#2 — Subversive Play

Breaking the rules of Katamari Damacy REROLL

I’ve always had fond memories of watching my friends play the first Katamari Damacy on the PlayStation 2 back when it came out during the early 2000s. Back then, I was still very unfamiliar with the world of video games. Katamari Damacy was one of the first games I had ever come across that didn’t involve guns, shooting, or blood being splattered across the screen. Right away I was attracted to its vibrant world, wonderful music, and uniquely fresh concept.

It wasn’t until my late 20s that I was finally able to purchase the first game for myself on Steam (for a whopping $40 CAD!) when the remaster was finally made available in 2018 — Katamari Damacy REROLL. I had purchased the PSP version (Me & My Katamari) previously, but despite my fun with it, I felt that the hardware design of the PSP didn’t make it a very compatible choice for the gameplay. After many hours of gameplay, I found it hard on my thumbs and hands while playing on the handheld device.

Replaying the game now on my PC, I found the experience to be quite different from the fond nostalgia of my younger days. I was challenged by the stressful time limits, the clunky controls that did not age well, and the ongoing pressure of living up to my father's (The King of All Cosmos) expectations.

So for my subversive gameplay, I chose to ignore the demands of my father and play as the young prince who simply wanted to explore the microcosms of each playable level. I set out to pursue what I had originally wanted to experience from the game—a colourful way to de-stress as I collected random objects into a lovely katamari at a leisurely pace.

The following are screenshots from the ‘Make Corona Borealis’ level of KD Reroll, featuring crowns as the main theme of the stage. Ignoring the rules of the game gave me a chance to explore the level at my own pace, noticing all sorts of small details and the wonderful narrative set up within the environment.

A crown for every doggo! A lucky cat in the sandbox with royal flair as well.

Normally if I had been playing to beat the level, I would have been preoccupied with frantically collecting objects in a strategic way. I would be viewing the stage with very narrow tunnel vision as I tried to complete the stage’s objectives. Although necessary in order to create a way to progress through the game, this sometimes took away from my enjoyment of the game itself. Subverting the gameplay allowed me the time to appreciate the game’s environment design.

While exploring the level, I noticed these rabbit ear television sets displaying my every move.
Royal space heaters in the middle of the plaza as well!

In a way, playing against the game’s rules allowed me to best experience Keita Takahashi’s desire to encourage players to have an appreciation for ordinary things. With the theme of crowns in this stage, it seemed like the game developers were trying to spread that message — telling us that even regular household items could be ‘royal’ in their own way too.

Literally bumped into a royal grandmother followed by a crowned cow calf pulling a cart on the street.
Of course, Father was not pleased that I didn’t follow the rules of the game.

Although I’m aware that it’s possible to unlock Eternal mode after fulfilling certain requirements of the game, it felt much more satisfying to outright disobey an authoritative father figure.

— This blog post was written for Emma Westecott’s Digital Games course at OCAD University.

Jenn Liv is an award-winning Chinese illustrator based in Toronto. Currently she is a MDes Candidate at OCAD U’s IAMD Program. http://www.jennliv.com

Jenn Liv is an award-winning Chinese illustrator based in Toronto. Currently she is a MDes Candidate at OCAD U’s IAMD Program. http://www.jennliv.com