I didn't know what to say. I thought the mild-mannered Japanese man in glasses, perhaps, wanted to talk to me about a game he had made. But no, it was about an article I wrote about him.
His name was Makoto Goto. And at last year's Game Developer Conference, Fez creator Phil Fish (above) trashed Japanese games to his face. What Goto said to me this weekend left me speechless.
"Are you Brian Ashcraft?" a mild-mannered Japanese man asked as I was making small talk with a dev from Tango Gameworks.
"Yes," I replied.
"You wrote an article about me," he replied, pulling a binder from his bag. We were at this weekend's BitSummit indie game event in Kyoto, which was in the process of wrapping up. People were filing out of the room.
In a plastic sleeve was a Kotaku article. At the top, there was a photo of Phil Fish, sideburns, glasses, and all. The title read, "Japanese Games 'Just Suck' Target Speaks Out."
"That's me," he said. "I'm Makoto Goto."
I write a lot of posts—usually over eight a day. I've been doing this for years now, so that adds up to thousands of posts. However, I immediately remembered that story. I remembered his name. I remembered what happened. How could you forget?
"I wanted to thank you for writing this," Goto said. "It really gave me courage." He told me that when his wife read the story, she was so moved that she had cried.
Goto didn't go into great depth as to why. He didn't have to. It was the feeling that, perhaps, in the wake of having a bad experience in a foreign country, a foreigner could understand how he felt. And I was hardly unique—or alone—in that.
"That was rude, sure, but I really want to thank Phil Fish, too, for what he said," Goto added. What he said, if you don't remember, during a Game Developer Conference Q&A last year, was that Japanese games "suck." "I think his remark really motivated Japanese game creators to work harder," Goto, who is a programmer and a designer, said. "I know it has motivated me."
Phil Fish has apologized on numerous occasions for his remark, including to Goto. He's made amends. He doesn't hate Japan or Japanese games. He stuck his foot in his mouth. Happens to the best of us. But out of that inelegant statement, Goto didn't become bitter or spiteful.
There are many different kinds of strength. There is a variety of courage. Sometimes you need that ironclad will to do something dangerous. Sometimes, it's necessary to do things others would call mundane.
Goto asked me if I was going to this year's Game Developer Conference. He said he would be. I didn't know what else to say. The words couldn't quite form in my mouth, so I offered up the best that I could: Thank you, Makoto Goto.