Earthquake Crisis Brings Out The Best In Japan’s Gaming Greats

About 2.45pm Japan time today, an 8.8-magnitude earthquake rocked the island nation. A devastating tsunami followed, rolling over cities, enveloping towns. Reports now put the death toll at 300 to 400, with at least another 350 missing.

Reports from Japan are coming in from those who were in the middle of the tumult and those in Tokyo, where Xevious game designer Masanobu Endo tweeted how he thought a Roppongi Hills skyrise was going to topple over.

CyberConnect's Hiroshi Matsuyama is going as far as opening his studio to complete strangers via Twitter, saying there is a television, beverages and some food. Matsuyama provides the studio's address, saying there is enough space for about 30 people and asking for replies via Twitter. With the phone lines affected by the quake, Facebook and Twitter became the go-to for many to get in touch.

The image above shows deserted Tokyo streets, but was not taken by a professional photographer. It was taken by a video game designer, Masahiro Sakurai - the man responsible for Super Smash Bros.

Sakurai noted the lack of cars as he posted the image on Twitter. He wasn't the only Japanese game developer to do so. The entire Japanese game industry seemed to take to Twitter, like Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima, who let others know he was OK, like No More Heroes designer Goichi Suda, who warned others, or even like Last Guardian designer Fumito Ueda, who checked if others were OK. One Japanese game exec even apparently rescued a "helpless" junior high school girl.

As the quake was felt throughout Tokyo, Suda tweeted to staffers who were out of the office to either take refuge or return to their homes.

Tokyo was hit hard, with the city's residents reporting severe shaking that lasted minutes. "I have experienced a lot of tremors in the eight years I've lived in Japan," game translator and Yokai Attack author Matt Alt tells Kotaku. "But something about this one was different. It was a sustained rolling motion that made it impossible to stand - we rushed outside at the start, but found ourselves clinging to the walls and then crouching on the ground in an attempt to remain standing. It probably only lasted a minute, but it felt much longer." In the city centre, the quake knocked over game cabinets in the area's geek district, Akihabara - small potatoes compared to other areas. In Tokyo's Odaiba, smoke emitted from behind the FujiTV building, while a bus fell off a highway, taking at least one occupant's life.

Other areas, like Osaka where I live, were seemingly untouched (and I and my family are fine). News reports warn of incoming tidal wave, and people are stocking up on food and water. Even areas outside of Japan are being impacted by the quake. A tsunami is slated to hit everywhere from Russia to Hawaii to Indonesia.

The earthquake's epicenter was offshore, with Miyagi Prefecture and the country's north-eastern area perhaps getting hit the hardest. Bridges were overrun with giant tidal waves, causing flooding and pulling cars away in the undertow. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan is sending the Self Defense Force to Miyagi Prefecture to aid with relief efforts. According to Businessweek, Sony closed all six of its factories in the area, as did car makers. A man was killed at a Honda plant after a wall collapsed. There are reports that over a thousand Sony factory workers are trapped in a Miyagi factory and cannot get out.

Japan is no stranger to earthquakes. In 1923, the 7.9-magnitude Great Kanto Earthquake levelled Tokyo, Yokohama and surrounding areas. But it wasn't until after 1995's deadly Hanshin Earthquake rocked Kobe and Osaka that the country doubled its efforts to mute the effects of quakes, whether it be automatic shutdowns for trains and elevators or waterways to divert tidal waves.

The death toll for this latest quake continues to rise and is now in the hundreds as police continue to search for survivors.

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