I was being welcomed, and we excitedly took a photo with our arms around each other’s shoulders. I looked around, and suddenly everyone around me wanted to take a photo too, and we did the same thing. Even the event staff joined in. Mysteriously, my nervousness was swept away in an instant. Everyone there loved games, which meant that we were allies.
As for my keynote, somehow I managed to get through what I’d planned to say. Some of my points may have been presumptuous, but perhaps I was able to convince the participating students to look at the gaming industry from a logical perspective rather than an impulsive one. During the Q&A session after the presentation, the students asked me earnest, weighty questions, and I found myself thinking “I want to come back next year and talk to all of the students again.”
Thanks to the woman who hugged me right before my presentation, I was able to overcome Campus Party Mexico. I ran into her again by chance afterwards and told her that she saved me from my anxiety, but she just looked confused… Let’s meet again next year. *laughs*